Porsche 911 S 127 corners of the 1966 Freiburg to Schauinsland hill climb
A 911, clearly being driven with commitment, tackles one of the 127 corners of the Freiburg to Schauinsland hill climb. But this isn’t just any one of the many 911s that contested the Schauinsland climb until competitive events stopped after 1972. The driver is the Swabian, Eberhard Mahle, and in this 1966 photograph he’s well on the way to winning the European GT Hill Climb Championship and also the 911’s first international triumph. The irony is that if Huschke von Hanstein had prevailed, Eberhard wouldn’t have had a 911 to compete in.
Scion of what is today the German car parts manufacturer Mahle GmbH, Eberhard was by the mid-1960s a highly experienced racer. He’d competed in Alfa Romeos, winning the German GT championship in 1957, and again with a Volvo PV544 in 1959. Eberhard had also driven works Borgwards and Mercedes. His Porsche 550 was second in the Targa Florio in 1959, so when he alighted upon the new 911 as the weapon to tackle the Bergrennen scene, he was surprised at Huschke’s reluctance to prepare one for him. The baron explained Zuffenhausen was building 911s only for rallying, and besides, in tarmac events the 911 would be left behind by Ferraris and Fords with twice the horsepower.
This was just the sort of challenge Eberhard relished. He turned to his friend, Porsche works driver and former motorcycle mechanic Gerhard Mitter, who procured a second-hand 911 and tuned it to produce 165bhp long before Porsche was marketing the 911S or power kits. In its first outing Eberhard was third. The following year, 1966, his 911 was unbeatable, winning all but one event. It was an impressive performance from a man whose leg doctors had wanted to amputate only two years earlier after a crash caused multiple fractures and put him out of action for well over a year.
After his 1966 success, Eberhard largely called a halt to motorsport. At 33 he had achieved all he wanted, and besides there was the family firm to manage. Yet he would return after retirement in the 1990s and was foremost in re-establishing racing at Solitude in 2001, where 40 years earlier he had won with his 356.
As well as heading one of Porsche’s first original equipment suppliers, Eberhard was a significant local personality and the Porsche Museum would often invite him in to drive an exhibit for a historical event. His death at 88 in December 2021 was marked by a wide range of tributes, many from abroad.