With the greatest race on earth getting nearer every day it’s time to present a winner. One of the most renowned sportscars in history. The Porsche 917. And it’s fame actually is a bit weird. It did win races, even brought Porsche the first overall win at Le Mans in 1970. Before that Porsche had won a lot - every single year from 1952 and up with the exception of 1958 - with of class-wins but never ran the most laps of the entire line-up at Le Mans.
So why is it’s legendary status that weird? Because it actually only competed for 3 years. And it won Le Mans “only” twice. There’s other Porsches, and other carmakers, that won the 24 hours way more. But the 917 was cut-off from more wins by the FIA as 5.0 liter Group 5 cars were banned from the World Championship in 1972. Porsche’s 917 had engines ranging from 4.5 liter to 5.0 liter so was exit.
One aspect that gave this one it’s name though was the fact it ran 5335 kms in it’s last year. A distance covered that would not be beaten until... 2010! Sure the Le Mans’ track was changed a bit over the years to slow it down but it does say a lot. Another aspect would be it’s appearance in that epic Steve McQueen movie. Or the fact a 917K needed to be developed as the initial 917L (for Langheck - Longtail) just was terrifying with it’s low drag at top speeds. Many pictures of it in Gulf livery probably did the rest. Or maybe, the fact it went Can-Am after it wasn’t allowed in Le Mans anymore but it’s success over there killed that series is it was... unbeatable.
This one however is chassis 917-023. The 917K (for Kurzheck - Shorttail) that won Porsche it’s first Le Mans overall win. It wasn’t even Porsche’s top-grade car as several other 917's tagged along. Both Longtails with their higher top speed and the bigger 4.9 liters as this one had only Porsche’s 4.5 liter flat 12. This engine type 912 was a combination of 2 of Porsche’s 2.25L flat-6 engines used in previous racing cars. Air-cooled.
And because if it’s lengthy engine the driver’s position was that forward his legs were in front of the front axle. David Piper probably still curses Hanz Mezger, the designer of the 917, for this. He crashed one during the shooting of McQueen’s movie and lost a part of one leg in this accident. Another aspect that builds up ones reputation.
David had nothing to do with the number 23 of course, this one was from Porsche KG Salzburg (Piëch’s holding company) and was driven by Hans Hermann (German) and Richard Attwood (England) in 1970. And there’s so many things to tell about that year. It was the first year the infamous Le Mans start was discontinued (due to Jacky Ickx winning ‘69 while demonstratively walking slowly to the car in stead of running and driving off while buckling up). But cars did start from the side of the track:
And that was the last time Le Mans started this way, from 1971 and on it has been a rolling start. Another “thing” about 1970 was the fact only 7 cars actually finished. SEVEN! From 51 contenders. And it was the last race the number 23 driver Hans Hermann ever drove. Because he made one promise to his wife way earlier: If he’d ever win Le Mans he would stop racing. So he did. Porsche was surprised he stopped. Hans himself probably as well.
And Ferrari invested heavily in this event with the entry of 11 (ELEVEN!) 512S’s, partly financed by the deal Il Commendatore made by selling half of his company to FIAT. From those 11 cars only 2 made it to the finish. A true war of attrition, the 1970 24 Heure du Mans. A rainy one as well. The stories about this edition are endless, this truly was the golden era.
The model is a 1/43 Welly, distributed by the Porsche Museum. It certainly lacks decent quality control, just check out the front left tire: that’s certainly not the way it was intended. And certainly not capable of reaching those speeds of about 240 mph (390 km/h) on the Mulsanne Straight. Or maybe in a way the 917L could. The pit crew is from Altaya and yes: These can easily blend in in any scenery.
Just try and find a picture of a somewhat empty pitbox full-frontal. And why give the crew these black overalls?
And yes: The LEGO 917 in the back is definitely based on the 1970-winner. So das war es wieder, nur 4 nachten und dann geht es wieder los! Ich bin gespannt was dieser Jahr passiert. Viel spass!!!