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1971 Daytona 24 hours – Battle of the Giants

The #3 Porsche 917 was driven by Helmut Marko and Rudi Lins
The Martini team run by Hans-Dieter Dechent had three cars, two to race, and one T-car. The #3 was driven by the two Austrians, Helmut Marko and Rudi Lins

Some say this was the best Daytona 24 hour ever. It certainly was the closest finish up to that point in time. My friend Hal Crocker called this time in sports car racing, a battle of the giants. This was the last year of the 5.0-litre sports cars in the World Championship. The race would be between the 1970 Championship winning Porsche 917 and a bevy of privately entered Ferrari 512’s. These cars were quite amazing and exciting to watch. Daytona in 1971 had no chicane on the back straight, as it does today. These cars were reaching speeds near 220 mph by the time they got to the Daytona east banking. These were prototype sports cars with around 600 horsepower weighing less than 1900 pounds. Compared to the cars of today, these cars were rudimentary technology. The 917 chassis were in fact made completely out of aluminium tube structure. But yet, they were as fast, top speed wise, as anything running today.

The cockpit of the #4 Martini car driven by Elford and van Lennep
The cockpit of the #4 Martini car driven by Elford and van Lennep – it was pretty basic stuff compared to today’s cars

Porsche entered four cars. The Gulf Wyer cars (2), along with the Martini 917 entries (2) were all Porsche Factory supported. Ferdinand Piëch, son of Ferry Porsche’s sister Louise, was running the 917 programs for the factory. And in fact, he had been the man behind the whole concept of the 917. Much to the chagrin of John Wyer (the great team manager of the Gulf cars), Piëch continued his practice of running a separate team against the main factory cars of Wyer. In 1970 it had been Porsche Salzburg, owned by his mother, Louise. In 1971 Porsche had sold three cars but they were still factory supported.

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