This was the last of the cars that Bob Holbert drove to his SCCA E Sports Racing Championships in 1961 and 1962, as well as the newly-created U.S. Road Racing Championship in 1963. Holbert’s success was no big surprise. He was America’s top Porsche driver. But this Porsche surprised Bob.
Nineteen sixty-one was not a Porsche Rennsport year in Europe. Diverted from sports car racing by its Formula I effort, Porsche relied on the aging 718 series to supply its racing customers with a new weapon. Alas, the only significant revision to the RS-61 over the RS-60 was the number change in its name. Holbert had ordered the chassis/body you see here after crashing his first RS-61 at Mosport. Upon delivery, he discovered that his new car was four inches longer in the engine bay area to accommodate Porsche’s latest race engine. Concurrent with development of the 1.5-liter eight-cylinder engine for Formula I, Porsche developed a two-liter sports-racing version to try in lieu of the venerable Fuhrmann four-cam.
The flat eight’s debut took place at the Targa Florio in 1961. Two eight-cylinder cars were entered; one crashed, the other finished third. Nürburgring likewise brought a third and a d.n.f. Holbert’s chassis was apparently an unneeded back-up to the so-called “Grossmutter,” the W-RS Spyder (718-047) that Porsche used with such good results at so many events. Since the lighter-weight Fuhrmann four-cam was serving Bob so well, and in his mind caused his long wheelbase car to handle better than the W-RS, this RS-61L never raced with the eight-cylinder unit. Nevertheless, the car is now fitted with the engine for which this chassis was designed, though it can easily be converted back to the Holbert configuration.
A flat-eight-powered coupe enjoyed its first big victory in the Targa Florio of 1963, and the eightcylinder W-RS carried Edgar Barth to the European Hill Climb Championship in both ’63 and ’64. Too expensive and complex to be sold to racing customers, the flat eight remained a factory prototype. Loyal owners kept the four-cylinder Spyder in racing circulation. They eagerly awaited the Spyder’s successor.
Briggs Cunningham imported the first Ferrari to race in the US and you can see it in the museum. Learn more