The 24 Hours of Daytona on February 6, 1966. The racing year begins with a surprise.
The Porsche factory team not only opens the season with two proven 904 GTS cars, but also brings a 906 prototype to Florida for the first time. Only recently built, the car has hardly been tested. Confidence and more than a little courage are required to send this Porsche with its two-liter six-cylinder engine to that type of endurance test.
In Daytona everything comes together perfectly: the technology, the timing, and the team. Driving duties are shared by former Mercedes star and Fangio team member Hans Herrmann, who has just returned to Porsche, and Herbert Linge, a qualified racing mechanic who was the brand’s first test and factory driver in 1948. Herrmann and Linge—both born in 1928 in the southern German region of Swabia—get along great; they’ve been through thick and thin together. They pulled off a legendary stunt at the 1954 Mille Miglia by ducking under a railroad-crossing gate at full racing speed in their Porsche 550 Spyder to then post a class victory while barely breaking a sweat.
Everything comes together perfectly in Daytona: the technology, the timing, and the team.
Herrmann and Linge make their first splash in Daytona during the qualifying session, driving the brand-new 906 into the first third of the starting field with a lap time of 2:07.60 minutes. On the day of the race, the Florida skies are gray and the winds are unusually icy. Nighttime temperatures even drop below freezing. Car after car drops out of the race in the dark; around half of the fifty-nine starters will not see the checkered flag. When the sun rises on Sunday, the 906 has worked its way up to seventh place overall. The Porsche team’s two 904 GTS cars are still ahead, but Herrmann and Linge will end up overtaking them. When it’s all over, the duo will have clocked 623 laps and won the two-liter class.
A U.S. racing magazine comments drily, “the German team refueled and changed its tires and drivers, but that was it.” The 906 goes on to fulfill the promise it has shown in its trial by fire. Following further wins in Sebring, Monza, Le Mans, and Hockenheim, Porsche wins the 1966 International Manufacturers’ Championship for the two-liter sports car and prototype classes.
Herrmann and Linge go on to win many more races in the years to come before retiring in 1970, not in the same car but at the same place—in Le Mans. Together with Richard Attwood in a red-and-white 917 K, Herrmann drives to Porsche’s first victory ever in Le Mans. Linge, who stopped racing actively the year before, climbs back into a 908 to double for Steve McQueen in his movie Le Mans and stage breathtaking racing scenes.
Herrmann and Linge have been a team throughout their lives. The two of them are celebrating their ninetieth birthdays this year.