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Sebastian Vettel tests the Porsche 963

Sebastian Vettel tests the Porsche 963

Porsche has announced that four-time F1 champion, Sebastian Vettel, will test the Porsche 963 hypercar as part of a 36-hour test for Porsche Penske Motorsport ahead of the 2024 Le Mans 24 Hours.

The 36 year-old from Heppenheim, which is about 90 miles north-west of Stuttgart, has prepared for the test by meeting the team at its Mannheim base on March 14th and doing some miles on the sim the following day. Yesterday was his first real-life run in the physical car on track at Weissach – one of few times he has driven a race car with a roof.

Vettel excited ahead of the test

“I’m looking forward to testing the Porsche 963,” said Sebastian. “I’ve always followed other racing series and my curiosity for endurance events encouraged me to just give it a shot. I already got the chance to get a feel for the car during a rollout in Weissach, and I’m excited about the long run in Aragón.

“I’m looking forward to my time behind the wheel. It’ll definitely take an adjustment and some getting used to but everyone in the team is very open and helps me. This will be a new experience for me. We will then see what happens next in this respect – at the moment there are no further plans for the future.”

Alongside Sebastian for the test at the 3.3-mile Aragón circuit in north east Spain will be works drivers Matt Campbell, Michael Christensen, Fred Makowiecki, Kévin Estre, André Lotterer and Laurens Vanthoor. The endurance test serves as preparation for the highlight of the season in Le Mans on 15/16 June. As the record holder, Porsche aims to secure its 20th outright victory at the Circuit des 24 Heures.

Porsche has had good fortune putting successful F1 drivers including Mark Webber and Nico Hulkenberg in its cars, but no Germans of late (not that there are many to choose from – although German-born Lotterrer did have a run out with Caterham in 2014), so a tie up with Vettel is excellent news. It is exciting on many levels, not least of which is the return of a potentially competitive Sebastian against his somewhat subdued F1 exit following two years with the Aston Martin Grand Prix team, now newly reinvigorated with Fernando Alonso on board.

It’s funny that, at 35, Vettel was seen as an elder in F1 where he eventually gained a reputation for being particularly empathetic towards young drivers, encouraging the highly competitive driver field to embody their emotions more deeply. “You cannot always be the best. But you can do your best,” as Vettel puts it.

I like the idea of this new-Seb personality integrated with some Porsche brand communications; the concept has a potential softness and emotionally considerate tone that I often think carmakers lack. I hope they take advantage of his genuine and caring nature as well as reawakening our awareness of his speed – that could lead to some very exciting storytelling and hopefully some race-winning history too.

Vettel is famously an avid historian and loves racing history, with a car collection including Mansell’s 1992 Williams FW14B F1 car, which he runs on sustainable fuel. Thoughts of former Porsche F1 pilots including Hans Herrmann, Edgar Barth and other drivers of that calibre are not far away today. We live in exciting times.

Rare Air at Saratoga Springs

Rare Air at Saratoga Springs

The beautiful Porsche collection of Steven Harris is about to go on show at the Saratoga Automobile Museum in Saratoga Springs, New York. Running through to autumn 2021, the exhibition includes many significant models in original factory condition, but also some cars that were modified to match the owner’s intentions. The list of air-cooled Porsches on show includes:

  • 1956 356A Carrera Coupe
  • 1957 356A Carrera Speedster
  • 1958 356A Carrera GT Coupe
  • 1959 Carrera GS Cabriolet
  • 1960 356B T5 Roadster
  • 1963 Carrera 2 GS Cabriolet
  • 1964 356C Couple – Peking to Paris Rally car
  • 1973 911T “SHTang”/RGruppe
  • 1973 911 Carrera RS
  • 1974 911 Carrera RS 3.0
  • 1984 911 SCRS
  • 1992 964 911 Carrera RS Lightweight
  • 1992 964 911 RS N-GT “Macau”
  • 1994 964 911 RS 3.8
  • 1995 993 911 Carrera RS
  • 1995 993 911 GT2

As part of the exhibition’s preparations, my long-time friend and creative partner, James Lipman, flew to NY and shot the collection in studio, for an accompanying book that will document the collection at this moment in time. The photos seen here are by James.

