Porsche racer stands among Steubenville’s nutcrackers

NUTCRACKER DRIVER — Among the new nutcrackers in the 2017 edition of the Steubenville Nutcracker Village is this fellow, representing Robin Donovan, a 14-time driver at the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race. The British driver is host of tours conducted at Le Mans through Fast Lane Travel, a company owned by Peter M. Sontag, who as a youth migrated to Steubenville and graduated from Steubenville High School. He maintains residence here and in Clearwater, Fla. -- Paul Giannamore

STEUBENVILLE — It isn’t every day that a 14-time professional driver participant in the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race hangs around the city.

But there is one who is hanging around, in nutcracker form, through the holidays. And, the Porsche driver nutcracker connects the Nutcracker Village directly to Europe.

Porsche factory driver Robin Donovan, who drove at Le Mans from 1986 through 2001, is a friend of Peter M. Sontag, a German immigrant who grew up in the city, graduated from Steubenville High School and worked his way through college in the local steel industry. Sontag went on to form one of the largest travel agencies in the world in 1994 and has been enjoying “retirement” as chairman and chief executive of Fast Lane Travel, exclusive supplier of high-end tours for the Porsche Club of America.

Fast Lane’s host for the Le Mans tours is Donovan, who was surprised to receive a phone call in England about his nutcracker doppleganger in Steubenville.

“I’ve worked with Peter for a long time,” Donovan said. “As a driver, I worked very hard for my sponsors, including PlayStation and Gulf, and when I retired from driving, I ended up doing the same thing, looking after guests in a similar way that I used to look after sponsors,” he said.

The nutcracker, No. 131, near the First Federal Land Office in the Northwest Territories, is listed as “Robin Donovan, the Porsche LeMans Race Driver, sponsored by Fast Lane Travel.”

Donovan said, “Peter has always sent over guests from his company, Fast Lane Travel, who are willing to be looked after as they would if they were sponsors. I think it’s just nice of Peter to return the favor in his own way.”

Robin Donovan the nutcracker is decorated in a factory Porsche team driver suit, complete with a racing helmet with a flip-up visor and gripping a steering wheel from a Porsche.

Sontag has owned 33 Porsches, ranging from a 1963 Porsche 356 to a modern Panamera sedan.