The Seikel Motorsport team last raced in the 2007 Le Mans, having participated on no less than eleven occasions in the 24-hour race. The team’s highlight in la Sarthe was in 2001 when they won the GT category, finishing sixth overall.
Peter Seikel was born in 1948 in Freigericht, a village located 30km east of Frankfurt. While his father used to race motorbikes, he died when Peter was just five years old. Seikel Jr. started racing cars in 1968 following a test at the Nürburgring. As he recalls, “My mother recommended that I try out a race car at the Nürburgring, and so I attended a three-day driving school and it felt good. The car at the driving school was the NSU 1000, which was the car everyone started with at that time. I was on the pace from the beginning, and felt that the ideal racing lines and catching the apex of the corners was already a natural instinct for me.” That moment was the start of a successful 40-year career in national and international motorsport for Seikel.
His first races were endurance events at the Nürburgring, where he completed – in his total career – around 2000 race laps on the Nordschleife. Having first participated in 1973 with an NSU 1200 TT, Peter Seikel scored a total of 14 class wins in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring. He also won his category five times in 11 attempts in the 24 Hours of Spa, with Audi in 1979 and 1982, and with Honda in 1990, 1991 and 1992. “Endurance suits my style. Just as in business, in private and in life generally, I look to the long term. It’s not important to be in front at the beginning, but rather at the end. It is also a challenge to prepare a car for a long race and particularly a 24-hour race, but this preparation was our strong point and it earned our team a good reputation.”
Peter Seikel has raced touring cars and he did it in a winning style. In the early ‘80s the team prepared and raced Audis in the European Touring Car Championship to win the European Championship title in 1980 in the 1600cc category. Over the years, the team prepared and raced Audis, Fords, Toyotas, BMWs and Hondas in customer or official racing programs. In 1993 Seikel Motorsport finished third overall in the ADAC GT Championship, with a Honda NSX driven by Armin Hahne and John Nielsen.
For Seikel though, racing with Porsche started in 1993: “We raced a Porsche team as a paying customer from 1993 until 2007. This was such a great and successful time for our team, and for myself.”
In the mid-nineties, Seikel Motorsport took part in the BPR Global Endurance Championship. “The ambiance was great and we enjoyed that championship which was started by Stéphane Ratel, Patrick Peter and Jürgen Barth. It was well organised because it allowed small privateer teams like us to travel and to race around the world in China, Japan, and Brazil. The championship was fun and sporty, but it was also real racing. The spirit of that championship was good, with most people being really passionate about racing because they did not have as much showbiz as in Formula One.”
Seikel’s first year at Le Mans as team manager was with the yellow #58 Porsche 968 Turbo RS in 1994 (Bscher/Owen-Jones/Nielsen). In the same year, Seikel also ran in the BPR series with two cars: a 968 Turbo RS for Nielsen/Bscher and a green 911 Carrera RSR 3.8 with which Capra/Quargentan/Auvray finished fifth overall in the 1000km of Paris at the circuit Linas-Monthléry.
In 1995 Seikel switched to the 911 GT2 (Type 993) where Quargentan/Auvray finished third overall at the 4 Hours of Paris. At the same time the 911 Carrera RSR 3.8 was run as a GT4 which yielded three class wins at the 4 Hours of Nürburgring with Bilz/Rosterg and the 4 Hours of Paris (6th overall) for Sangiuolo/Jurasz/Coudert and at the 4 Hours of Nogaro (12th overall) Bilz/Seikel, with a podium for Bilz/Jurasz/Baker in the 4 Hours of Silverstone. That same year, Seikel himself drove the #77 GT2 Porsche 911 (993 bi-turbo) in the Le Mans 24 Hour race, teamed with Karel Dolejsi and Guy Kuster. Seikel has strong memories from that rainy race and its unique atmosphere: “Driving at Le Mans is fantastic. It was a rainy race and I did a total of 13-14 hours, driving the longest in our team. I remember driving very quickly for the whole race as I was physically fit and in good form, but it was quite risky because of the difficult conditions. I love racing in the wet, and my approach at that time was aggressive. You either win or go out trying. I remember a lot of accidents during that race, but we suffered no damage to the car after such a dramatic race, and in the end, we were the best Porsche finisher, classifying fourth in the GTS category. The experience of driving at Le Mans in 1995 helped me a lot as a team manager in later years at Le Mans, especially when we won in 2001.”
In 1996, their third Le Mans 24 Hours, the Seikel team finished fifth in the GTS class with their #77 911 GT2 driven by Fuster/Jurasz/Suzuki. Between 1997 and 1999, the team raced the 911 GT2 in the FIA GT, French GT FFSA and the Italian GT Challenge scoring an overall win in the 6 Hours of Misano on 25 May 1998 with Smith/Grassi/Ligonnet. They also scored GT2 class wins in the 6 Hours of Vallelunga in 1998 with Quargentan/Neugarten/Palmberger and Quargentan/Smith/Palmberger in 1999.
