GRR

Driving the least powerful Porsche | Thank Frankel it's Friday

21st July 2023
andrew_frankel_headshot.jpg Andrew Frankel

Of all the Porsches I expected to be driving as a guest of the company over the Festival of Speed weekend, one powered only by a single cylinder, 800cc diesel motor was not among them. And I owe it all to the weather.

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Much has been said and written about the decision for the Festival not to open its doors last Saturday in the face of official weather warnings about 50+mph winds. I thought there’d be a lot of push back from people thinking it an over-reaction and understandably upset that a day they’d been looking forward to for months was now not going to happen. But, on the contrary, almost every one if the dozens who replied to a tweet I put out on the subject were overwhelmingly supportive of the decision.

With so many people, so many temporary structures and so much paraphernalia waiting to be picked up by a stray gust and deposited on someone’s head, it was the only decision to make, sad though it undoubtedly was. I met a father and son who’d travelled from North Yorkshire by Tesla and who’d therefore have more to moan about than most, but they could not have been more understanding. I left them wondering whether they were going to visit Tangmere, Brooklands or both instead.

 

But like most people, I did find myself wondering what to do with the sudden appearance of a free day in front of me, but Porsche, as the headline attraction in its 75th year and which had brought over all manner of delectations from its museum in Stuttgart, was not to be so easily defeated. If we could not go to the Festival, it, or at least Porsche’s part of it, would come to us.

 

Cars with at least an argument for being road legal were simply driven to the arts and design college at West Dean where we were staying, five miles to the north of Goodwood, including machines worth countless millions and at least one that can be regarded as effectively priceless. The remainder were put on an enormous truck.

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So when we woke up on Saturday morning, it was to the sight of a 917/30, 936/81, GT1-98, 718 RSK, RSR-19, Dakar winning 953, 935-76, the first ever 356, a 959 and many others all parked up outside our bedroom windows as if they’d been there for months. At breakfast I bumped into Achim Stejskal, boss of the museum and remarked somewhat slack-jawed as the enormous efforts that had been made. He looked as me, smiled and said simply, ‘This is Porsche’. But I could see how proud he was.

In the light of this, and more than anything else, I just wanted to help. So I wandered up to the team of presumably exhausted Porsche Museum engineers and mechanics and offered my services. And of course they were politely declined: these guys are the best of the best and the last thing they needed was some well-intended but entirely incompetent idiot let loose on their cars with a ratchet set.

‘Unless…’ said one, ‘you want to drive the tractor?’ The tractor. It was a 1960 Porsche-Diesel Junior they’d brought to Goodwood at the last moment in case they needed something appropriately period to tow cars around the Festival paddock. It was said as a joke on the assumption it was the last thing on the planet I’d want to do having already driven the 936 and 953 up the hill on previous days. Little did they know I am rarely happier than when aboard my own similarly sized Kubota L2201 trying to round up my sheep. I leapt at the chance.

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Which is how I got to spend much of Saturday driving the least powerful Porsche ever created, towing some of the most powerful from place to place depending on where other journalists wanted their picture taken.

Like all the best tractors, the Porsche is simplicity itself to drive. The ball of your right foot operates the throttle, your heel the brake. There’s a clutch, three gears, a hand throttle if you want it and not much else save a transfer box to give you three lower gears and a kick pedal behind you to lock the differential and pop you out of whichever muddy hole you may find yourself in. And that’s it.

I couldn’t have been happier, as proven by the idiotic grin I wore for most of the day. When we were done Armin Burger, the man who looks after these cars on a day to day basis came up to me, gripped me by the shoulders and said, ‘Andrew, you are not a journalist…’ I was wondering whether I should take offence when he continued, ‘you are a farmer.’ It was the biggest compliment I got all weekend.

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