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Porsche 917 K-71
Premiere: April 17, 1971 Le Mans test day
Le Mans winner 1971
In 1971, 917 head engineer Piëch becomes technical general manager at Porsche. The race department relocates from Stuttgart to Weissach. Three new 917 chassis with magnesium tube frames are created, numbered 051, 052 and 053. Magnesium is considerably lighter than aluminium. Interestingly chassis numbers between 917-045 and 917-050 were not used. The magnesium tube frame is stiffer than the aluminium one, but burns in the case of fire. The main visual difference between the 1970 917 K and the 1971 917 K is the rear end with fins that the factory team cars received. Chassis 051 is only used for internal testing and is later scrapped. Chassis 052 is publically seen once at Le Mans tests in April 1971. The 1971 bodywork with rear fins was not only reserved for the "real" 1971 cars, the magnsium framed cars, but some older aluminium-framed cars were also equipped with the newer aerodynamics.
A week after the Le Mans tests, a 917 K-71 is driven to Monza 1000 km victory by Pedro Rodriguez/Jackie Oliver.
The 1971 Le Mans event was more like a Porsche Cup than a Le Mans 24 hour race - 33 cars out of the 48 starters were Porsches. While in 1970 the start flag was waved by Ferry Porsche, in 1971 the honoured person was Steve McQueen, the racer, actor and film maker, who had just finished his Le Mans film that his crew had filmed a year before. All the long tail 917s, the Le Mans special editions, fail and once again give the short tail 917 a chance to win. The 917-053 K-71 4.9 with magnesium chassis is in its first race and wins it (and would not race again). On their charge to victory, Helmut Marko/Gijs van Lennep cover record 5335.313 km (3315 miles) averaging 222.304 kph (138 mph). It is the distance record that stands for 38 years, until 2009. The Martini Racing car was followed on the second place by the John Wyer racing team (J. W. Automotive Engineering) 917 K-71 4.9 of Richard Attwood/Herbert Müller. In the finish 13 cars are classified including 10 Porsches and 3 Ferraris.
Article © James Herne / Stuttcars.com
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