Norbert Singer: Porsche’s Aerodynamic Hero

by Vince Pettit
Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood driving the 917 KH Coupé

What do the Porsche 917, 935, 936, 956, 962 C, WSC Spyder and 911 GT1 98 all have in common? Norbert Singer was involved in the success of 16 victories at Le Mans with customer and works teams between 1970 and 1998.

Today (16 November), Singer celebrates his eightieth birthday and we take a brief look back at the success he achieved.

Born in Eger in the Sudentenland (now Cheb, Czech Republic) in 1939, Singer graduated with degrees in both aerospace engineering and automotive engineering

After following the advice from an employee at the Institute for Automotive Engineering at the Technical University of Munich, Singer pursued a career in motorsports, joining Porsche in their racing department in March 1970.

Singer’s first project – Porsche 917

Norbert Singer, Jacky Ickx and Helmuth Bott
Norbert Singer, Jacky Ickx and Helmuth Bott – Credit: Porsche AG

One of Singer’s first tasks was working on an oil cooling solution for the Porsche 917. With Ferdinand Piëch rejecting the original idea of an external oil cooler, the young engineer came up with an aerodynamic solution, solving the issues, helping the manufacturer take their first overall race victory at Le Mans with Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood.

Following the victory Singer was involved in further aerodynamic development in the 917, including optimisation of the 917 long tail.

In the US where downforce was more important on the sharp-cornered circuits, Singer brought his aerodynamic expertise to the 917/10 and 917/30.

Over the years Singer was involved in the 911 Carrera RSR project in 1972, the next stage of development in 1974 with the 911 Carrera RSR Turbo 2.1, the 935 in 1976 and the famous 935/78 “Moby Dick” in 1978.

Singer’s golden age of Group C

Porsche 962 C
Credit: Porsche AG

With the introduction of Group C regulations in 1982, Singer was in his element; the development of the 956.

Using his knowledge he produced a design that was highly efficient, producing an exceptional ground effect thanks to a special underbody design with air ducts and the legendary “Singer dent”.

The 956 and 962 C would go on to win five Drivers’, three Manufacturers’ and two teams’ World Championships between 1982 and 1986, along with seven overall victories at Le Mans.

Despite retiring in 2004, Singer remained involved with Porsche customer motorsport as an advisor until 2010.

Following that his expertise in the cars that he worked on was called upon as he aided the restoration of the first 917 chassis number 917 001 and the 956 chassis number 956 005.

Seven Porsches that Singer influenced

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