Late in 1996, after finishing up the European introduction for the new Boxster, Porsche loaned us a 993 to take a bit of a side trip before returning to the States. At the time, there was a European racing competition called the BPR Global GT Series, which the following year became the FIA GT Championship. McLaren was to win the series in both 1995 and 1996, Porsche not having a top-ranked car for most of the series and relying on its GT2. But midway through 1996 Porsche’s GT1 had arrived, had shown well at Le Mans, and was ready to take a shot at the McLaren F1 GTRs and Ferrari F40s at Spa.
With a little encouragement from European editor Mike Cotton, who described this part of Belgium as “God’s country,” we decided to meet him at the track. It quickly became my all-time favorite racing locale (in spite of the good-natured track guard telling us we had arrived at rainy Spa, locally known as the “chamber pot of Europe.”)
I wanted to do as many shots in the pits as possible just before competition began, and had learned that I would be permitted to cross the track at the last minute to some grandstands where I could record early action. This seemed a good plan; I shot preparations for as long as I dared, then ran with all my gear across the track. Not a pretty sight I’m sure; I wasn’t young even then, had a bad leg, and was carrying a lot of stuff. What I somehow didn’t count on was the loose gravel “kitty litter” on the outside of the turn, between me and my goal. It was like running through mud, as good at slowing an errant photographer as it was in controlling off-track race cars. I pumped through it as hard as I could, not wanting to be in no-man’s land when the green flag dropped, or—worse—suffering the humiliation of delaying the start. I finally made it without an international incident, but was breathing so hard, and was so generally shaky from the exertion, that I couldn’t even get a shot off during the first 1 or 2 laps.
Porsche didn’t contest the next race at Nogaro, but did return for the season finisher as Zuhai, where a GT1 set the fastest lap and overcame four McLarens. Although Porsche never contested the overall championship, it was pretty clear that they had fielded the alpha dog in the pack. It was also pretty clear that I was done with kitty litter quicksand navigation.
About Leonard Turner and "The Last Turn"
With a background in photography spanning more than 5 decades, Leonard Turner was Porsche Panorama’s chief photographer for some 40 years, shooting several hundred covers for the magazine and countless feature spreads involving racing, new car introductions, portraits, technical illustrations, and a plethora of other topics. In the course of doing this, he has traveled widely over the United States and Europe, visiting the Porsche factories and shooting at many venues, including a portfolio of the world’s greatest race tracks.
Leonard's photographs have been published in many books including Porsche: Portrait of a Legend; Porsche Specials; Porsche, the 4-Cylinder, 4-Cam Sports & Racing Cars; Sebring, the Official History; Carrera RS; and Porsche: Prototype Era 1964 to 1973. His magazine credits, other than Panorama, include Autoweek, Road & Track, Autbile, Christophorus, and Excellence.
It was with this background in mind that we asked Leonard to open up his archives to share with you here on Thekparksvanphu.info. His personal files, both digital and film, contain tens of thousands of images of Porsches, Porsche people, and events they shaped and which shaped them. Our plan is to share one of Leonard's images with you every other week, and the story behind it, in this newest feature, "The Last Turn" here on Thekparksvanphu.info.
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