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Porsche 917 – A Brief History

Porsche 917 History

A Brief History

In mid-1967 the International Automobile Federation (FIA) announced that it had decided to modify the regulations pertaining to the Sport Prototype, Sport and Gran Turismo categories. As a result, the World Brands Championship was on the brink of the greatest crisis in its history.

Many were the voices of protest that were raised then against the decision. The FIA ​​banned large-displacement vehicles, stating that Sport could reach five liters, but with a minimum production of 50 units per year (this figure would then drop to 25 units), while Sport Prototypes should not exceed 3000 cc. Only the Gran Turismo could use large displacement engines (up to 7000 cc.), But these never participated en masse in the tournament.

Porsche, which until then had been competing with its 904, 910, 907 and 908 models, decided to design and build a new prototype that would take full advantage of the new regulations. It would be called 917.

The Stuttgart house would start the 1969 Season with its 908 models, but averaging the same (6th Date – Spa Francorchamps) it would make the 917 debut.

From the beginning, two characteristics that would not abandon him throughout his sporting career would become apparent: great power, acceleration and speed as well as difficulties to drive.

Thus, in his first presentations, he was driven by second-line pilots of the official team, since the “star” pilots refused to participate with him, preferring the recognized efficient 908s.

But as the weeks went by, the Porsche engineers carried out exhaustive tests and many modifications in the suspensions and bodywork, gradually managing to turn the untamed beast into something more or less manageable.

Here are some facts that stand out:

  • Officially participated in the World Championship of Brands for three seasons (1969-70 and 71) in 21 competitions.
  • He triumphed in 14 of them and came second in two.
  • He won 14 qualifying tests and obtained several records, among which we can mention the average speed and number of laps given in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in ’71 that until today was not exceeded.
  • A 917 LH developed an impressive top speed of 396 km / h ( 24 Hs Le Mans ’71 Night Trials – Recta de L’Hunnadieres – Jackie Oliver ).

Towards the end of his career, he had evolved in such a way that he had practically eliminated all opposition; it turned very well and had a generous power that comfortably exceeded 600 bhp.

Despite the efforts of Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Matra among other brands, their dominance was so evident that the International Automobile Federation (FIA) determined through a new regulatory change that 1971 would be the last year that the 917 could be run in the World Championship of Brands.

Here is the story of the most spectacular racing car of all time.

The Competitors

1969 – Sports Prototypes Competitors

  • Porsche 908/02
  • Ferrari 312 P
  • Alfa Romeo 33-3
  • Matra MS650
  • Ford GT40
  • Mirage M2/300
  • Alpine A210
  • Alpine 220
  • Lola T70 Mk3B (Chevrolet)

1970 – Sports Prototypes Competitors

  • Porsche 908/03
  • Ferrari 512 S
  • Ferrari 312 P
  • Alfa Romeo 33/3
  • Berta LR

1971 – Sports Prototypes Competitors

  • Porsche 908/03
  • Ferrari 512 S / 512M
  • Ferrari 312 P
  • Alfa Romeo 33/3
  • Alfa Romeo 33 TT3
  • Lola T210 / T212

The Important People

Ferdinand Porsche. “Life itself is a competition, marked by a beginning and an end. It is what we learn during the competition and how we apply it, which determines whether our participation has a particular value. If we can learn from each event, from each failure, and we improve through the process, then in the end, we will have extracted our full potential. ”

Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche “Ferry”. He was born on September 19, 1909 in Wiener-Neustadt (Austria). He was the natural heir of his father and architect of the great successes of the Porsche House.

Helmut Bott. Head of the Research Department of Porsche-Stuttgart (1969-1970). see more

Hans Dieter Dechent. Sporting Director of International Martini Racing (1971). It was during the ’70 a young driver and mechanic of a Porsche 908 that he shared with Gerhard Koch . In 1971 he had his opportunity to be appointed sports director of one of the two official Porsche teams : the International Martini . His youth, dynamism and enthusiasm made him fill an efficient role that year, even without being a seasoned tactician like David Yorke of the Gulf-Porsche.

Peter Falk. Engineer. Right arm of Ingº Hensler (1971)

Hensler. Engineer. Director of the Porsche Structures Experimental Division (1971).

Hans Mezger. From 1956 he was in charge of Porsche engine design. He designed among others the engine of the Porsche 917, the powerful Porsche TAG V6 Turbo F1 of the McLaren and the 3.5-liter V12 Footwork FA12 engine (April 1991) of F1 (Porsche’s last project in F1)

Ferdinand Piech. Design engineer of the Porsche 917. Nephew of Ferry Porsche. Until September 2001, he was Chairman of the Volkswagen AG Group

Rico Steinemann. Porsche Technical Director (1969)

John Willment. Co-Owner of the John Wyer-Gulf-Porsche Team

John Wyer. Co-Owner of the John Wyer-Gulf-Porsche Team

David Yorke. Chief Mechanic at John Wyer Automotive (1970-1971).

The Drivers

Featured Pilots During Each Season

1969 Official Porsche Team. The pair of Joseph Siffert and Brian Redman won the vast majority of races on the three-liter 908 . At Le Mans they drove a 908 Spyder , but dropped out after scoring.

Joseph Siffert was the one who triumphed more times in Sport Prototypes during the ’69 Season and without a doubt, if there had been a SP Drivers’ Championship , Seppi would have awarded it to him with the same comfort that Jackie Stewart had that year to win that of F1.

Siffert was the tester for every Porsche in the team and was recognized as the best driver in the specialty.

1970 Team John Wyer. Undoubtedly the strongest team in terms of drivers was – as it was in everything else – that of John Wyer with the Mexican Pedro Rodriguez , the most successful, with the established couple made up of Jo Siffert and Brian Redman and their indisputable solvency and in background Leo Kinnunen , who was not up to the task. At the end of that year, Redman would retire and Kinnunen would be removed from office. The vacancies in the team would be filled by Derek Bell , who underwent an examination for the election, (postponing in him the aspirations of Reine Wisell andPeter Gethin ) and by Jackie Oliver who would return to the Sport after a year dedicated entirely to BRM .

1970 International Martini Racing Team. Le Mans winners Hans Herrmann and Richard Atwood raced the Porsche 917 for Team Martini this year . The team was completed by Gerard Larrousse and Gijs Van Lennep.

1970 Porsche Salzburg Team. It was made up of Vic Elford, Kurt Ahrens, Denny Hulme and sometimes also Richard Atwood and Hans Herrmann. Elford-Ahrens at the command of a Porsche 908/03 triumphed at the Nürburgring.

1971 Team John Wyer. John Wyer’s team partners for this year would be Rodríguez-Oliver and Siffert-Bell . It was unthinkable to form the Rodríguez-Siffert couple since relations between the two were a bit strained due to the open way in which the Mexican disputed Seppi for the status of No. 1 in the team. During the ’70, several times they twisted themselves on the track endangering the chance of the two cars by allowing breakages or accidents and David Yorke , team leader, had to be energetic so that both understood what their functions were.

1971 International Martini Racing Team. As for International Martini Racing, the most important couple was made up of Vic Elford-Gerard Larrousse, although the team savored the honeys of victory with the victory in 24 hours. from Le Mans with a 917 under the command of Helmut Marko and Gijs Van Lennep .