Happy 80th birthday to ‘Mr Le Mans’, Norbert Singer
Between 1970 and 1998, Singer played an instrumental role in 16 overall victories for both works and customer teams at Le Mans with the 917, 935, 936, 956, 962 C, WSC Spyder and 911 GT1 98. The qualified engineer was project manager for most of Porsche’s race cars and as Head of Works Sports and Operations, Singer was also responsible for strategic and tactical decisions during the races.
Born on 16 November, 1939 in Eger in the Sudetenland (now the Czech Republic) Singer graduated in 1969 in both aerospace and automotive engineering. An employee at the Institute for Automotive Engineering at the Technical University of Munich advised the evidently talented Singer to dedicate his career to automotive, and in March 1970, the young engineer joined the Porsche racing department.
Singer’s first responsibilities were on the Porsche 917. “Ferdinand Piëch rejected the idea of an external oil cooler. He demanded a simpler solution,” Singer remembers. Something which he was able to produce through his peerless understanding of aerodynamics. The redesign proved itself immediately at Le Mans, where not a single 917 had the transmission cooling problems they had suffered in 1969, and Porsche’s long-awaited maiden victory finally came with Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood in the Salzburg 917 K.
In the period that followed, there was a great deal of aerodynamic development on the agenda for Singer and the 917. He was involved in optimising the fast but tricky 917 long tail cars and creating far greater downforce for the turbocharged 917/10 and 917/30 that went on to dominate Interserie and Can-Am.
In the 32 years that followed, Norbert Singer was responsible for a great many outstanding race cars, including the 911 Carrera RSR in 1972, and the famous Turbo 2.1 two years later. He was also the brains behind the 935 in 1976 and the famously powerful and slippery 935/78, better known as Moby Dick.
But despite numerous successes with both 935 and the 936, perhaps the greatest technical milestone in Singer’s career came with the introduction of the Group C Regulations in 1982. In the development of the 956, he once again proved his tremendous expertise in the field of aerodynamics and provided Porsche’s cutting-edge new sports car with incredible levels of grip thanks to an exceptional ‘ground effect’ underbody design. The 956 and 962 C won no fewer than five Drivers’, three Makes’ and two Team World Championship titles between 1982 and 1986. They also achieved seven overall victories at Le Mans.
In 2004, Norbert Singer retired but continued to work as an advisor for Porsche customer motorsport until 2010. Even after that, his expert knowledge continued to be of great value, especially when it came to restoring racing cars for the Porsche Museum. Singer continues to give lectures at the university in Esslingen and is a regular guest of Porsche at historic motorsport events around the world.