Porsche 917: Porsche’s 24 Hours of Le Mans Trailblazer

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With the most wins in the FIA endurance race, 24 hours of Le mans, Porsche stands tall with 19 wins in total and Porsche 917 is that race car that began the winning streak for Porsche. Porsche 917 in 1970 and 1971 gave Porsche their first win in 24 Hours of Le Mans after aerodynamics issue with its long tail.

1970 Porsche 917K | autohage.com
1970 Porsche 917K

The development of Porsche 917 began in 1969, the result was a coupe, rear wheel drive powered by 4.5L, 4.9L, and 5.0L Type 912 Flat 12 mated with 4- speed manual or 5- speed manual transmission gearbox. Porsche 917 was a huge challenge to the Porsche team because of its long tails in which at high speed developed poor handling. Porsche 917 was a powerful and very fast race car that the team expects to triumph fast than its predecessor Porsche 908, it got to a point that the new 917 had the team frustrated as the aerodynamics issue was infuriating. Nevertheless, Porsche 917 raced in 1969 24 hours of Le Mans with Porsche 908 in 1-2-3-4-5 positions and 917 in 8th position. The first Porsche 917 produced was incredibly fast but its detachable long tail caused lift on driving on the straight track flooring the throttle. The Porsche 917 took the life of an inexperienced driver John Woolfe in 1969 24 hours of Le Mans, leading to development of a more focused car.

917 Martini Racing and John Wyer AAutomotive | autohage.com
Porsche 917 by Martini Racing team and John Wyer team

By 1970, in all frustration as expected, Porsche had to change it’s official team and continue developments on Porsche 917 that led to development of a shorter tail than previous year. The problem indicated that air wasn’t flowing through the longtail causing continuous drag especially in corners. Even after having an agreement with John Wyer and his team as Porsche official partner, Porsche really wanted the win so behind the scene supported Porsche Salzburg and Martini Racing team. That was a smart move for Porsche because all 917s developed by John Wyer and his team entered the race with 3 917s, 2 with 4.9L engine and 1 with 4.5L engine which were out in 12 hours to the race. Porsche Salzburg triumphed with Hans Herrman and Richard Attwood as the drivers of Porsche 917k with 4.5L flat 12 engine, Martini Racing team 2nd in Porsche 917LH.


With more competent contenders, Porsche continued researching and developing the Porsche 917 for challenges in 1971 24 Hours of Le Mans but still it was Martini Racing team with Porsche 917K that won the race with Helmut Marko and Gijs Van Lenneps covering 3315 laps. The best decision made, would be the behind the scene collaborations with Porsche Salzburg and Martini Racing team that led to the consecutive triumphs.

Porsche 917K Martini 1971 Le Mans Winner | AUTOHAGE.COM
1971 winner Porsche 917 by Martini Racing team

2 thoughts on “Porsche 917: Porsche’s 24 Hours of Le Mans Trailblazer”

  1. Porshe…. The brand speaks for itself, a name that connotes class.. I’m guessing the longer tail wasn’t designed to serve any specific function, it was purely for aesthetics, hence the constant issue with drag problem..

    1. Porsche just has that aura of authority. Although it wasn’t purely for aesthetics, to put it simply as exploration to what could be brought to the table. It’s victory in two consecutive years 70′ and 71′ says it all.

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