In 1962, the 21-year-old Rainer Schlegelmilch attended the 1,000-kilometer race at the Nürburgring for the first time. From this first encounter, he realizes that he wants to spend his free time at the racetracks of this world. Rainer Schlegelmilch was an accredited Formula 1 photographer for fifty years. With his zoom photos, he revolutionized motorsport photography and was at home at almost every racetrack in the world. After more than 40 illustrated books, Rainer Schlegelmilch has now dedicated himself for the first time to the racing history of his favorite brand. In cooperation with publisher Taschen, he recently presented his latest illustrated book called Porsche Racing Moments.
When Rainer Schlegelmilch talks about endurance racing from the 1960s to the 1980s, he goes into raptures. In addition to the sports cars themselves, he was particularly impressed by the field of drivers. “Back then, the Formula 1 drivers also raced at Le Mans in the 24 Hours. It was the same people, the same drivers and the same high quality standards for the sports cars,” recalls the 82-year-old.
The endurance races with their very own stories captivated Schlegelmilch. So much so that, in addition to being self-employed in his Frankfurt photo studio and pursuing Formula 1 as a hobby, he also photographed at the World Sports Car Championship. “Watching the pit stops with driver changes at sunrise was something completely different from Formula 1.”
Although this period was an Eldorado for racing photographers, it was also very dangerous. “There were embankments for us as photographers and the marshals right next to the track. You could take pictures directly into the cars and capture the drivers’ faces. That was a dream!” Close-meshed security fences were not yet a big issue. And if they existed, the photographers knew how to help themselves by using side cutters.
Watching the pit stops with driver changes at sunrise was something completely different from Formula 1Rainer Schlegelmilch on the charms of endurance racing
Between 1963 and 1988, Schlegelmilch came as close to Porsche’s race cars in the World Sports Car Championship as almost anyone else. He took around 60 to 300 photos per endurance race. A good friend gave him the idea of processing these pictures into a book.
Schlegelmilch selected the images following a very specific mantra. “Each time, the story of a race comes together to form a picture story”, he emphasizes. His Porsche Racing Moments tell nothing less than Porsche’s illustrious history in endurance racing. From the start in the smaller classes with types like the Porsche 550 or 718, Schlegelmilch spans an arc reaching to Porsche’s first overall victory in the 917 and, in the end, total dominance in the Group C era.
He shows this success story in all its facets. Initially in black and white, later in color, he takes us on his own personal journey. In the process, Schlegelmilch, who is reverently called the Zoom Master by his colleagues, not only portrays the cars and drivers, but also skilfully captures the events in the background. The selection is peppered with exciting shots from the mechanics’ point of view and expressive portraits of the drivers.
Rainer Schlegelmilch’s Porsche Racing Moments recounts his time capturing endurance sports car racing in 356 pages. He takes us to the 1969 Targa Florio while Gérard Larrousse’s Porsche 908 drives through the Collesano bend in front of six schoolboys. Or on the start-finish straight at the end of the 1973 Le Mans 24 Hours, where hundreds of police officers struggle to keep the crowds of spectators under control. All that while Georg Loos is leaning on the Porsche 911 Carrera RSR, he shared with Jürgen Barth to finish tenth overall.
And then there are the human, sometimes comical shots of the heroes of that time. Like, for example, the photo of John Wyer’s driver quartet before the 1,000 km of Monza in 1970. Behind Jo Siffert, Brian Redman and Leo Kinnunen, you see Pedro Rodriguez lying with his legs crossed on top of a Porsche 917 with its door open. Looking at the neatly lined-up tools in an image of the open pit lane at Le Mans, you also become very aware of how quickly motorsport has developed over the decades.
Rainer Schlegelmilch has been loving photography since the age of 14. He decided early on to train as a professional photographer. But he didn’t see himself in racing as a career. “I realized that although it’s great photography, it shouldn’t be my profession. After all, I wanted to make money! I learned I had to go into advertising if I ever wanted to afford a Porsche.”
I wanted a sporty car with an image that suited a motorsports photographerRainer Schlegelmilch on why he bought a Porsche 911
Schlegelmilch used the money he earned from contract work, for example for the automotive industry, to finance his hobby and ultimately his passion for cars. Early on, he bought his first Porsche 911 Targa. “I wanted a sporty car with an image that suited a motorsports photographer”, he says. Ferrari was “too fragile” for him, he says. Today he drives his twelfth Porsche, a 991.2 Carrera 4 GTS Targa.
So the fact that Schlegelmilch is now, 35 years after he took the last Porsche related endurance photographs, bringing together their racing heroics from the 1960s to the 1980s in “Porsche Racing Moments” in a way closes the circle. “I experienced the car in its prime. A Porsche 917 was already a work of art. But it was also an art to drive it”, says the star photographer, who still enjoys speeding down the German autobahn.
Rainer Schlegelmilch’s latest book is – unlike his previous works – strictly limited. The hardcover bound in leatherette with edged ChromaLuxe aluminum print is available only 962 times. All copies are numbered and signed by Schlegelmilch himself. In addition to the images, the texts and layout were also penned by the old master. An engraved acrylic book stand is included to set the stage for the 5.8-kilogram book.
© Rainer Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images
Rainer W. Schlegelmilch (* 1941 in Suhl, Germany) is a German photographer who gained worldwide fame primarily for his work for the automotive industry as well as his motorsport photography.
He was an independent accredited photographer in Formula 1 for 50 years, subsequently selling his images to publications such as Auto, Motor und Sport and Road & Track. In photography circles, Rainer Schlegelmilch is known as the Zoom Master. His shots always had the goal of putting the driver or his helmet in focus. The environment was allowed to and should blur in order to capture the dynamics and speed of the vehicles.
Schlegelmilch is famous, among other things, for his shots between the Loews hairpin and the Portier curve at the Monte Carlo Formula 1 circuit. There he has taken photos from the same spot every year for the entire 50 years. This spot is fondly referred to in the scene as the “Schlegelmilch Curve.”
In 2011, Bernie Ecclestone personally presented him with a lifetime press photographer’s pass for the Formula 1 paddock. In total, he attended over 600 Grand Prix. He has the world’s largest photo archive of Formula 1, with Schlegelmilch shooting 30,000 photos of Michael Schumacher alone. In 2017, he sold the rights to his images to Motorsport Images.