Steven was responsible for introducing James to the profound effects of immersion in the social scene that surrounds air-cooled Porsche life across North America, particularly in California, where the light hits just right. James’ enthusiasm for a trip to the Baja California taken with Steven sometime in early 2009, and the wonderful images that came out of that trip, led to his selling me on the idea of doing some work out there in May of that year. This was our first R Gruppe Treffen, where we shot the two SWB 911s of Bob Tilton and Chris Nielsen that inspired a raft of work over the next two years and forged lifelong friendships.

Steven’s formative influence does not end there. An esteemed career in architecture has included professorships at Harvard, Yale and Princeton and the work of Steven Harris Architects LLP may be seen all over the world. It is my privilege to have stayed in Steven’s own house in upstate NY and to have briefly experienced what it is to exist inside the vision of a professional whose work I greatly admire.

Combining an achitectural vision with a deep understanding of air-cooled Porsche culture and history (not to mention a keen awareness of market activity) has created to the collection that is partly shown at Saratoga, including several Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance winners. I urge anyone local to the museum to visit and experience Steven’s cognitive precision as expressed through his collection, and to enjoy what blending true passion for these cars and a genetic understanding of what great design looks like can accomplish over time.

About the Saratoga Automobile Museum

The Saratoga Automobile Museum is located within the 2,500-acre Saratoga Spa State Park, in the heart of historic Saratoga Springs, New York. Famous for its legendary one-mile thoroughbred track, the Museum’s facility is the fully restored and renovated New York State Bottling Plant, a beautiful neoclassical structure completed in 1935. 

The Saratoga Automobile Museum was chartered in 1999 and officially opened to the public in June 2002, with a mission to preserve, interpret and exhibit automobiles and automotive artifacts. The museum celebrates the automobile and educates the general public, students and enthusiasts to the role of the automobile in New York State and the wider world. In addition to technical and design aspects, the educational focus is on past, present and future social and economic impacts of the automobile.

RIP Sabine Schmitz

RIP Sabine Schmitz

So sad to hear the news that the adorable Sabine Schmitz, Queen of the Nürburgring, has passed away from cancer aged just 51. A two-time winner of the Nürburgring 24 Hours and a former VLN champion, Sabine may be best remembered as the woman who beat Jeremy Clarkson in a van.

Sabine was born to hotelier parents in Adenau, in the shadow of the Nürburgring. The youngest of three girls, Sabine was raised in the Hotel am Tiergarten in the village of Nürburg, which is now home to the legendary Pistenklause restaurant. All three girls used to borrow their mother’s car to do laps of the ‘Ring and all three apparently tried racing, but it was Sabine who took it most seriously, eventually partnering with veteran BMW M3 driver, Johannes Scheid, to win the Nürburgring 24-Hours in both 1996 and 1997 and win the VLN championship in 1998 – a joint win with Johannes. She remains the only female driver ever to win the N24.

Racing could not pay the bills, so Sabine trained as a somellière and hotel manager, and married a fellow hotelier, with whom she ran a business in Pulheim: north-west of Cologne and 100 kms north of Nürburg. The marriage ended in 2000 and the newly-single Sabine returned to Nürburg, opening a bar called the Fuchsröhre (Foxhole) after one of her favourite parts of the circuit.

She also returned to the track, racing regularly and finding infamy as one of the drivers of the BMW M5 ‘Ring Taxis’. Sabine’s background made her a natural people person. Gifted with irresistible bartender humour, she had ample speed to match her wit, so it was only a matter of time before the motoring media would pick up on her talents. Recognition came in 2004, when BBC Top Gear visited the Nürburgring to test some new twin-turbo diesel Jaguar. Jeremy Clarkson was given the target time of a ten-minute lap, and Sabine was recruited to train him.

When Clarkson eventually managed a 9:59, and shot over the moon with delight, Sabine slapped him back down to earth with a derisory: “I could do that time in a van.” It was a memorable moment. The following year, Top Gear brought a bog-standard Transit (0 to 60 in 21 seconds) to the Nürburgring to give Sabine the chance to make good on her promise. She got within 9 seconds of Clarkson before admitting defeat, but the TV show exposed her to a vast audience. She became a regular fixture on Top Gear, which has been shown in 214 countries to an estimated weekly audience of some 350 million people at its peak.

Sabine did not stay in the pub trade too long on her second time around. She left the Foxhole in 2003 and formed Frikkadelli Racing with her partner, Klaus Abbelen (main image). The duo raced everywhere, running GT3s across Europe and in the Middle East, finishing third in the 2008 N24, beaten only by the two factory-backed Manthey Porsches that had won two previous N24s between them. Away from the circuit, Sabine also indulged her passion for horses, opening a stables in Barweiler – the Eifelranch am Ring.

In 2017, Sabine was diagnosed with a rare form of vulvar cancer. She experienced an adverse reaction to chemotherapy, which cut her options for treatment. Surgery was the only alternative and she had many operations in the years that followed. She did return to racing and promised to run in the 2020 N24, “as long as she was not on an operating table”. “I’m like an Eifel weed,” she told one interviewer, vowing to keep popping up.

Sabine Schmitz died from cancer on 16 March 2021, aged 51. That is no age for anyone to die, let alone someone like Sabine, who enchanted millions of people all over the world with her down-to-earth energy, passion and talent. She will be deeply missed by those who regard the Nordschleife as more than just asphalt. I look forward to raising a glass to Frau Schmitz at the Pistenklause and to celebrating her memory at the N24, some time in the future.

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Ferdinand Magazine is the personal blog of John Glynn, a writer, classic car and motorcycle valuations expert and court expert witness. To explore and enjoy more of my work, and to support the Ferdinand Porsche blog, you can:

Cris Huergas and the R Gruppe Book

Cris Huergas and the R Gruppe Book

The cool thing would perhaps be to quote Groucho Marx (“I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member”) but, when the late Cris Huergas sent me an email in 2007 to ask if I wanted to join the R Gruppe, it caught my attention.

Founding R Gruppe member, Gib Bosworth, owned several air-cooled 911s including a very original Carrera 3.0 (super rare in America as never sold new there) and found my 1976 Carrera 3.0 through He liked the community spirit I was building on the impact bumpers forum, with a focus on driving the cars, learning more about them and doing one’s own maintenance.

Gib’s view of what worked carried weight, and impactbumpers presented by Gib resonated with Cris. The fact that I was writing for pretty much all of the British Porsche magazines at the time didn’t hurt my case either, as Cris was into his car magazines. He overlooked the minor technicality that, although I did own a ’71 project bought from the Gruppe’s ‘Dutch chapter’, my ’76 was not a longhood – a membership must at the time. In any case, I got the email, paid my dues and was member number 466.

I remained with the Gruppe for more than ten years and spent lots of time with Cris on our California visits. He was a working guy who’d been through a few ups and downs, so 911 ownership was behind him by the time we hooked up but, as the Gruppemeister he always had shotgun, and many friends would happily lend him cars on events.

Cris Huergas (right) by Frank Kayser

He also loved to come out on shoots: the energy around these things was ridiculously infectious and Cris loved being in the thick of it. He usually knew much of the story behind the cars we were shooting, so period voice recordings invariably feature a high-pitched Huergas prompting the owner on something they forgot.

Our first meeting was at the Fogcatcher Inn on the Pacific Coast Highway in Cambria, California in 2008. Jamie (James Lipman) and I made our first trip from the UK to CA to see what went on at an R Gruppe Treffen and I decided we should shoot Bob Tilton and Chris Nielsen’s SWB 911s.

It is difficult to explain to recent arrivals to air-cooled Porsches just how unloved short-wheelbase cars were at the time. Super cheap and often scrapped, here were two guys who had invested heavily in two SWB 911s, spending well over market value to realise their individual visions in very different, but equally convincing ways.

Tilton and Nielsen were more than just 911 guys; they were tastemakers. Tilt was fastidious about every tiny detail and Nielsen matched his microscopic focus to the miligram. What I found within each of them was that they looked back for inspiration, but were not driven to mimic. They interpreted their influences rather than imitating them. This is what made their cars special and the two we had to shoot on that first trip to America.

In the years that followed, 911 prices took off into the stratosphere and R Gruppe became quite the sensation. Cris loved grass roots enthusiasts and would make an effort to talk to new faces. Someone with a cool 911 who came to a few meets and showed they were not a complete pain in the arse was generally given a number, but Cris would also occasionally slip numbers to people who maybe didn’t have the grass roots background, but turned up in a serious car. Maybe they didn’t build it, but they had a vision of quality that worked for him, and they had a clue about cars. Cris also brought in the occasional trophy member – which was not a bad thing.

Huergas was a serious petrolhead and, while he liked old 911s with patchwork-quilt provenance, he also knew a proper car. He and his brothers were all into cars, and the crew around Cris was similarly knowledgeable. It’s no accident that Cris started R Gruppe (so called in a play on words around “Our Group” and the underdog history of the 911R) with Freeman Thomas, one of the most respected car designers of the 20th century. Cris could hold his own in that sort of company and his inner circle were serious geeks when it came to details on more than just Porsches.

Still, it was always the garagistes that did it for me: home builders who had a vision and didn’t really care whether it fitted what has since become a fairly prescriptive early 911 recipe book. My favourite Cris quote is “everything you do is right” – meaning that, if you liked it, then who cared what anyone else thought?

Whether it was Bob Aines’ orange E that was driven from Texas to California every Treffen, Rolly Resos’ famous red and white car, Harvey Weidman’s Martini 911 or Gib’s beautiful Tour de France recreation, the early R Gruppe cars were incredibly elegant. The cars were my air-cooled royalty and their drivers were true elder statesmen, in every sense of the word. We never wrote features on any of the cars I mention above and I do not regret that: a magazine splash would have spoiled their allure. Better to shun such vulgarity.

That’s not to say that the Gruppe 911s we did shoot were anything less than superb. With so many great cars to choose from, and only four weeks a year to gather the material, we shot what we could get to and saved a few others for later. Not all of our cars came through the R Gruppe, but it was the main portal for some wonderful times and I remember them fondly. In the centre was Cris: always on the hunt for 911 fans to add to the cocktail shaker he called R Gruppe membership.

In the same way that Tilton and Nielsen expressed their 911 visions as a unified blend of countless influences, Huergas delivered his vision of the car park dinner party everyone wanted to be at in the shape of the R Gruppe. Now that Cris has left us, things are likely to change.

It is fortunate, therefore, that German photographer, Frank Kayser, captured the last months of R Gruppe under Huergas for The R Book. A look through some of Frank’s photos shows many familiar faces, all of whom were devoted to Cris for bringing them into the fold.

“I had complete creative freedom for this book,” says Frank, “so I got to document the things that inspire me: beautiful landscapes, cool dudes and loads of awesome cars. The old air-cooled Porsche is the connecting link of it all. The book is not just another coffee table book about cars, but my statement for analogue values such as freedom, friendship and the fun of experiencing the real world together.”

The R Book website describes this as a “10 x 13” coffee-table book of 580 pages that’s filled with 840 brilliant images of awesome cars, candid visits of member’s private garages, and beautiful Californian landscapes. Well written essays about the history and the attitude towards life of America‘s cult Porsche car club”, but to those who experienced the Gruppe under Cris, it will be more than that.

One of my favourite books bought this year is “The World’s Fastest Place”, by another German photographer, Alexandra Lier. Alexandra’s work (above) is exceptional, but I can only imagine how much more meaningful the book must be if you are part of the Bonneville Speed Week community, around whom this book is based.

Beautifully presented, the R Gruppe book is not cheap at €180, and it’s no substitute for being part of Huergas’ R Gruppe before the world went crazy for air-cooled but, for 911 fans looking for something to evoke memories of good times with friends and old Porsches, it is worth a look.

I leave the last word to my R Gruppe compadre, Guenter Kehr, who I climbed many Alpine passes with on the epic Twinspark Racing 2010 Bergmeister Tour: “More a piece of art than just a book, but great stuff for any Porsche guy and a great memory to the late Cris Huergas.”


Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

RIP Sir Stirling Moss

RIP Sir Stirling Moss

Sir Stirling Moss has passed away aged 90. A sad day, but this was a life very well lived by a man so well loved. He will be missed.

Moss was a real Porsche enthusiast who notably owned a 718 RS 61 Spider. Porsche reunited Stirling and the RS 61 at Goodwood a few years ago. However, Moss was more famous for his achievements with Mercedes, particularly at the 1955 Mille Miglia. The silver arrows were always keen to pay tribute to Sir Stirling and organised a wonderful 60th anniversary tribute at the 2015 Mille Miglia.

Image courtesy of ©Mercedes

At the Mille Miglia 2015, Sir Stirling Moss again took the wheel of the same Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR with starting number 722 in which he won the thousand-mile 1955 Italian road race from Brescia to Rome and back, in the best-ever time. At his side was then team-mate Hans Herrmann, who six decades earlier was another hot contender for victory. Herrmann delivered a stunning performance in 1955, but his race ended due to an unfortunate defect on the Passo di Futa while lying in second place.

Image courtesy of ©Mercedes

The story of the 1955 Mille Miglia is now legend, but there is much more to know about Stirling. Below is a great documentary about his life, presented by the ever-watchable Sir Patrick Stewart. Take the time to learn more about a great racing hero and our fellow Porsche admirer.

I have a great Stirling Moss story but it is NSFW! He was just a proper old boy. We can all learn something from Stirling.


Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can: Forum Updates Forum Updates

Happy Easter to all! I hope this is a good weekend for everyone. I’m busier than ever with valuations and client work during lockdown, but losing the long daily school run has freed up some time for personal projects, including improvements to my Porsche 911 forum at


I started the impactbumpers Porsche 911 forum after a conversation with a friend who despaired of the lack of support from established Porsche Clubs for the lowly impact bumper cars, which were then regarded as throwaway ‘starter’ 911s. I like all of Ferry’s creations but, as a child of the ’70s, my passion has always been focused on impact-bumpered 911s from 1974 to 1989. After a decade in various marque ownership clubs, I was over the system’s lacklustre parochialism and am not much of a club-type at the best of times. As Groucho put it, I wouldn’t want to be in any club that would have me as a member. The online space offered the chance to construct a completely different member experience.

After playing around with various types of discussion forum software, the forum launched on February 14th, 2006. My aim was to get maybe twenty like-minded people on board to start working on their own cars and sharing their experiences and give us some buying power for better deals on track days. Fourteen years later (and despite a fairly hardcore early routine of deleting accounts that had not been used in the previous twelve months), the board has over 7,000 members.

Some are less active than others, but all are welcome as long as they behave! Pointless arguments (hello religion and politics) are not permitted – save them for Facebook. Those who throw stones and hide behind keyboards get a holiday. There is no adult content anywhere: the board is son-and-daughter safe, so the kids can keep using your laptop or iPad.

The board sets out to support an upbeat experience of Impact Bumper ownership and has managed to do that pretty well over the years. The forum for those who have had an IB (forumspeak for a car from ’74 to ’89) and moved on to other classics, but would like to keep enjoying the IB camaraderie, is one of the busiest boards on the site.

Impact Bumper upgrades

Easter Sunday has ushered in several upgrades to the board to make things better and brighter. First and most obvious is a new design. It’s a work in progress, although this is the bones of it. Driving my 1976 911 Carrera 3.0 (a.k.a. The Orange) on the Col de Turini for two days just after going full-time freelance in May 2010 was a defining moment for me in connecting to the soul of these cars, so that is the main header pic.

Second is the addition of a feedback system. In the bottom right corner of every post, members now see a heart icon. Hovering over that opens three options: like, thanks and a laugh. Liking or saying thanks for a post earns a ‘reputation point’ for the poster. Total points earned going forward are displayed in the member’s profile. There are no points for a laugh as we should all be bringing good humour!

Members get a set number of points to give out per day and daily points do not carry over. The idea is that a post to say cool or great or whatever can be more than some want to give, but clicking thanks or like gives the poster a feel-good moment. One can also go back in time to say thanks to a post that has helped you. Making one another feel good in times of stress and bringing common sense to Porsche ownership is at the heart of the forum, so we will see how this goes and tweak it as appropriate.

The third upgrade is a raft of other small tweaks including links to associated social profiles, a number of new forums to break content into more digestible indexes, and a few improvements under the engine cover. I think it is all a step forward.

IB Membership and Trade Ads

More new modules will be added as testing progresses, so more new features are coming. I have always resisted offering membership packages and trade advertising, preferring to bankroll the forum myself to keep it indepedent, but it is now becoming more work not to offer these features, so the options will launch over the next few weeks. I hope this may also support independent Porsche specialists, some of whom could find things tricky as the lockdown shakes out.

For now, I hope anyone who has not been on IB in a while will revisit the forum and see what they think. Feel free to contact me with any notes or enquiries, or if you can no longer access your original account.


Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can: