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Tuesday, July 11, 2023

The Legendary Porsche 718 RSK: A Triumph in Racing History

RacingTrack Legend - The Porsche 718 RSK holds an iconic place in racing history as the successor to the 550 A and 645 models. Designed exclusively for racing purposes, this exceptional car boasted a full tubular space frame, setting it apart from its predecessors. While the rear design resembled the 550 A, the front of the 718 RSK showcased a smoother and more aerodynamic appearance, drawing inspiration from the 645.
The Porsche 718 RSK racing car boasted a powerful engine lineup, starting with the impressive 1.5-liter 4-cam Fuhrmann engine. (Picture from: StuttCars)
The 718 RSK boasted a powerful engine lineup, starting with the impressive 1.5-liter 4-cam Fuhrmann engine. Subsequent models received upgrades to even more potent 1.6-liter and 1.7-liter engines, delivering impressive performance despite their small size. To ensure effective braking, the 718 RSK was equipped with top-of-the-line finned alloy drum brakes. The front suspension featured a torsion bar system inspired by Ferdinand Porsche's earlier designs for Volkswagen. Initially, the rear suspension also utilized torsion bars. It's worth noting that the name "RSK" originated from "Rennsport" (racing) and the letter "K" denoted the suspension layout, rather than representing "Kurz" (short) as some sources suggest.
Early version of the Porsche 718 RSK racing car with the über-cool (but useless) tail fins. (Picture from: StuttCars)
In 1957, the 718 RSK made its debut at the renowned 24-hour of Le Mans race. Unfortunately, an accident caused by an Aston Martin prematurely ended the race for the sleek and finned 718 RSK, which had been leading the 2-liter class. However, this setback didn't dampen the car's spirit. Just a week later, at the Mont Ventoux hill climb in France, the 718 RSK secured second place with Umberto Maglioli behind the wheel and Edgar Barth securing third place. Their achievements were followed by a momentous victory at the Freiburg-Schauinsland event in Germany, the second race of the 1957 European Hill Climb Championship (EHCC), where Edgar Barth emerged as the winner, and Umberto Maglioli secured second place.
The mid-mounted 1.5-litre 4-cylinder 4-cam performance engine is known from the 550, 645 and the 356 A Carrera, coupled with the 5-speed racing gearbox unit. (Picture from: StuttCars)
Continuing its winning streak, the 718 RSK triumphed once again at the 1957 Montagne Lenzeheide hill climb in Switzerland. Wolfgang Berghe von Trips took first place, while Richard von Frankenberg secured second place. The 1958 EHCC season kicked off on a high note with a victory for the 718 RSK at the Mont Parnes race in Greece. Shortly after, at the prestigious 1958 Targa Florio, Jean Behra and Giorgio Scarlatti secured second place overall and first in the 1.5-liter class, outperforming a V12 Ferrari.
This early Porsche 718 RSK racing car shows the folded waterproof cloth which helped to protect the cockpit in the case of rain. (Picture from: StuttCars)
The 1958 24-Hour of Le Mans race marked a significant milestone as Porsche celebrated 10 years of sports car production. Among the competitors were three 718 RSKs from the factory team. Despite a dominating performance by a fast Ferrari, Porsche claimed remarkable positions, with a 718 RSK securing third place overall and first in the 2-liter class, a 718 RSK 1.5-liter clinching fourth place and first in the 1.5-liter class, and a Porsche 550 finishing fifth.
These cars were made as street legal cars to compete in the sports car class, but it is clear with the first glance that this is not a street car. (Picture from: StuttCars)
While the earlier models featured torsion bar rear suspensions, the 718 RSK introduced a coil-over rear suspension in the later versions. This transition took place from chassis 718-004 onwards. Notably, the 1958 Mont Ventoux hill climb witnessed a Porsche triumph, with a one-two-three finish, including a first-place victory for Jean Behra and a second-place win for Wolfgang von Trips. Additionally, the Trento Bondone hill climb in Italy saw von Trips secure another first-place victory, followed by Behra's second-place finish at the Fribourg-Schauinsland race in Germany.
1957 Le Mans: the photo shows the remains of the 718-001 in the morning of June 23 after the night-time accident. What a sad view.... (Picture from: StuttCars)
The versatility of the RSK shone through its adaptability for Formula 2 races. With its centralized driver position, the RSK Mittellenker (or central steering) was born. Notably, Jean Behra's remarkable win at the Coupe Internationale de Vitesse Formula 2 race in Reims, France, showcased the RSK's capabilities in the Formula 2 arena.
1961 Freiburg-Schauinsland hill climb winner Heini Walter behind the wheel of the Porsche 718 RSK racing car. (Picture from: StuttCars)
The 1960 racing season witnessed the evolution of the RSK Spyder into the RS 60 Spyder, conforming to the updated sports car regulations. Equipped with a widened tubular steel frame and a street-legal windscreen, the RS 60 Spyder struck a balance between added weight and enhanced performance with magnesium brake drums and lighter wheels. Porsche achieved its first overall victory at the Sebring 12-Hour race in 1960, with Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien piloting a 1.6-liter 718 RS 60 to victory.
1958 Targa Florio before start, Jean Behra behind the wheel of a rear-finned 718. The main headlamps and the additional nose lamps are covered up to save them clean if the end of the race would carry to the evening for some reason. (Picture from: StuttCars)
The RS 60 Spyder continued its triumphant run, securing a second Targa Florio victory for Porsche in 1960 with Jo Bonnier and Hans Herrmann at the helm. Porsche's dominance persisted at the Targa Florio, with the RS 60 securing second and fourth places. The RS 60's notable accomplishments extended to the 1960 Le Mans race, where a 1.5-liter 718 finished 11th overall, while the 1.6-liter variants faced engine problems. Nonetheless, the RS 60 continued to excel in hill climb events, winning races such as the Freiburg-Schauinsland hill climb.
1958 Le Mans 24h: Porsche 718 RSK #29 is fighting to finish 3rd overall. The other cars on the photo, Lotus Eleven #38 and DB Coupé #47, both had to retire because of engine problems. (Picture from: StuttCars)
In the realm of American racing, the 718 RSK achieved significant milestones, including victories in SCCA races and championships in various categories. Notable champions included Bob Holbert, who secured three consecutive SCCA E Modified championships, and Joe Buzzetta, the SCCA F Modified champion.
The 718 RSK's racing legacy culminated in the RS 61 version, and its success continued with victories in events like the Angola GP. The RS 61, along with its predecessors, left an indelible mark in racing history, amassing an impressive record of over 250 victories and approximately 700 podium finishes. The Porsche 718 RSK remains a testament to engineering prowess, performance, and enduring racing spirit. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | STUTTCARS ]
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