Porsche fans had reason to worry coming into the 1995 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Just 10 days before the winter race, IMSA placed additional engine and weight restrictions on turbocharged cars. Porsche felt this made them uncompetitive, and promptly yanked their purpose-built Tom Walkinshaw Racing WSC roadsters from the race.
Porsche could afford to do that, but for privateer teams with their future on the line, withdrawing from the highest-profile endurance race in North America wasn’t an option. So with their Porsche K8 Spyder literally in a plane on the runway ready to head for Florida, the Kremer brothers bit the bullet and took off.
When they showed up, the Kremer K8, chassis WSC01, didn’t look promising. As Road & Track’s Joe Rusz said, it was down on power, up on weight, and slow. Qualifying in 17th 10 seconds behind Andy Evans in the Scandia Ferrari 333 SP on pole didn’t do anything to make it look more like a winner. But as anyone who knew the Kremer heritage could have told you, you always took them seriously on the track.
Erwin and Manfred Kremer began building racing Porsches in Cologne, Germany, in 1962, and by 1968, with several years developing the new 911, Erwin won the European Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championship. Increasingly successful cars for drivers including Bob Wollek, Bernd Schneider and John Fitzpatrick dominated the Porsche Cup through the 70s and with Klaus Ludwig and Don and Bill Whittington, their Porsche 935-based Jagermeister K3 won at Le Mans in 1979.
The K8 was an evolution of the Kremer’s successful Group C Porsche 962-based CK6, which they had already adapted into an open prototype class CK7. For the 1994 Le Mans, they constructed an extremely strong car based with a carbon fiber body on a honeycomb aluminum tub from an existing CK6. With little time and severe regulations, power from the 900-plus HP CK7 was down to 530 HP. Even as the car was completed, however, the Kremers landed a contract to build Honda NSXs for Le Mans and it looked as though support for the K8 was at an end.
Then, British Project 100 stepped in, with legendary driver Derek Bell on board for one final drive before retirement. While the K8 gridded second it was not fully developed; still, Bell, Jurgen Laessig and Robin Donovan brought it to the finish line in sixth.
At Daytona in 1995, Kremer was back with a new, fully prepared chassis, WSC01, driven by Jurgen Lassig, Marco Werner, Christophe Bouchut and Giovanni Lavaggi.
As expected, the four Ferrari 333 SP were fast and Lavaggi spun on turn three, sending WSC01 back into the pits for a new nose after only 20 minutes of racing. But aside from that, the Kremer Porsche had one huge advantage over the Ferrari: It didn’t break down. All four Ferraris experienced severe valve seating issues and by the 15th hour, the final one fell off the leaderboard. Meanwhile, the K8 got faster and faster, eventually matching Ferrari’s peak 31 laps per hour pace. Manfred Kremer would later say the Ferraris started too fast and wouldn’t have been able to maintain their pace even without engine problems, but it didn’t matter. Aside from a brief stint behind the Brix Racing Oldsmobile-Spice, the WSC01 K8 led the race home by five laps, finishing 680 laps and 2,456.4 miles at an average 102.289 MPH, 45 laps ahead of the sole remaining Ferrari. Christophe Bouchut, appearing in his first Daytona, had previously won at the 1993 24 Hours of Le Mans, becoming the first ever driver to win both 24-hour endurance events on the first try.
WSC01 went on to appear at the Sebring 12 hours and Le Mans 24 hours that year, but lightning didn’t strike twice. Including the 1994 Le Mans car, Kremer constructed a total of four K8s and while they were very good cars, including sixth overall at Le Mans for K8-02 and a Monza 1000 win, none had a victory with the stature of Daytona.
In fact, turbocharged cars as a class were a dying breed, in at least some degree because of regulations imposed after the success of Kremer and other turbo Porsches. Kremer’s K9, already in development, was never completed and the K8s closed the book on Kremer’s incredible 25-year run of racing victories.
Between Derek Bell and Daytona, however, the K8 cast a long shadow. Open bodywork and composite construction reduced curb weight to about 2,100 pounds, and competitors took note, ushering in an era of open Spyders in prototype racing.
In the late 90s, WSC 01 reemerged briefly in the FIA’s SportsRacing World Cup in Europe, before being acquired by a private collector. It has now been returned to the full #10 Kremer livery as seen at Daytona, immediately recognizable to any lover of timeless Porsche racing cars. Indeed, it even returned to Daytona as a featured car at the race’s 50th anniversary in 2005.
Still radical and still fast 20 years after it was developed, the Kremer K8 was, literally, the shape of the future.
*Sourced via Mecum