January 16, 2012
There are few factory-derived racecars as tauntingly beautiful and purposely outlandish as the legendary Porsche 917K series. There’s just something about its purity of voilent speed and devilishly analogue nature that *pings* directly at the petrolheaded soul and has you searching for a YouTube fix at 2am…
The Porsche 917 was originally designed as a ‘long-tale’ (917LH) but seeing as how this initial version produced rather sketchy handling at high speeds, a shorter-tailed version (the 917K) was developed to cure the high-speed instabilities at the cost of a slightly lower top speed. Based on the Porsche 908, the 917 was conceived in an alarmingly short time of just 10 months (at great expense to Porsche) and made its debut win at the 1970 Le Mans – the first-ever overall win for Porsche. It followed this win up with a 2nd overall Le Mans win in ’71.
Power came from the monstrous Type 912 air-cooled flat-12 engine that ranged in size from 4.5, 4.9 and 5.0 litres producing upwards of 620 bhp. The dash to 60 would arrive in 2.3 seconds and 125 mph would be achived in a barely-believable 5.3 seconds… (!)
In the sorely-missed original Can-Am series (’66-’74) an insane turbocharged version dubbed the Porsche 917/30 produced well over 1,100 bhp and as much as 1,580 bhp when in qualifying tune… again, (!)
As an added little bonus, here we have a chart documenting every single 917 chassis ever made…
December 28, 2011
It’s the usual end-of-year crawl within the motoring industry – not a lot ‘breaking news’ out there per se. Plus, I think it’s safe to say that we’re all running on the exhaust-fumes from the busy Holidays… So then, what better time than now to simply feast your eyes upon these excellent high-res photos capturing two of the most-iconic Porsche race cars of all time – The Gulf and Martini-liveried 917s.
I'd be smiling as well...
This wouldn’t feel complete unless I included a favorite movie-still from Steve McQueen’s ‘Le Mans’ film…
December 13, 2011
The 1969 Le Mans 24HR race was the stuff of legends. Before the race even started, many had bagged Porsche to win outright victories with its impressive (yet controversial) fleet of 908 and 917 long-tails. Ford had already performed a hat-trick at Le Mans with their 3rd victory in-a-row from the previous year’s 1968 race, so Porsche (along with Matra and to some extent, Ferrari) were adament in knocking Ford off of the top-spot for outright victories in 1969.
Ferrari entered two 312P Berlinettas (essentially F1 cars dressed-up in different bodies) driven by Perdo Rodriguez/David Piper (#18) and Chris Amon/Peter Schetty (#19) but unfortunately both failed to finish the race – the Amon/Schetty car being forced to retire on the very first lap after John Woolfe crashed his Porsche 917 (sadly, killing him) which subsequently dislodged its fuel-tank, of which the Ferrari drove straight over top of and exploded in the process.
The race came down to the final laps with Jacky Ickx (in the same Le Mans-winning Ford GT40 from the year before) doing lap-after-lap battle with Hans Herrmann in his Porsche 908, both of them exchanging the lead position on each lap. At the final turn, Jacky was able to take advantage of the Porsche’s ailing brakes and out-breaked Hans in his 908, coming out ahead in the final turn and winning Le Mans 1969 by mere seconds.
I’ve always loved the fact that Jacky Ickx made a subtle statement against the traditional sprint-to-your-car-and-get-in-and-go start of the Le Mans by merely strolling over to the GT40 when the flag dropped. He then calmly got in, buckled himself up and casually drove off… and, of course, in last place.
Ickx winning by mere seconds...
*** There’s a great DVD out there from Duke called ‘Le Mans 1969 – La Ronde Infernale’ that I highly recommend for your motoring DVD library, by the way. In the meantime, here’s the uploaded YouTube version of it… Enjoy.
November 1, 2011
Riding on the shoulders of yesterday’s Ultimate 911 article, here we present you with a trio of scintilating onboard videos riding along with Porsche Motorsport’s various leviathans from the past.
First up is the legendary 917/30 that managed to capture Porsche’s first-ever outright wins at Le Mans in 1970 and ’71 (amongst many many other wins). It featured an air-cooled (air-cooled!) Flat-12 engine ranging from 4.5 to 5.0 litres in size that delivered around 620 bhp. Later turbo’d 917 variants saw insane outputs of up to 1100 bhp and tuned to upwards of 1500 bhp in hair-on-fire qualifying-spec. Here we have the affable Derek Bell inviting you onboard for a rather detailed, personal view.
Another Motorsport legend from the Porsche garages here. With a chassis based on the incredible 917, The 936 featured a (once again air-cooled) 2.2L single turbo-charged Flat-6 that churned out 540 bhp. In the 6 years that Porsche entered the 936 into competitive realms from ’76 – ’81, it came away with 3 outright Le Mans wins (’76, ’77 and ’81). Take an onboard blast around Le Mans in 1977 here with Jurgen Barth behind the wheel of his Martini Racing-sponsored Porsche 936.
The 956 continued on with the successes trail-blazed by the former 936 and featured the same engine (though enlarged) to a 2.6L turbocharged Flat-6 that mustered up 635 bhp. It too entered Le Mans in 1982 and won the race outright (actually, Porsche placed 1-2-3 that year). Mostly remembered for having set the Nurburgring fastest lap record via Stefan Bellof in qualifying for the 1983 1000 KM of Nurburgring race, his time remains an outright lap-record (6 min 11.13 sec) that stands to this very day.
The speeds (and blurred sights) achieved down the Mulsanne Straight in this video are truly bonkers… There is also an ‘In Car 956’ video/DVD that Duke Video made available a few years back that I would heavily recommend…! I own a copy – it’s amazing..!