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Eberhard Mahle in 2021. (Porsche photo)

Porsche Legend Eberhard Mahle, 88

STUTTGART, Germany — Championship sports car racer Eberhard Mahle died on Dec. 21. He was 88 years old.

Mahle was European champion in 1966. He was the first driver to take an international title in a Porsche 911. He had previously achieved success with other brands, such as in the 1957 German GT Championship in an Alfa Romeo and at the 1959 German Hill Climb Championship in a Volvo. He was a works driver for Abarth, Borgward and Mercedes-Benz.

In 1959, he finished second in the Targa Florio at the wheel of a Porsche 550 Spyder. In 1960, he won the Solitude Rally in a Porsche 356 Super 90.

“We are greatly saddened by the news of his death. Our thoughts go out to his wife Karin, his family and the clubs in which Ebs Mahle was active into his old age,” said Achim Stejskal, head of Porsche Heritage and Museum. “We would like to thank him for his successful racing endeavors and the numerous assignments for the museum as a contemporary witness, for example at the Solitude Revival or at the Gaisberg.”

Mahle’s father, Ernst Mahle, founded what is today Mahle GmbH with his brother Hermann. The first Mahle high-performance pistons were tested in the Porsche 356 in the early 1950s. From then on, the Mahle company became an original equipment manufacturer for Porsche. Eberhard Mahle began riding motorcycles and driving cars as a teenager and in 1954 he began his racing career with a DKW 3=6 at the Solitude Rally and took a class victory. Mahle bought his first Porsche that same year.

By 1963, Mah,e had competed in around 210 races and rallies, driving to six overall wins and over 150 class victories. After a serious accident with a go-kart through no fault of his own in 1964, Mahle spent one and a half years in hospital.

In 1966, he had recovered to such an extent “that I wanted to have another go,” as he put it. In 1966 he won not just a trophy but also a title in the GT class without engine capacity limitation at the European Hillclimb Championships. “That was just right for me,” recalled Eberhard Mahle. 

Mahle wanted to try out a 911, but Porsche racing manager Huschke von Hanstein was sceptical. He only had rally cars available, and “Besides, you can never win if Ferrari and Ford are competing with over 300 PS.” However, Mahle was not to be deterred and, through his friend Gerhard Mitter, he bought a second-hand 911 built in 1965 with an output that had been boosted to 165 PS. The high-horsepower competitors dominated at the first event on the Rossfeld, a relatively well-built track with few bends. Nevertheless, Mahle still came in third. 

In 1966 he proved himself to be the best. The Swabian driver won all the other races in the GT class with the exception of the finale on the Gaisberg where he collided with a guardrail before getting out and surveying the damage.

This one DNF did not diminish his pride in winning the European title. “That was my greatest success,” said Eberhard Mahle. “Especially because all the experts said you will never win it like that.” 

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