Here's the history of Porsche's own test track.
The Nurburgring gets all the attention, and perhaps rightly so. These days it seems like just about every car in production has to be signed off at the Green Hell. Even Porsche does final development at the 'Ring.
But did you know Porsche has its own legendary track called the Weissach Development Center? The name is so sacred that Porsche only uses it on its most track-focused cars. To date, you could only order a Weissach Package for the 911 GT3 RS, GT2 RS, and the 918 Spyder. The track is still active, and if you want a general idea of what it looks like, watch Mark Webber hoon the Porsche Taycan. Talking about missions, Porsche's latest Mission R also spent time at Weissach. While it may be a modern facility, it dates back a long way.
The track's story started in 1959. Back then, test tracks didn't really exist. If you wanted to test endurance and top speed, you simply hit the public freeway. But the production cars and racing cars were getting way too fast for public roads, so Porsche needed a facility. Volkswagen already had a test track in Wolfsburg, but it was too far away.
The man put in charge of finding the perfect location was Herbert Linge. He was a racing driver, and one of the company's first employees. Linge suggested an arid, rocky piece of land next to his home village called Weissach and another village called Flacht.
Ferry Porsche signed on the dotted line and Porsche suddenly owned 38 hectares of land. On October 16, 1961, Ferry Porsche rolled up in a bulldozer and broke ground. Porsche built a circular test track and a skidpad with three inner diameters. The diameters were 44, 66, and 208-yards.
The main focus of the track was to do basic chassis setup, fettle with aerodynamics and endurance. Herbert Linge revealed in 2019 that the 804 Formula 1 car was one of the first cars tested there. It didn't do very well, which is why Porsche kept out of F1. It mostly supplied engines to other manufacturers, but there are various rumors suggesting that it might return to F1 following the 2026 rule changes.
Oddly, the first full-time employee at the Weissach Test Track was Robert Schule. He wasn't a test driver, however. His job was far more critical. Schule was in charge of herding sheep and running the on-site restaurant. You can't race on an empty stomach, and hitting a piece of lamb at 120 mph could ruin a test driver's day. The first recognizable car to be tested at Weissach is the now famous 917. It completed 258 laps of the track and only stopped once for fuel.
The skidpad was used to test lateral acceleration and to set lap times around the 208-yard circle. Helmuth Bott joined the Weissach team in 1952 and kept the score up to 1988. Peter Falk held the skidpad record for several decades using the 908 and then the 917. Then in 1984, he strapped himself into a 956 and completed the skidpad in 14.4 seconds. That's a mighty impressive time for a 208-yard circle, but the other figures attached to that lap are way more impressive. The average speed was 93.563 mph and lateral acceleration of 1.858 g.
Another cool fact is that it is impossible to beat today. Modern racing tires allow for higher lateral acceleration, but only for short bursts. There isn't a single modern tire that can sustain 14 seconds of nearly 2 g lateral acceleration. In 1966, Bott commissioned a mountain circuit. It has high-speed turns, a left kink, a quick left, a right turn, and a steep uphill left-right. They didn't know it back then, but this last bit, known as the Z Slope, was perfect for testing ABS systems. The sudden braking and change in direction were too much for the ABS sensors.
Other tests included a hairpin turn, a rough road with a bumpy surface, potholes, a saltwater passage, and even a jump. In short, everything you need to test a car until its tires come off. Many test drivers went off the mountain track. “At the beginning, we would put a sign up at that spot with the name of the driver. But our boss didn't like that,” said Linge.
All of Porsche's racing cars, including the legendary 917, had to go through thousands of miles of rough road testing. This didn't include the saltwater passage but everything else. Porsche's insane endurance testing is likely the reason why it scored victories at so many endurance races. As the cars became faster, Porsche needed a new track. In 1971 the Can-Am circuit was introduced. It incorporated the old track, including the famous Z Slope. There was a fast left bend on the new track after the Z Slope, and then the track went over a crest where the cars lifted off. Even Ferdinand Piech reconned the crest was too gnarly, and he was the main driving force behind the Bugatti Veyron.
“Regarding this awkward section, Piech asked me: 'What on earth did you get up to out there?' He had the crest partially removed.” But only partially, and so the best way to navigate the “Piech chicane” at high speed is still with a good deal of courage and a clenched behind.” said Falk.
The Can-Am track eventually became a right of passage for Porsche racing cars. The 917 was the first to set the lap record of 51.5 seconds. Mark Donohue also used a 917 and took the time down to 47.2 seconds. Following that, Jacky Ickx set a time of 45.7 seconds in a 956. In 1984, Porsche was supplying engines to the McLaren F1 team. So along came Niki Lauda in a McLaren Porsche and set a time of 44.6 seconds.
But it just didn't seem right for a collaboration project to hold the record, so Hans-Joachim Stuck had another go in 1986. He used a 956 with special tires and came within three-tenths of the F1 car. In 1990, the record went to another F1 collaboration with a time of 41.8 seconds.
This time seemed unbeatable, but in 2013 Porsche introduced the famous 919 Hybrid Evo. The 919 would go on to win Le Mans in 2015, 2016, and 2017. But to the people who worked at the Weissach track, only one record mattered. So Timo Bernhard strapped himself into the 919 and set a time of 40.625. The record was once again in Porsche's hands.