The team returned to La Sarthe in 2000 and finished on the podium in the GTS class (3rd) with their new car, the 3.6-litre naturally aspirated Porsche 996 GT3-R driven by Cohen-Bolivar/Neugarten/Burgess. In 2001, with three Italian drivers at the wheel (Babini/Rosa/Drudi), Seikel Motorsport was the GT class winner at the Le Mans 24 Hours with the Porsche 996 GT3 RS. Their sixth-place overall finish equalled the record for the best classified GT car set in 1971, after an epic battle throughout the race with their German Porsche rival, Freisinger Motorsport.
“I felt that that day was our day. I told my drivers through the radio to drive 100% all the time as I could see no alternative but to win that race, and we did. My experience back in 1995 helped me to know how the drivers felt, and I could sense their condition and what was going on, on the track. I was therefore able to take the right decisions at the right moments, in terms of our strategy.” For that race, not only was the driving and strategy perfect, but the entire team and their effort throughout the race was rewarded with the ‘prix ESCRA’ which was given to the team who provided the best assistance during the Le Mans 24 Hour race.
As I was part of the team from 2003 until 2007, I know how Peter used to prepare for each race. He was very professional with every detail or strategy discussed and written down, and he took the time to give each team member a very precise job during the team briefing. Peter Seikel had so much motorsport experience that he could anticipate situations (on and off the track) like no other. He had a global view of the race and was able, always with calmness, to take good decisions at the right time. He also prepared his drivers mentally for the race, and long team briefings were organised with all possible scenarios that could happen during the race being discussed.
Questioned today about the longevity of his team and their members, he answers: “The secret of that longevity was the family and human approach. We had a private team with a good, family ambiance, and professional mechanics and team members. It was also important to be fair, and not to do it for the money or for the show, but for the passion.”
Spectators and journalists remember the epic battles with the other German GT Team, Freisinger Motorsport, as Seikel recalled: “I remember very good battles, especially during the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2001. We won, they finished second. In 2003 they won the Spa 24 Hours, we finished second. We also have great memories from BPR and the Daytona 24 Hours, where either we finished in front of them or they were in front of us. It was a very positive, very intense but also a very fair fight. My philosophy in motorsports, as in life, has always been this: to be fair, to be a good sport and to give the best.”
In 2000, Seikel Motorsport opened a workshop in North America, in Georgia near the Road Atlanta race track. They used to race at Daytona and Sebring with the Porsche 996 GT3 at a time when the rules were less stringent than they are today, allowing teams to race not only in the American Le Mans Series and IMSA, but also FIA GT and Le Mans with the same car.
Seikel, “I set up the team base near Road Atlanta, which for me was a great race track like the Nürburgring, with its ups and downs, bumpy and technical, as well as fast sections. I loved racing in America because the American tracks are old school like Road Atlanta, Road America, Sebring, Mid-Ohio. They are like European tracks were 30 years ago. They were quite bumpy with no run-off areas, gravel beds or walls. I call these tracks, natural tracks, and I prefer these to the ‘artificial’ tracks nowadays. Of course, today it is better in terms of safety, but you are not penalised for every mistake you make and you can just drive back on after going off.”
The team scored top results in America: in the 2001 Daytona 24 Hours they were third in the GT category and fifth overall (#56 Rosa/Babini/Rosa/Caffi). They finished on the podium twice at the Sebring 12 Hour race, being second in 2002 (# 52 Plumb/Collin/Bagnall) and third in 2003 (#53 Caffi/Rosa/Chiesa). Having a base at Road Atlanta, the team ran Porsches in the American Le Mans Series and were classified fourth in the GT category of the championship both in 2001 and 2002.
Their last race in America was the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2004, as the team was to concentrate on the newly created LMES (Le Mans Endurance Series) in Europe for the rest of that season.
I was personally present at that race, in Sebring, in March 2004. The ambiance in Florida was particularly notable, due to the spring break holidays in America and the warm tropical weather. The public was very enthusiastic, and I could see for myself the massive amount of popularity and respect Peter Seikel and the team had in America.
In 2002 the Seikel team set an endurance marathon record by running four major 24-hour races on three continents in the same year. These were: the 24 Hours of Daytona (January) in North America; the 24 Hours of Le Mans (June) and the 24 Hours of Spa (July) in Europe; and the 24 Hours of Bathurst (November) in Australia.
Meanwhile, in Europe the Seikel Porsches raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2002, where the #82 car of Rosa/Drudi/Ricitelli finished fourth in the GT category. And #83 car of Burgess/Shep/Bagnall posted a DNF in 2003.
