A-Z of Car Stuff
This is one in a series of posts on cars, drivers, designers etc. that have interested me over the years. I’ve bored my family and friends with this stuff for years – now it’s your turn!
See A-Z of Car Stuff page for more posts in this series.
So, what’s so special about the Porsche 917?
To my mind – the things that make the Porsche 917 special are:-
1) Form and function working in harmony. A perfect combination of a lightweight but beautiful body/chassis with a brutally powerful air-cooled flat 12 engine to fling it round race circuits.
2) The 917 took outright speed to new levels at Le Mans and it took outright power to ludicrous extremes in the Can-Am series. It was designed to reach 250 mph and it achieved this on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans in K (K=Kurz-heck or short tail) form pretty well straight well out of the box. In Can-Am racing – engine power reached 1100bhp in race mode and a crazy 1580bhp for qualifying!
3) The 917 finally secured Porsche’s 1st outright win at Le Mans in 1970 in the capable hands of Richard Attwood and Hans Herrmann. A further outright win came the following year when a 917 driven by Gijs van Lennep and Helmut Marko crossed the line first.
I think there are many parallels between the development of the pre-war Auto Union race cars (Types A, B & C) and the Porsche 917. Both were bold and radical Porsche designs targeting domination of the new race formulae in which they were about to run. Both had well established and highly proficient competition in the form of Mercedes for Auto Union and Ferrari for the 917.
Both cars went through a phenomenally rapid design and construction phase and both attempted to mitigate risk as much as possible by utilising as many tried and tested concepts, technologies and components as was possible at the time.