The 2011 Qatar Motor Show played host to several unique unveilings, but it wasn’t until after the show that our fun really started. We managed to make our way out to Doah’s Losail International Circuit, where we were treated to a hot lap in a 1954 Porsche 550 Spyder with driver Hans Hermann at the wheel.
The 550 you see here is actually the car that captured a win at the 1954 Carrera Panamericana. Although technically part of Porsche’s museum collection and usually housed in Stuttgart, the automaker pulled it out for a special historic track day in Qatar, allowing Hermann to put the lithe roadster through its paces around the 3.375-mile course.
Arguably, the best part lies with the sound of the 1.5-liter flat four, mounted just aft of the passenger compartment. Quite powerful for its time, the engine cranked out just north of 100 horsepower, and was mated with a manual transmission with straight-cut gears — the latter resonating quite loudly during deceleration and downshifts. The engine itself is installed just forward of the rear axle, helping the car achieve a perfect 50/50 weight distribution.
If riding in the 550 Spyder wasn’t enough, meeting — and riding alongside — Hermann certainly was. Hermann himself piloted this particular 550 to a third-place finish at the ’54 Panamericana, snagging a Sports 1500 class trophy by finishing in 19:32.33. At 82 years young, Hermann is still capable of flinging the car into corners, nailing apexes, and crafting a smooth, seamless racing line.