Peter Seikel liked the Belgian track of Spa Francorchamps, where he once used to race himself. He returned to the circuit in 2001 when the race was once again re-opened to GT cars and it became a round in the FIA GT Championship (until 2000 the 24 Hours of Spa was for touring cars only). At the end of July 2003, I was with the team and fortunate enough to experience the emotion and happiness of another important result when the #72 car driven by Chiesa/Caffi/Rosa/Drudi finished third overall and second in the NGT class. That achievement was the result of a very consistent drive through the night, and during the changeable wet/dry conditions during the different stages of the race. It was a perfectly coordinated race strategy, with pit stops for refuelling and driver changes only, with no technical incidents or time lost.
The team continued with the Porsche 996 GT3 RS, competing in the one and only Le Mans 1000km in November 2003, where their #40 car was driven by Mowlem/Caffi/Rosa. Throughout the 2004 LMES season Seikel Motorsport campaigned the 996 GT3 RS. At Le Mans that year, the team ran two cars: the #84 996 GT3 RS driven by Bagnall/Collin/Burgess which finished fourth in the GT class, and the similar #83 car of Rosa/van Merksteijn/Caffi which posted a DNF.
In 2005 the team raced the entire LMES season and at Le Mans with the new Porsche 996 GT3 RSR (fitted with a sequential gearbox) in the blue Felbermayr colours (#83 Felbermayr Snr/ Felbermayr Jnr/Collin). The season started at Spa with the 1000km race on April 17th. I remember a very intense battle during the last hour of the race with the 360 Modena Ferrari driven by ex-Seikel drivers and Le Mans winners (Babini/Rosa/Drudi). After 6 hours, the Porsche finished just 2 seconds ahead and in fourth place in the GT category. The Seikel Porsche scored two class podiums, a third place at Monza and at Istanbul that year, and they finished seventh in the GT class at Le Mans with drivers Shep/Felbermayr Snr/Collin.
In 2006 the Seikel team partnered with Farnbacher Racing at Le Mans with the #83 car driven by Farnbacher/Nielsen/Ehret. They finished second in the GT class after leading most of that race. Seikel Motorsport’s final outing in the Le Mans 24 Hours was in June 2007 with the new 3.8-litre 911 GT3 RSR (997). Partnering the Felbermayr Proton team, the #71 car driven by Felbermayr Jr and Snr/Collin posted a DNF, a disappointing end for Peter Seikel, to an illustrious career in racing.
As I have said, the Seikel team had an excellent reputation as a good preparer of race cars, and their cars were recognised as very reliable. Let’s see what Peter thinks about the most reliable Porsche they ever prepared and raced: “All Porsches are reliable, that is a fact, but if I would choose one, it would be the 993 bi-turbo. This was a very powerful car and reliable, as its engine would last 50 hours. The most we got out of it was 64 hours, before the engine started to lose power, and for a private team, that is a very long-lasting engine. Also, we could open and repair that engine and gearbox by ourselves.”
Peter has seen motorsport transformed a lot over the years: “In the beginning it was so different from what it is today. As an example, I raced at Bremen in the early ‘70s where we ran very close to villages, to houses, and that was very dangerous at that time.” After almost 500 races, Peter knows that he has enjoyed the good moments, and the good side of motorsports: “In my entire racing career, only one person was killed, at Spa Francorchamps. That day was very sad. But I know that there were other fatal crashes, incidents or negative aspects of motorsport that I did not see. Overall though, I have had a very happy life in motorsport.”
And now, with almost ten years having passed since he stopped racing, Peter Seikel is still nostalgic about those racing times: “Of course, I am nostalgic, very much so. Every year I go as a spectator to the Nürburgring and to the Le Mans 24 Hours. Although I stopped racing in 2007, I could have continued, but I felt that I couldn’t do it as well as I had done before, and so I retired at a time when the team was still on top. I still like motorsports and I’m still involved in the Dakar with VW and our 4×4 projects, and so we do off-road events in Africa which I really enjoy. Three or four years ago, I spoke to Bernd, my long-time chief mechanic, and we wanted to buy an old Porsche to race in classic events. But I felt that I wouldn’t be as fast as I had been before, so I didn’t do it. But my heart will always be in motorsport, right until the end.”
Peter Seikel and Seikel Motorsport racing statistics
24-hour races as a driver: 32
Total 24-hour races as driver and/or team manager: 59
Seikel Motorsport major 24-hour races with Porsche cars: 22
Le Mans 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007
Spa 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
Daytona 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
Additional history on the team can be found at: Seikel Motorsport
Written by: Lucian Sonea
Images by: Seikel Motorsport Archive, Lucian Sonea, Porsche & Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale