Porsche 718/2 a few miles away..
Motor racing is nothing if not for history, and I ran into an unexpected bit of it at a recent visit to the Porsche Performance Driving Center in Carson, CA. There on display was a car I had never heard of, much less seen, the Porsche 718 Formula 2 Car.
From 1958 until 1962, Porsche produced the 718 sports racing car based on the highly successful Porsche 550.
A true road going sports car with two seats and an enclosed body, a 1.5 liter motor allowed the Porsche 718 to compete in the FIA’s small sports car class, where the diminutive machine brought Porsche’s first win at 1960 12 Hours of Sebring. It was later campaigned successfully in the Targa Florio, hillclimbs, national events and in international sports car events.
The 718 series became a true champion, garnering the deserved title of giant killer, beating many of the fastest larger engined cars from Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa Romeo.
Formula 1, 2 and 3 regulations in the 1960’s stated that racing cars must have exposed wheels and Porsche set about building a regulations compliant single seat racing machine based on the 718, the 718/2. Specially ordered by French Formula 1 driver Jean Behra, the 718/2 had a longer wheelbase to make room for a larger gas tanks.
Entered into the Formula 2 championship, the motor was eventually bumped up to 1.6 liters, used a great deal of the RSK sports car mechanicals, but with a newly modified, lightweight chassis.
Raced for the first time in the 1959 Monaco Gran Prix, the 718/2 won the then unofficial Formula 2 Manufacturers Championship, and was later campaigned in the 1961 Formula 1 competition.
Involved in a shunt during the F1 race at Reims that year, Hans Herrmann jumped into the wounded 718/2 and finished a very close second to Sterling Moss driving a Cooper.
Jean Behra was to take the wheel in the very next day F1 race, but was thrown from his 718 RSK and killed during a rainy sports car race the day before, in Berlin, Germany.
The 718/2 was replaced by the 804 for Porsche’s F1 efforts, but Porsche withdrew from Formula 1 campaigning in 1962.
Imported to the US, the 718/2 was raced at the amateur level and is now at the Porsche Experience Center in Carson, CA.