Ferry Porsche prior to the 1973 ceremony are three seasoned exponents of the company and, on the left

Ferry Porsche prior to the 1973 ceremony are three seasoned exponents of the company and, on the left

The annual awards ceremony is a timehonoured ritual at Porsche and a reminder that the company really did make its name through motorsport. Usually held in the third week of December, these days the ceremony is slightly overshadowed by competition from other Porsche evening functions, such as Sound Night and other social media-inspired events. However, 50 years ago when Porsche was still a small company and almost all Porsche racers knew each other, it was the event of the year.

Assembled here with Ferry Porsche prior to the 1973 ceremony are three seasoned exponents of the company and, on the left, a new boy. Just 25, Viennese Helmuth Koinigg had risen rapidly through Formula Vee and at the beginning of 1973 he was invited to drive for the Ford works team. The Fords proved unreliable, but Helmuth was clearly on other talent spotters’ lists: at midseason Martini Porsche paired him with Manfred Schurti at the wheel of one of its 911 RSRs. The pair finished 4th in the four-hour race before Le Mans proper and 9th in the 1000km Zeltweg held on the Österreichring. Helmuth’s presence at the awards showed that Porsche was as interested in nurturing talent as lauding old hands.

The other three are older, if not quite old hands, although they would all become so. Next to Helmuth is Claudi Haldi, Switzerland’s most effective sports car driver since Jo Siffert, a man who’d been rallying, racing and hill climbing 911s since 1967. GT class winner of the European Hill Climb championship in 1970 and second in 1972, Claudi was firmly on Porsche’s radar and until the late 1980s was an occasional factory team driver. To Ferry’s left is Reinhold Jöest, better known these days as a top-flight team manager and owner, but during the 1970s a resolute and calculating Porsche racer whose constantly improved 908/03 made his reputation not just as a driver, but as a brilliant technician. He and Claudi had shared a Martini RSR that year. On the right is John Fitzpatrick, another driver whose greatest successes were always in Porsche. Recipient of the Porsche Cup in 1972 for his efforts with Erwin Kremer’s 911 S/T, he was second this year and would win again in 1974.

Successful racing drivers usually did well from their association with Porsche. John won many more gongs, going on to field his own 935 and 956 teams before retiring to Spain. Reinhold became a millionaire businessman in the Roger Penske mould, while Claudi raced 22 times at Le Mans, of which 17 were in Porsche, including the 961, before becoming the voice of motorsport in Switzerland. Alas, poor Helmuth would not see 1974 out. Desperately keen to get into F1, in only his second GP he crashed his second-hand Surtees fatally at the 1974 US GP, the accident attributed largely to his inexperience.

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