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Jeff Zwart's Porsche GT2 at Rennsport Reunion V

Lapping Laguna Seca in Jeff Zwart's Pikes Peak-winning GT2

Lizett Bond
Dec 24, 2015

Screaming towards turn eight, my body lightens as I brake just before the hump. My Porsche clings to the track, and I marvel at its prowess through the Corkscrew's famous downhill plunge. Then I catch a glimpse of someone to my left, and suddenly flashing blue lights fill my mirrors.

I'm jolted out of the spirited, Mittyesque reverie that had turned a stretch of darkened, rural, two-lane blacktop into the famous Corkscrew at Laguna Seca raceway, and now I'm curbed, at the side of the road, deflated, with a beefy California Highway Patrol officer at the window of my rented Kia chanting the familiar litany of shame: "License insurance card did you know you were going 80 in a posted 55 sign this please it's not an admission of guilt slow down and have a nice day."

2015 rennsport reunion martini racing porsche Photo 2/9   |   2015 Rennsport Reunion Martini Racing Porsche

My excuse, wisely unvoiced, was a good one, born of the confusion of lively fantasy and real-life memory. Just the day before, you see, I had been navigating a Porsche race car down through that very same Corkscrew.

Kia-bound once again, I thought back to earlier that week, when I'd departed Southern California's blast furnace for the friendlier coastal clime of the Monterey Peninsula and the fifth edition of Porsche Rennsport Reunion. I was nestled snuggly in the Recaro race seat of Jeff Zwart's 2002 Pikes Peak Hillclimb-winning 911 GT2—the same ride I'd had back in 2011 for the first Rennsport on the West Coast—eager to reach the conclave of Porsche motorsport history that is the 2015 edition of Rennsport Reunion.

Rennsport number four had been an amazing experience, and the fifth edition promised to be even better. (It turned out for me, as you'll see, to be the best one yet.) Attending this little soiree would be upward of 60,000 enthusiasts, ready to immerse themselves in three days of racing excitement, displays of museum-quality vehicles, and the chance to pick up some Porsche memorabilia to haul home.

2015 rennsport reunion jeff zwart porsche gt2 Photo 3/9   |   2015 Rennsport Reunion Jeff Zwart Porsche Gt2

Creeping along in L.A. traffic did cause some trepidation, and once I hit the open road in this historic ride, the GT2's red graphics promised it would be prime quarry for those entrusted to enforce our speed laws. Settling into the flow of traffic, however, I arrived, uncited just a few hours later at the Portola Hotel in downtown Monterey. That night, the GT2 would stay in a special cordoned-off parking area at the hotel; load in at Laguna Seca started early the following morning.

Important stuff first, though. Rennsport Reunion is, if nothing else, a great excuse to party, and I'd made it in time to attend Thursday evening's opening gathering for Porsche guests on the hotel patio. It was a casual affair—that is, if mingling with such Porsche greats as Norbert Singer, Jackie Ickx, Vic Elford, Gerard Larrousse, and Jurgen Barth and hearing them swap stories is your idea of a casual time. The competitive mood was certainly infectious: At one point the venerable drivers took to the podium for a group shot, and in a flash of woolgathering, I was on the dais, too.

The GT2 was one of the featured vehicles at the Chopard Heritage Display situated in a huge tent facing the pit row suites. Under this big top, 75 specimens of Porsche royalty basked in the up-close perusal of thousands of devoted attendees. The pits and paddock were crowded with Le Mans winners, cars from the Porsche Museum, club racers, goggle-eyed enthusiasts, and prominent people from throughout the Porsche world, including from the Revs Institute, Brumos Racing, and Canepa. Once again, the drivers and engineers who made it all happen participated in official autograph sessions.

Of course, the real action took place on the track, during the many group races, and I was lucky enough to join the Heritage Group exhibition laps with the Zwart GT2. I'm no speed demon, and I'd only been a passenger at Laguna, but after reassurance that the laps would be relatively sedate, my limited confidence was bolstered as I lined up to enter the track.

I was too excited to swallow, and my lungs decided to take a time-out. I'd asked to be placed toward the rear of the group so as not to hold up the faster drivers, but I was motioned toward the front of the pack. Spectators lined the paddock, and dozens of cameras were trained on my ride.

2015 rennsport reunion jeff zwart porsche gt2 Photo 7/9   |   2015 Rennsport Reunion Jeff Zwart Porsche Gt2

Someone yelled, "Hey, you're not Jeff Zwart!" Nice of them to have noticed.

In my mind's eye, though, I was Zwart, about to go flat out up Pikes Peak, sliding through hairpin turns, gravel spewing, Go-Pro recording my expertise.

Abruptly, we were motioned onto the track. I was third out, my hands were shaking, mouth dry. Ahead of me were Hans Stuck in a 962 and Jerry Seinfeld in a Gulf blue 917, and they were off in a roar. Whoever had described the pace of these exhibition laps as sedate had inflicted upon me a monstrous fabrication.

2015 rennsport reunion porsches Photo 8/9   |   2015 Rennsport Reunion Porsches

Determined to keep up, I set out in hot pursuit. Hey, I thought, I am keeping up! I followed Stuck's line into Turn 1 and came face to lens with the real Jeff Zwart, filming the action from the Panamera camera car. No wave from me; I concentrated on mirroring Stuck's angles and apexes. (At least from my point of view, I was.)

The Corkscrew loomed, and my palms grew sweatier. Damp hooks do not allow optimal steering-wheel grip. I wiped them dry, one at a point. Screaming toward Turn 8, my body felt light. Braking before the hump, I released and caught a glimpse of hundreds of spectators before the Corkscrew's downhill plunge. The GT2 was glued to the track, and I marveled at its efficiency as I revolved through the corner and headed down to Turn 11. I howled past the start/finish bridge for another go-round and felt ready for a full stint. All too soon, however, it was over, and I reduced my speed to follow a Penske 917/10, the 1972 Can Am Championship winner, down pit lane. I was instructed where to park, staging the GT2 for the concours.

2015 rennsport reunion jeff zwart porsche gt2 Photo 9/9   |   2015 Rennsport Reunion Jeff Zwart Porsche Gt2

If I learned anything from those laps, it was that McQueen's scriptwriters were on to something when they penned that famous line, "Racing is life." I was never so alive as when I was on track with those other classic Porsches at Rennsport, with no flashing red blue lights in sight. Rennsport VI will not come soon enough.

By Lizett Bond
9 Articles

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