Hindsight suggests that in 1959 Porsche might have been better served by concentrating on either Formula cars or the sports/racing Spyders but not both. But then hindsight also indicates that Jean Behra momentarily had a better F-II idea than did Porsche. This was the car.
A star of the Maserati team from 1955 until the Italian factory withdrew from racing in 1957, Behra had spent 1958 racing for BRM in Formula I and for Porsche in sports car events. Successful in the latter, Behra’s experience with BRM’s lack of reliability had been maddening. For 1959 he signed as Ferrari’s number one Grand Prix driver – and, no doubt based on his 1958 Reims F-II success in the center-steer factory RSK, decided to build a true single-seater Formula II Porsche. A favorable deal was worked out with Ferry Porsche for purchase of a car; Valerio Colotti, erstwhile Maserati design engineer, was enlisted to help.
Whereas Porsche’s own Formula II car featured the coil spring and wishbone rear suspension that had been tried on an RSK Spyder at Sebring, Behra went with the original swing axles. The rear track was narrowed by two inches. Up front, torsion bars and their carrying tubes were narrower by five inches. Front/rear track now measured 46.9/47.6 inches. The new body, hammered out of aluminum in Modena, was significantly less bulbous than Porsche’s version.
Ironically, although “tremendous fun” was Behra’s stated reason for his F-II effort, he had little of it in either the Pau or Auvergne races, where the car was tremendously fast but did not finish. For Reims – the biggest and most important F-II event of the 1959 season – he offered the wheel to Hans Herrmann, and to good effect indeed. Faster than the factory Porsches in practice, the Porsche-Behra placed second only to Stirling Moss’ Cooper-Borgward after a race-long battle. While Ferry Porsche regarded the result sanguinely, it did not sit at all well with Enzo Ferrari, whose entire team of new Formula II racers had just been defeated by his number one driver’s car. Behra and Ferrari parted company. Tragically, Behra was killed almost immediately thereafter driving an RSK Spyder at the Avus in Berlin. He had also entered his F-II special…
Photos – Peter Harholdt
Most race cars were non-competitive after their first campaign — the 1927 Vauxhall was competitive for 23 years (1927–1950) and you can see it in person. Learn more