About the 1961 Porsche RS-61L

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.