Written by Connor Golden, Photography by Hailey Magoon
Oct 16, 2023
If we took anything away from Rennsport Reunion 7, it’s the reinforcement that Porsche remains alone on its cultural mountaintop. Indeed, we can’t imagine a gathering focused on any other marque that could hope to attract such a wide array of attendees, much less, as many owners of cars that did not even originate with that marque.
Like Luftgekhult, it just wouldn’t work with anything else. You saw a bit of everything at this year’s Rennsport (RR7): 918 Spyder owners smiled and waved at folks climbing out of 986 Boxsters, while kids gawped at rows of pastel 356s and wizened white-hairs wove through the concrete field flooded with GT3s.
In the midst of this pan-generational mingle, all eleven corners of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca sizzled and sparked with a platoon of historic Porsche race weaponry in attack formation. The Eifel Cup’s collection of early 911s tore the Monterey mist to shreds with a ripsaw howl, while gouts of exhaust flame from overboosted 935s burned off the remnants. Some of history’s greatest race cars were on display; from Gulf 917s to the latest IMSA-ready 963 to the dazzling assortment of 906s and 908s, RR7 was as much a celebration of stunning competition success as it was of Porsche’s cultural phenomenon.
In 2023, Porsche is seemingly greater than its cars. Prior to opening, a team of artists descended on Laguna Seca’s infield with a collection of banners, graphics, and installations all inspired by the automaker’s past, present, and future. A (thankfully) stationary Optimus Prime towered over visitors, his presence inspired by Porsche’s recent inclusion into the Transformers universe. A few feet away, Sally Carrera and Lightning McQueen smiled at passersby — the “real-life” Sally Special sat a quarter-mile away in the Sonderwunsch pavilion.
Visitors were encouraged to interact at multiple points of the festival; a large stencil wall allowed for creative expression, while a map stringboard had enthusiasts place where they bought their Porsche, and where they live. One garage bay over, a wall of fried-egg 996 headlight notes carried heartfelt, hand-written notes on the how, when, and why they caught the Porsche bug.
It was clearly catered to the faithful, but you needn’t be a Porsche proselyte to attend—or have a hell of a good time, as three attendees – specifically, Atrina Mehdipour, Elise Talley, and Shaheen Karimian – can attest.
Like the other two non-Porsche owners we caught up with after Rennsport, Atrina Mehdipour isn’t quite the P-car nut you’d expect to find haunting the halls of Laguna Seca’s pit lane. Her high-mileage — but extraordinarily handsome — BMW E46 M3, which Marqued profiled back in 2022, was a perfect counterpoint to the ceaseless tide of contemporary 996s and 997s. Not that Mehdipour is counting out future Porsche ownership: “I feel like Porsche has always been known as one of the major pinnacles or steps on any car enthusiast ownership journey,” she told us in an interview. “The joke is that the natural progression is to go from owning a Volkswagen to a BMW to a Porsche. And I think there's definitely a lot of enthusiasm around the brand because that just tends to ring true.”
For Atrina, the jump into future Porsche ownership has a very specific goal: a 4.0 liter 997.2 in Maritime Blue over Black, with a stripe delete, silver and black accent graphics, black wheels, and silver brake calipers. It's safe to say, she has her dream spec, down to the detail and option, already sorted out.
We buried the lede here: this was neither Mehdipour’s first time at Rennsport Reunion, nor on the grounds of Laguna Seca. As a resident of California’s Bay Area, the legendary track is just a few shifts away and she'd been visiting as a child with her father and brother. She was at 2018’s Rennsport Reunion 6, and was the perfect person to ask about what changed, and what carried over in the intervening half-decade. She mentions the appearance of more Porsche owners than those folks manning the cars on display. “I felt like there were more actual owner cars around and not as many people who were just displaying or racing their cars. There’s a lot of enthusiasm from people who aren’t owners, and I think that’s pretty unique to Porsche.”
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, photographer and enthusiast Elise Talley motored up to RR7 in her 1990 Range Rover Classic. She tackled her first Rennsport solo, camping next to her Rover on the track’s rolling hillsides. We ask for her first impressions: “I think Porsche just somehow is really good at capturing the attention of younger people and girls and guys. Just anybody can have fun there,” she says. “I mean, even if you don't own a Porsche, obviously you can go and have a good time and I don't know that I would get that same feeling [from another brand].”
She also thinks there’s a sociological element in play. “A lot of other brands don’t really seem to focus on their customers as much as Porsche does,” she explains. “Also, Porsche focuses so much on their history and older cars. Even on their social media, they're posting old photos of 911s and featuring owners and their cars.”
Shaheen Karimian falls somewhere in the middle. A former Porsche owner, Shaheen viewed Rennsport through the lens of someone intimately familiar with how automakers work. Following an extended stint at Rivian, he’s now the Director of Product Marketing at Scout Motors who are hard at work developing a lineup of electric off-roaders inspired by International Harvester’s namesake truck. Naturally, he drove his 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Heritage Edition to the Porsche party.
“Turns out, all roads lead to Porsche, in terms of the automotive enthusiast arc,” he muses. “I got the Porsche itch through being a VW fanboy and always wanting something more. That led me to ownership of my brown Cayman that I deeply regret selling. Now, suddenly I'm working in the industry. I have friends at Porsche. I have a huge enthusiasm for the brand and the breadth of the product.”
We asked if the Shelby attracted any unwanted attention since, it turns out, Mustang ownership comes with, shall we say, certain stereotypes.. “This is the highest social cost I've ever paid to own a car, but thankfully, no one at Rennsport seemed to really care,” he says, laughing. “I got some egging on to do some revs, which I tried to avoid for the most part, but I did cater to one or two people's needs.”
At the event itself, Shaheen noticed significant — and successful — effort from the Stuttgart-based automaker in engaging the younger crowd. “The brand itself, Porsche, and the community they've built feels inclusive,” he explains. “It feels forward-thinking. It feels young and fresh at all times. Walking around, everything I saw from Porsche made me think, ‘Oh, they're speaking the same language as me. They're speaking the language of people younger than me.’”
It's one of those things that's really comes from – and I know this sounds a bit cliche – but from the soul,” he says. “I know they're all about devotion and putting a connection with the driver on the road and the connection with the driver in every product, and by all means they deliver on that."
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