Porsche 917/10 Turbo

Premiere: 1972 June 11 at Can-Am Mosport

The first turbo-Porsche, Can-Am winner 1972, Interserie winner 1972, 1973

1972 Can-Am Championship winner 917/10 Turbo 5.0 (chassis 917/10-003) of George Follmer. Photo taken at Road America on August 27, 1972.© Porsche


4.5F12 twin-turbo 625 kW
5.0F12 twin-turbo 735 kW
5.4F12 twin-turbo 820 kW
Note: the power figures are highly speculative on turbocharged cars

In 1971, when it was clear that large engines would be banned from 1972 Manufacturers' World Championship, Porsche focused on Can-Am championship for the 1972 season. Naturally they needed winning cars and knew that they need more power from their engines. Remember, the Can-Am dominating McLarens had 8.1-litre engines. Always thinking big, engineer Ferdinand Piëch let to develop a 16-cylinder engine in 1971 that was tested in the 917 Spyder prototype. The experimental turbocharged 12-cylinder was also created. The engineers soon realized that it was easier to pump out the power from the turbocharged 12-cylinder than from the normally aspirated 16-cylinder. The turbo-power was not ready by the beginning of the 1972 racing season, so the first races were competed with naturally aspirated 917/10.

The first ever publically seen turbocharged Porsche was the 917/10 Turbo with chassis number 917/10-011. It was entered for the June 11, 1972 Can-Am Mosport race. Mark Donohue was fastest in the qualification with it, but scored second in the 80 laps race after the 8.1-litre McLaren. The Porsche Turbo era had begun. Eight 917/10 were racing in 1972 in Can-Am and in Interserie. Four of them started their careers as 917/10 Turbo (chassis 001, 003, 005 and 011) and four were 917/10 with turbo conversions. The originally normally aspirated 917/10 that were fitted with turbo engines, performed well, but to win, they also needed the bodywork from the 917/10 Turbo.

The Turbos dominated on both shores of the Atlantic and there were even three dates in the season, when not only the race was on the same day on both shores, but was also won there by Porsche on the same day. It was a world domination - with the power output of around 1000 hp, the 917/10 Turbo easily won the 1972 Interserie and Can-Am championships. The European star was Leo Kinnunen of Keimola Racing Team AAW and the American star was George Follmer of Penske Racing.

Porsche 917/10 Turbo engine
© Porsche
1972 Interserie winning 917/10-004 of Leo Kinnunen© Porsche
Posters of 1972 races that the 917/10 Turbo won. The Edmonton Can-Am race was won by Mark Donohue, but other 917/10 Turbo victories were all delivered by George Follmer in America and Leo Kinnunen in Europe. Willy Kauhsen had also won one Interserie race, but that was in the early season, when the turbocharged cars were not yet introduced.© Porsche

For the 1973 season, Porsche built four more 917/10 Turbos and they continued to win side by side with the new 917/30.

President of West Germany, Dr. Gustav W. Heinemann, had had a dream to experience a 917 around the Nürburgring and the day for the dream-come-true was scheduled for April 3, 1973. Dr. Heinemann was to be seated next to Willy Kauhsen in the 917/10 Turbo. Everything was planned, just that the snow came down.

1973 April 3, Nürburgring: Willy Kauhsen 917/10 Turbo © Porsche / photographer Manfred Förster
1973 April 3, Nürburgring: Gustav W. Heinemann and Willy Kauhsen © Porsche / photographer Manfred Förster

Willy Kauhsen knew the track wasn't fully covered with snow and with the car equipped with rain tyres he was ready to go. Dr. Heinemann was also eager to go, but his security guys insisted him not to go, aswell as did his wife. Mister president, at the age of 73, was determined and stepped into the car, in the business suit and coat, not in racing overalls. He put the helmet on and off they went. Photoshooting was now forbidden, so there are no photos of the president in the car or on the track. Although the security guys who had entered the track before Kauhsen/Heinemann had landed in the ditch, the 917 guys were able to achieve 280 km/h (~175 mph) on the Döttinger Höhe-Antoniusbuche straight. Kauhsen told that in the race he would go there at 350 km/h (~220 mph). Driving in the 'safe mode' the lap time was about 12:30. In the race condition it would be 8:20 in wet and 7:30 in dry. Mr. president was so amazed by the experience and sincerely thanked mr. Kauhsen for the experience which he considered the best in life.

To understand how fast the first Turbo-Porsche was, Willy Kauhsen described the 5.0-litre version as: "0-100 km/h in 2.2 seconds, 0-200 km/h in 5.4 and 0-300 km/h in 11.1 seconds."

1973 Interserie Nürbugring and Imola race winner Willy Kauhsen describes the acceleration of his 917/10 Turbo 5.0
1973 October 14 Laguna Seca: a 914 leading the pack of turbocharged 917s and other Can-Am race cars © Corel Photo
Porsche 917/10-003 Turbo
© Porsche
Porsche 917/10-003 Turbo
© Porsche
© Porsche
Porsche 917/10-003 Turbo engine
© Porsche
917/10 Turbo posters from 1973 © Porsche

In 1973, the Interserie was again won by Leo Kinnunen and his 917/10 Turbo. The first two races of the 1973 Can-Am were also won with the 917/10 Turbo (chassis 005), before the 917/30 took over as the leader and won the rest of the races.

1973 Interserie winner Leo Kinnunen in his chassis 004 car that he also used a year before (then in yellow)© unknown (please inform us if you know)

The chassis numbers of the 917/10 were assigned irregularly. 018 was the last chassis, but 008, 009, 012, 013 and 014 were never made. The turbocharged 917/10 was also called as the 917/10 K. The last victory for the car came at the first round of the 1974 Interserie race at Silverstone. The successor to the 917/10 Turbo was the 917/30. In addition, there was one hybrid version between the 917/10 and the 917/30, known as the 917/20 Turbo (not to be confused with the 917/20 Le Mans).

Article © Stuttcars.com

Continue to 917/20 Turbo

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