Hans Herrmann, one of the most successful and popular racing drivers to join the Porsche AG works team, celebrates his 90th birthday this year on February 23. The endurance and Monoposto specialist, born in Stuttgart in 1928, is regarded as one of the most reliable and consistent race drivers of all time. In the course of his motor sport career, Hans Herrmann won more than 80 overall and best in class victories, most of them for Porsche.
The proverbial Hans im Glück (Hans in luck) at the wheel celebrated his greatest successes with sports cars from Zuffenhausen: in the Mille Miglia, the Targa Florio, the Carrera Panamericana and of course in Le Mans, with the first overall victory for Porsche in 1970, driving a 917. His career began appropriately, in 1952, in a private Porsche 356, in which he took part in hill climbs, rallies and reliability runs. The very next year, he came fifth in the Lyon-Charbonnières Rally together with Richard von Frankenberg in a Porsche 356. Thereupon Porsche’s racing manager at that time, Huschke von Hanstein, brought him into Porsche works team. In 1953, Herrmann made his debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans where, together with co-pilot Helm Glöckler in a Porsche 550 Coupé, he secured a best in class victory in the category up to 1.5 litres capacity.
After Herrmann had also secured the title of German Sports Car Champion in the same year, he attracted the attention of Mercedes-Benz head of racing Alfred Neubauer, who integrated the 26-year-old into his works team along with Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss and Karl Kling. Parallel to this, in 1954 Herrmann continued to drive for Porsche and gained prestigious class victories in the 550 Spyder in the Mille Miglia and the Carrera Panamericana.
Never to be forgotten is the spectacular incident that occurred during the Mille Miglia in 1954, when Herrmann and his co-pilot Herbert Linge ducked flat under the barriers to cross the rails at a closed level crossing, right in the path of a rapidly approaching train. Later, Herrmann made a photo of the spectacular moment the subject of a letter card, with the inscription Glück muss man haben (you’ve got to be lucky). In conversation, he completed this definition in a much more serious undertone: Glück hat, wer als Rennfahrer überlebt (luck, for a racing driver, is to survive).
When in 1955 the Daimler-Benz works withdrew from motor sport, Hans Herrmann drove once again for Porsche. There followed the wandering years with Maserati, B.R.M and Borgward and, but in 1959, Herrmann returned to his ‘own brand’, Porsche. Together with Olivier Gendebien in a Porsche 718 RS 60 Spyder, he won the 1960 12 Hours of Sebring, achieving Porsche’s first overall victory in a manufacturers’ world championship endurance race. Shortly afterwards, the team of Hans Herrmann/Joakim Bonnier also won the Targa Florio driving their Porsche RS 60 Spyder. In 1960, Herrmann also became Formula 2 European Champion with the Porsche 718/2.
In 1962, he changed to Carlo Abarth and was active as works driver for the Vienna design engineer from 1963. Three years later, in 1966, he returned to the Porsche works team once again. Not only did Herrmann take part in all the great endurance races, but besides driving European hill climb championship courses, he also carried out countless test drives in the – then newly-opened – Weissach Development Centre.
In 1969, the Porsche works team secured the manufacturers’ world championship title for Porsche for the first time, thanks to the efforts of Hans Herrmann, Jo Siffert, Vic Elford, Rolf Stommelen, Udo Schütz and Gerhard Mitter. Previously, Hans Herrmann had to hand the victory to Jacky Ickx in a Ford GT 40 after 24 hours of fierce fighting, being beaten by just 120 meters in one of the most thrilling Le Mans races of all time. One year later, things went better for him because in his eleventh Le Mans, he was able to gain Porsche’s first overall victory in the famous 24-hour race.
Above is a Youtube video showing the close finish at the 1968 Le Mans 24 Hour race between Hans Herrmann in the Porsche 908 and Jacky Ickx in the Ford GT40.
He took this climax of a career in motor sport as the occasion to withdraw from active racing at the age of 42. He had also promised his wife Madelaine, before the race, that if he won he would give up his dangerous profession. As a pilot of historic race cars, he also takes part in many vintage car events for the Porsche Museum, including the Le Mans Classic, the Targa Florio and the Solitude Revival.
Hans Herrmann’s most important Porsche racing successes:
|1952||ADAC-Deutschlandfahrt||356||1st in class|
|1953||24 Hours of Le Mans||550 Coupé||1st in class|
|German Grand Prix, Nürburgring||550 Spyder||1st in class|
|1954||Mille Miglia||550 Spyder||1st in class|
|Carrera Panamericana||550 Spyder||1st in class|
|1956||12 Hours of Sebring||550 Spyder||1st in class|
|German Grand Prix, Nürburgring||550 A Spyder||1st in class|
|1960||12 Hours of Sebring||718 RS 60||1st overall|
|Targa Florio||718 RS 60||1st overall|
|1966||Austrian Grand Prix||906 Carrera 6||1st overall|
|1967||Spa 1000km||910||2nd overall|
|Marathon de la Route, Nürburgring||911 R||1st overall|
|1968||24 Hours of Daytona||907||1st overall|
|Nürburgring 1000km||907||2nd overall|
|12 Hours of Sebring||907||1st overall|
|Paris 1000km||908||1st overall|
|1969||Nürburgring 1000km||908||2nd overall|
|24 Hours of Le Mans||908||2nd overall|
|Monza 1000km||908||2nd overall|
|1970||Nürburgring 1000km||908||2nd overall|
|24 Hours of Le Mans||917||1st overall|
Edited by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale & Zoltan Papp, and Porsche Werkfoto