Life in the Fast Lane: A Man’s Love for the Porsche
Published: May 23, 2012 (Issue # 1709)
Klaus Bischoff, director of the Porsche Rolling Museum, sits behind the wheel of one of his beloved vehicles on Saturday.
One really needs to see Klaus Bischoff talk about his cars. The mechanic, who has more than 40 years of experience working with Porsche cars, is the director of the Porsche Rolling Museum in Stuttgart, Germany and pets his beloved vehicles as if they were champion horses of a noble breed as he speaks about their victories.
“The most overwhelming moment ever was when the Porsche 962 participated in its first Le Mans [race],” Bischoff told The St. Petersburg Times, speaking at the Second Porsche festival in Shushary, on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, on Saturday. “All three cars that we put forward reached the finish at almost exactly the same time. It was a breathtaking, absolutely jaw-dropping sight.”
“The 962 has won seven Le Mans races already, but its debut win was absolutely unforgettable and this gorgeous finale does not compare to anything else,” he added.
Porsche 962 C (1987) was one of the four legendary Porsche racecars that came to town on Saturday for the Porsche festival, celebrating the Russian premiere of the brand-new shiny red Porsche Boxster, which goes on sale in June. Russia is an important market for Porsche, where the company sold more than 2,200 cars in 2011, nearly a 50-percent hike from the year before. In 2012, Porsche expects to sell at least 3,000 cars in the country.
The 962 was joined by the Porsche 936 Spyder (1977), Porsche 911 GT1 (1998) and Porsche 1911 GT3 RSR. The four spectacular racecars made their first trip to Russia.
The new Porsche Boxster.
“We chose the cars for this visit very carefully; we consider these four cars to be the brightest Le Mans race winners ever,” said Bischoff.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world’s oldest active sports car race in endurance racing. Le Mans, which is also known in the world of sports as the Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency, hosted the first competition in 1923 and it has been an annual event ever since.
Le Mans puts its crews’ ability to maintain a high speed during the course of the demanding 24-hour marathon to the test. Part of the trick is to prevent the car from sustaining severe mechanical damage. The three drivers who typically make up a team take shifts as they go, with pit stops allowed throughout the race.
Bischoff, who was originally asked to bring the core selection of the veteran Porsche cars back to life before joining the future museum, has a personal connection not only to the 90 cars that make up his museum’s permanent display or the nearly 500 vehicles that the gallery boasts in its collection. His hands have known thousands of Porsches: Champions and losers; classy glossies and sobering wrecks. During his professional career, the mechanic has worked at a staggering 27 Le Mans races.
The Porsche 936 Spyder, which won the 1977 race at Le Mans, is the one that is closest of all to Bischoff’s heart. Indeed, there is a dramatic story behind the win.
A young girl directs traffic Saturday at the Porsche Kids Driving School.
“The start turned out to be quite a disaster for us: Of the three Porsche cars — two 936s and one 935 — that took part in the race, two cars broke down and dropped out of the race during the first two hours of the competition,” Bischoff remembers. “Then the last one was up against five gorgeous-looking and highly competitive Renaults. And we were four laps behind! It took a titanic effort for the drivers to recover and even overcome the Renaults, and, before we could sigh a breath of relief, the car had a transmission problem and we couldn’t not replace it — the thing had to be repaired. I did the work, it took 27 minutes, and we still won. Really, everyone in that race was a hero, and I am proud to be part of that success.”
It is the gallery’s philosophy that in the Rolling Museum every car in the collection has to run. Every month, a small number of collection representatives travel around the globe — from South America to Australia to Russia.
“We are proud to be able to show these cars in running condition — we actually use them quite a lot in historical rallies,” Bischoff said.
What the museum would not do is to rent out its gorgeous creatures — a useful reminder that not everything can be bought, especially where pride and respect are concerned.
“Even though, technically speaking, all of the cars are in running condition and many people would pay a fortune for the chance to rev up a champion car even once, to us they are all antiques,” said Bischoff.
“And they are truly priceless.”