Porsche System Engineering
Although Carel Godin de Beaufort would grow into the ultimate Porsche privateer, it was the works team that gave Carel his international break.
The first image that comes up when thinking of Carel Godin de Beaufort is that of the carefree nobleman in his inseparable Porsche 718 single-seater. Still, the Porsche wasn't the obvious choice for an independent Grand Prix driver, with Coopers and Lotuses readily available on the British market. It was simply because of Carel being part of the Porsche fold that he chose the German car, as it can't have been Porsche's single-seater heritage up until the moment of acquisition. Nor the accomplishments that would follow, for that matter.
Of course, the thundering Auto Unions of the thirties hailed from the Porsche design studio but the post-war Porsche single-seaters had been far from impressive. The late-forties Cisitalia Typ 360 project was a disaster and it was well into the fifties before the first 'central-seat' RSKs started to appear in F2. Still, the most successful of these was Jean Behra's private effort, which centered around an RSK converted to single-seater spec by Valerio Colotti in Modena in 1959. At the same time, Pete Lovely made a name for himself in the US when he put a Porsche 356 engine in the back of a modified Cooper 500cc chassis to create the 'Pooper'.
Meanwhile, the factory had entered F2 with the full-body 550A, which in fact held an advantage on fast circuits, but it wasn't until 1960 that five examples of works-converted 718 RSKs (based on an original 1959 conversion) were entered in F2. Driving Rob Walker's example, Stirling Moss gave Porsche the F2 championship that year before the cars became Grand Prix cars as the 1.5-litre regulations came into play in 1961.
In 1960, the Porsche works racing team had morphed into its guise of Porsche System Engineering, having previously entered its cars under the name of Dr. Ing. F. Porsche KG, and it was with this new name that it won its only World Championship Grand Prix, Dan Gurney taking the 1962 French GP after a race of attrition had seen all the favourites fall by the wayside. A week later, Gurney also won the Solitude GP, driving the 804 follow-up design, but the writing was on the wall in the rest of the events that Gurney and Bonnier competed in during 1961 and 1962. When the big names would suffer they ended up fighting for the lead, such as at Rheims in 1961, but in general Porsche's refusal to drop their underpowered air-cooled flat-four (in the 718) and flat-eight (in the 804) engines - simply to have their Grand Prix cars act as an extension of their road-going models - turned their quest for single-seater glory into a hopeless task.
There were no such worries in sportscar racing, however. There, with homologation regulations being as they were, it wasn't even an option to move away from the road-car concept - they had to be road cars. This meant that sportscar racing became Porsche's natural habitat, and although the majority of the factory's effort has always gone into supporting their legions of privateers, the works did have its moments under the sun, and notably so in the days when Carel was occasionally offered a works seat.
The 550 was entered in competition in the first moments of the World Sportscar Championship in 1953 and would grow increasingly competitive, leading to a class win in the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours with Polensky and von Frankenberg sharing leading the similar cars of Gendebien/Seidel (entered by Ecurie Belge) and Glöckner/Juhan. Shelby/Gregory then when on to bag 1500cc honours in the Tourist Trophy, ahead of Glöckner/Seidel and von Frankenberg/Linge.
It was more of the same in 1956, the season starting off with an easy class win at Sebring for Herrmann/von Trips, followed by a repeat at the Nürburgring for von Trips/Maglioli. Now in the 550A it was Maglioli sharing with Barth to win the 1000kms again in 1957, finishing 4th overall and leading the sister car of von Frankenberg/Schulze. Le Mans ended in a collection of retirements but Porsche competition boss Huschke von Hanstein and Barth gave the 2-litre 718 RSK its first class win in Venezuela. Shell/Seidel continued the RSK's record by racing to third overall in the 1958 Sebring 12 Hours while Hanstein/Linge/Cuevas took 1.6-litre class honours in the 356 Carrera. Behra/Scarlatti then raced to second place in the Targa Florio (and first in the 1.5-litre sports class) with Pucci/Hanstein's 356 taking sixth in the 1.6-litre GT class.
Carel's first works drive came in the Nürburgring 1000kms and it was an immediate hit, as the Barth/Beaufort/von Frankenberg 550 RS took sixth overall and the 1.5-litre class win, ahead of the later Schell/Frère RSK. There was double triumph at Le Mans as Porsche took a clean sweep of the 2-litre and 1.5-litre classes to finish third and fourth overall with Behra/Herrmann and Barth/Frère while Carel shared his 550A with works development driver Herbert Linge to take fifth. A second works drive with 'Bino' Heins at Goodwood led to 8th overall and second in class.
Porsche's class win monopoly showed no sign of letting off in 1959 when Bonnier/von Trips were only beaten to overall victory by the two works Ferrari Testa Rossas at Sebring, while Hanstein picked Carel to join him in a 356 Carrera on their way to the 1.6-litre GT win. So three works appearances with two wins and a second place as the result! Porsche truly hit the jackpot in the Targa Florio, however, taking the first four places and winning both sports and GT class honours, Barth/Seidel leading Mahle/Strähle/Linge (the trio also finishing fourth in a 356) and Hanstein/Pucci. The Nürburgring event became another Maglioli benefit, as he shared an RSK with Barth to take fourth overall.
Another overall win followed going into 1960, the season starting off with Bonnier/Herrmann taking the Targa Florio in the new RS60, beating the bigger engined Ferrari 246S of Phil Hill and von Trips, while Barth/G Hill won the 1.6-litre category for Porsche as well. Bonnier/Gendebien almost won the Nürburgring 1000kms outright, while Linge/Walter raced their 356 Carrera Abarth GTL to 1.6-litre glory at Le Mans. The Porsche steamroller faltered in 1961 when the RS61 failed to deliver at Sebring, both Herrmann/Barth and Gurney/Bonnier suffering from mechanical failure. Also, the Targa was lost to Ferrari, as von Trips didn't fail for a second time when he and Gendebien beat the two Porsche pairings to first place. The Nürburgring class wins were lost to Porsche privateers, as the works team maybe suffered from now having to support a Grand Prix team as well, but a resounding one-two in the 2-litre class at Le Mans, Holbert/Gregory heading Herrmann/Barth, more than made up for that.
From then on, Carel would only be reunited with the works team twice, both times at Le Mans in 1962 and '63 as he focused on his Grand Prix efforts in his ex-Moss 718. He would be unlucky on both occasions.
By that time the World Sportscar Championship had been completely transformed. While the 1953-'61 era had focused on the big events for which both sportscars and GTs were eligible for points, the 1962-'65 period would see its focus shift to GT cars grouped into three categories while the FIA expanded the calendar to include hillclimbs, sprint races and other minor events. The works team only bothered to enter the big-name events, continuing the policy of competing in the small-engined GT classes. Inevitably, more wins would follow at the hands of Porsche mainstays such as Barth and Herrmann, but the Porsche name would only really return to the forefront with the 904 GTS - of which Carel only saw the promising beginning - and its 906 and 908 follow-ups, before the 917 was turned into a legend.
Carel with 'Butzi' Porsche, the son of Ferry Porsche and the creator of the Porsche 911. (Rob Petersen archives)