Like father, like son: meet the Liebs

Passing Porsche DNA down through the generations

3d ago

The town of Pfaffenhausen in Lower Allgäu can trace its origins right back to the eighth century. A quiet and tranquil place, built on widespread agriculture and some manufacturing, it is also Porsche country. Or, to be more precise, RUF country, because it was here that Alois Ruf Senior opened a filling station and workshop back in 1939. Ruf’s son, also named Alois, fell in love with the Porsche brand as a youngster and since 1981 has produced highly modified versions of the 911 under his own name, selling them all over the world.

Hans-Peter Lieb works as a workshop foreman for Alois Ruf. “I am dyed-in-the wool Porsche,” he says. “I started at Porsche as an apprentice. I first worked in the workshop in Werk 1, and then in the road-testing department, before going to technical college to qualify as a master mechanic. But Porsche then had a hiring freeze, which meant that I accepted an offer from Uwe Gemballa and worked on the high-end tuner’s vehicles for two years. Many of his vehicles were based on Porsche cars, and their modified engines were supplied by Alois Ruf.”

In 1988, this contact led to an offer from Ruf, who was looking for an experienced master mechanic. As a result, the family moved to Pfaffenhausen with their eight-year-old son, Marc. Once there, the boy became increasingly interested in cars. “I started driving a car for the first time in the workshop yard,” recalls Lieb junior, and I sat behind the wheel of a Porsche for the first time here after many trips in the passenger seat.”

The family always had a great interest in motorsport and Lieb Senior had dreamt of becoming a racing driver, “but the money was never there for that. And who knows whether I would have been really fast?” he says modestly. So it was no coincidence that his son would become equally interested in motorsport. “He was always very quick, and we enjoyed quite a lot of success in karting,” remembers his father with evident pride. In 1994, then aged 14, Marc finished second in the ADAC Junior Kart Championship, and “we thought then about whether and where we wanted to race, because money was still tight”. The decision to race in Renault Formula 1800 was made in 1996, and after finishing second in the championship in 1997, he made the leap to Renault Formula 2000 in 1998.

“In 1999 we had really given up on motorsport,” remembers Hans-Peter. “We had spent the money expected from our pensions and life insurance policies. We would have liked to take part in Formula Three, but we no longer had the funds. The traffic light was on red.”

By this time the family had moved to Leonberg, where Lieb Senior was employed as workshop manager by Thomas Behringer at Techart. Behringer promised that he could take care of his Marc’s racing career, inviting him to drive at the track each Thursday evening, looking after the racing car and even organising sponsors. By 1999, word of Marc’s talent was getting around and he was soon scouted by Burkhard Bechtel, who had worked as the track announcer and a TV commentator in the Porsche Carrera Cup since 1992. “I had seen how fast Marc Lieb was in Formula Renault even with inferior material,” recalls Bechtel, who persuaded Porsche to take the young racer on. Porsche Motorsport invited the then 19-year-old Marc to take part in the junior driver selection process and he went on to drive in the Porsche Carrera Cup for three years, became Champion in 2002 and received a contract as a Porsche works driver shortly after.

It was at this time that Porsche started creating a new race car, the RS Spyder, and Lieb was invited to participate in its development. “It was an offer that probably everyone would have taken,” says his father but, to his surprise, Marc turned the invite down and instead signed up to study automotive engineering at the Esslingen University of Applied Sciences – with the support of Porsche. He successfully graduated as an engineer with a thesis on the subject of differential locks. The fact that he still raced at the highest level during these years, winning several titles, makes the feat even more impressive. “I still wonder today how Marc managed that,” smiles his father.

With his studies now behind him, Marc instead participated in development of the 911 GT3 R Hybrid and the 918 Spyder, in which he completed a famous Nordschleife lap time of 6:57 minutes in 2013. But the highlight of his career was yet to come, arriving three years later with outright victory at Le Mans in 2016 aboard the 919 Hybrid. After 11 attempts, Marc had achieved his ultimate racing goal and with that decided to retire.

Four generations of Porsche fans: grandfather Hans Lieb, father Hans-Peter Lieb and son Marc Lieb with his sons Benedict and Jonathan.

Four generations of Porsche fans: grandfather Hans Lieb, father Hans-Peter Lieb and son Marc Lieb with his sons Benedict and Jonathan.

But both father and son have stayed close to the brand that has been such a huge part of their lives. Hans-Peter looks after Alois Ruf’s cars to this day while Marc works for Porsche on the other side of the pit wall. “I have a fantastic job at Porsche as Head of Motorsport Sales North Europe,” says Marc, “and I’m occasionally allowed to drive the company’s new and historic racing cars.”

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Comments (1)

  • Interesting article. Worth reading.

      2 days ago