First class victory in the history of Porsche at the 1951 Le Mans 24 hours

Auguste Veuillet / Edmond Mouche win 1st in 1100cc class in the 1951 Le Mans 24H in a Porsche 356 Gmünd SL

What brings a young company as Porsche to the hardest endurance race of the world?

Porsche was still a very young company. The 1st car bearing the names Porsche was registered in June 1948.  The first running of the Le Mans 24 hours after WW II took place one year later.  For Porsche, the first participation on the Le Mans 24 hours would only be in 1951.  While Ferdinand Porsche and Ferry Porsche were attending the 1950 Motor Show in Paris, where the French Porsche importer Auguste Veuillet had a stand.  Le Mans 24 hours founder and race director Charles Farroux approached father and son Porsche to convince them to take part in the race.

Edmond Mouche & Auguste Veuillet and the 1st in class Porsche 356 Gmund SL at the 1951 Le Mans 24H
Edmond Mouche & Auguste Veuillet and the 1st in class Porsche 356 Gmund SL at the 1951 Le Mans 24H

Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche realized the importance of motorsport successes as a marketing tool for the young company. And the race could serve as a severe test for the rather new Porsche 356. So they started hatching a plan to enter the Le Mans 24 hours race the next year. Ferdinand Porsche died soon after the Paris Motor Show. Nevertheless, his son Ferry Porsche decided to pursue the project.

The Porsche 356 Gmünd SL

Auguste Veuillet and Edmond Mouche in the Porsche 356 Gmund SL later bought by John von Neumann
Auguste Veuillet and Edmond Mouche in the Porsche 356 Gmund SL later bought by John von Neumann

Soon Edmond Mouche was chosen to share the wheel of a car with Auguste Veuillet. Porsche still had a few unsold aluminum-bodied Porsche 356 Gmünds left unsold after the introduction of the steel-bodied production 356. Under the guidance of Wilhelm Hild, these cars were transformed into the Porsche 356 Gmünd SL  3 racing cars that were set out for Le Mans. Only one made it to the actual race. One of the cars was totaled in an accident and didn’t even reach the track. The other was crashed in the training before the race, leaving Rudolph Sauerwein with severe leg injuries.  This meant that the company’s debut Le Mans appearance consisted of a single car.

The race

Porsche 356 Gmund Sl during a pitstop in the 1951 Le Mans 24 hours

Despite severe weather conditions and heavy rain, the race was nothing but a success. Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead took checkered flag  in their works-entered Jaguar C-type and achieved the first Le Mans win for the marque. In its first appearance at the Le Mans 24 hours, Edmond Mouche and Auguste Veuillet guided their Porsche 356 Gmünd SL to a class win. The French duo finished in twentieth place overall.  Not bad at all for the young company, and definitely not the last success at the Circuit de La Sarthe, as the future learnt us. 

Pictures courtesy unknown and Porsche AG