Few drivers have been more closely associated with Porsche’s racing activities than the late Bob Wollek. Drive-My looks back on his legendary story. Written by Chris Randall. Photography courtesy Porsche Archive.
We look back at the many achievements of the late, great racer Bob Wollek
Born in Strasbourg in November 1943, Robert Jean Wollek was soon to demonstrate the competitive skills and spirit that would later make him one of Porsche’s greatest drivers. His story began with skiing, a sport at which he excelled, but that career was ended by injury during preparations for the Winter Olympics. Fortunately for us he turned his considerable talents to motorsport, a career that began in single-seater racing in the late 1960s where he achieved modest success.
But ‘Brilliant Bob’ wanted more and switched to sports car racing, a decision that led to him spending more than two decades in the very highest echelons of the sport and a first World Sportscar Championship victory at Hockenheim in 1977 behind the wheel of a Kremer Porsche 935.
Many more wins would follow – the overwhelming majority of them in the cars from Weissach – and he’d take the chequered flag driving the likes of the 935, 936 and 956. The 962 also played a major role in his racing career, and it was that car that allowed him to win the 24 Hours of Daytona on no fewer than four occasions between 1983 and 1991. Oh yes, and he also won the Porsche Cup seven times, and there would also be a clutch of class wins with a 996 GT3 in the 2000 American Le Mans Series.
For many it will be his exploits at La Sarthe that best encapsulate his desire to compete at the highest level, and it was a race he would enter no less than 30 times. Amazingly, not one of those starts would end in victory, though he did cross the finishing line in 2nd place in 1995, 1996 and 1998 – it’s worth bearing in mind that he was more than 50 years old at the time, so his passion for racing clearly remained very much undimmed. It’s also worth recalling that 1998 was the year of Porsche’s one-two with the GT1, Wollek then competing at the Le Mans 24 Hours on two further occasions in a 911 GT3, resulting in a 19th place overall and a disqualification.
By 2001 he had announced his retirement from racing and was to become an ambassador for Porsche, but it was a position that he sadly never lived to fulfil. That year’s 12 Hours of Sebring was planned to be his final race – and his 12th start at the famous event – and he was due to share a Petersen Motorsports 996 GT3 RS with Johnny Mowlem and Michael Petersen. But on 16 March while cycling away from the circuit after practice, he was hit by a van and killed. Following his death, Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking said: “We lose one of our greatest and most successful drivers. Porsche has a lot to thank him for.” We can’t and won’t sum up Bob Wollek any better than that.