Porsche’s involvement in the World Championship actually began four years before its F1 debut, and at time when the marque didn’t even make a open-wheeler… In those days the company stretched everyone’s imagination to the limits by running stripped-down sportscars in F2, and since F2 entries were allowed in the odd GP, hey presto – Porsche got away with the impossible…
The company’s debut was at the Nurburgring in 1957 – the year of Fangio’s famous battle with Hawthorn and Collins.The factory entered a pair of 550RSs for Edgar Barth and Umberto Maglioli, while Dutch aristo Carel Godin de Beaufort ran a third under his Ecurie Maarsbergen banner. Barth outran the Coopers – including Roy Salvadori and Jack Brabham – to take the F2 class pole and victory, finishing 12th overall.
Folk were used to seeing some odd stragglers at the ‘Ring, but the following year de Beaufort used his status to get an entry for his home Grand Prix at Zandvoort, this time with an RSK. The car looked utterly ridiculous amongst the Ferraris and BRMs, and as the only F2 contender it was not surprising that he qualified and finished last. He ran the car again in the German GP, where Barth took a works RSK to sixth overall, just behind F2 class winner Bruce McLaren.
De Beaufort’s third outing with his RSK was at Zandvoort in ’59. He again started and finished last, having persuaded pal Stirling Moss to try it in practice. Later that year obscure American Harry Blanchard was invited to make up the numbers in the inaugural US GP at Sebring with his RSK; he finished seventh and last. That final sportscar appearance marked the end of this unusual little chapter in GP history.
By then Porsche’s first ‘proper’ F2 car had already made its debut at Monaco, in the hands of Wolfgang Von Trips. Just to confuse the issue, another; non-works Porsche F2 single-seater also made its first World Championship appearance in the principality that year. Jean Behra had commissioned Valeria Colotti to build him a car based on RSK parts, and from some angles it looked more purposeful than the official 718. Since its owner was racing for Ferrari at Monaco, the ‘Behra Porsche’ was entrusted to Maria Theresa de Filippis, who failed to qualify. Behra was due to race it in the German GP at Avus, but he crashed fatally in the supporting sportscar race.
Masten Gregory finally gave the car its first GP start, taking it to 12th in Argentina in 1960. Later that year desperate Monza organisers invited journeyman Fred Gamble to drive it at the Italian GP; he finished last after a running back to the pits to pick up a churn of fuel.