Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG mourns the death of Hans Mezger who died on June 10, 2020 at the age of 90. Porsche owes him not only the Porsche 911's air-cooled, six-cylinder boxer engine but also the overall construction of the 917 and its twelve-cylinder engine as well as his creation of the TAG Turbo Formula One engine. For more than three decades, Hans Mezger was responsible for Porsche's most successful racing cars and engines.
“The news of his death represents a very sad loss for us. Our thoughts are with his family,” says Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board, Research and Development. “We thank Hans Mezger for his extraordinary engineering achievements, which he has done for motorsport in general and for Porsche in particular. His innovations for our series sports cars will remain unforgotten forever.”
His career included designing the world-famous “Mezger engine” for the 901 and 911 in the early 1960s. In 1965 Mezger was promoted to head of the department for race car design initiated by Ferdinand Piëch. This department was the key to a new quality and dynamism in motorsport for Porsche. It was an exciting, fascinating time in the mid-1960s. “Sometimes we also worked around the clock – like in 1965 when we created the Ollon-Villars Bergspyder in just 24 days and shortly thereafter the 910.” With its construction of a tubular frame, fibreglass body and design for new Formula 1 tyre technology, it became the blueprint for all the race cars that were built in the years to follow.
Porsche also relied on this design principle for the development of the 917 in 1968. With the 917, the first overall victory for Porsche at Le Mans was now finally possible, and once again Ferdinand Piëch relied on the skilfulness of Hans Mezger, who was responsible for the overall construction of the vehicle and its 12-cylinder engine.
The 917 dominated at Le Mans and in the World Sportscar Championship in 1970 and 1971. In 1972 and 1973, and right from the start, the 917/10 and 917/30 showed good responsiveness even on the curvy stretches of the CanAm series, thanks to a novel exhaust turbocharging technology developed by Porsche itself. For the first time, turbocharging was successfully given a responsiveness that allowed racing cars and series-production vehicles to be used on all race tracks and public roads.
But perhaps the most outstanding project took off in 1981 when Ron Dennis and his McLaren racing team set out in search of a powerful turbo engine for Formula 1. In the end, Porsche was chosen and the decision was made to design and build a completely new engine, as well as to provide on-site support during the races. Again, Hans Mezger was the creative mastermind behind the 1.5-litre, V6 engine with an 80-degree bank angle.
In 1984, Niki Lauda became world champion with it, and again in 1985, followed in 1986 by Alain Prost. The TAG Turbo won a total of 25 races, plus the two Constructors' World Championships in 1984 and 1985. "This was a resounding success and also the most significant development contract for Porsche from an external company.
His commitment to Porsche led him to reject all offers from other manufacturers throughout his career and he still owned his 911 Carrera 3.0 in Grand Prix white – a coveted Porsche classic which has "his" engine. His loyalty and connection to Porsche was unbroken. He was available to journalists, technicians and interested fans as a discussion partner. The Porsche Museum hosted a celebration for his 90th birthday with family, friends and former companions. He accompanied Porsche at events, trade fairs and festivities until the very end.
Career and highlights at Porsche
1956–1960 Technical calculation department in the design department.
Responsible for valve control of all engines, among other things.
1960–1962 Move to the Porsche Formula 1 project team.
Collaboration in engine and chassis design.
1963 Design of the 901/911 engine. Responsible for design and
further development of all racing engines.
1965 Design and project management of the Ollon-Villars Spyder.
Management of the newly established department for race car design.
1966–1970 Design of the 910, 907, 908, 917, 2-litre
four-cylinder engine for the 914 production sports car.
1971–1973 CanAm race cars 917/10 and 917/30 with turbocharging.
1974–1976 Design, development and further development of six-cylinder turbo engines and the Type 935 and 936 race cars.
1977–1978 Development of the water cooling and four-valve concept for the Type 935 and 936 six-cylinder turbo engines.
1977–1980 Design of the four-cylinder engine for Harley-Davidson. Development of the Indy engine based on the Type 935/936. Further development of the 935/936 race cars and engines.
1981–1982 Development of a 2.65-litre engine based on the 935/936 for Group C (956/962).
1981–1987 Design, overall project management and further development of the "TAG-Turbo – made by Porsche" Formula 1 engine.
1987–1988 Design of the Type 2708 Indy 2.65-litre engine.
1990 Design of the Type 3512 12-cylinder Formula 1 engine
Honours and awards
1974 The Starley Premium Award (GB) for the best automotive presentation of the year on the Porsche Type 917.
1984 Behind the Scenes Award (USA) for the development of the TAG Turbo Formula 1 engine.
1984 Trofeo Colin Chapman (I) for the development of the TAG Turbo Formula 1 engine.
1984 Prince Metternich Prize (D) for outstanding technical achievements in motorsport.
1984 Trophée de L'Exploit (F) for the development of the TAG Turbo Formula 1 engine.
1984 Caschi d'Oro (I) for winning the Formula 1 Constructors' World Championship (presented to McLaren).
1985 Prof. Ferdinand-Porsche Award (A) of the technical university Vienna in recognition for the accomplishment of developing the combustion engine. Hans Mezger is still the only person from the Porsche company to have won this award.
1987 Médaille Spéciale (F) for the development of the TAG Turbo Formula 1 engine.