1971 Porsche 917K Pilots: R. Attwood, H. Müller Team: John Weyer Automotive Engineering Race: 2nd overall (S 5.0 class) at Le Mans in 1971 Minichamps - 400716119 (diecast)
Porsche 917K #23 (06/15/18):
Porsche’s first foray at Le mans was in 1951, already with the mentality that improvements created for the race cars could transfer to their passenger cars. But with time the manufacturer turned it’s sights to an overall victory. However, up to the 60’s, Porsche cars were more suited for fast and nimble tracks, and the necessary production of a minimum of 50 cars hampered the brand’s commitment to develop a car specifically for Le Mans. Finally, in 1969 the rule changed: a manufacturer only needed to produce 25 cars for homologation purposes. So with less than ten months to go before the 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans, Porsche started working on a completely new engine and a suitable chassis.
The chassis was a tubular frame, basically the same one used for the 908, but made of aluminum instead of steel to save weight. The suspension was composed of fully independent wishbones, with titanium coil springs. The engine was an all new flat-12 with 4.5 l and DOHC that produced a massive 580 hp. It had a Bosch fuel injection system and was air-cooled, with a big fan fitted on top.
The project was rushed, and when the car debuted in 1969, it was a disaster. Three cars entered the race, but none finished; in fact, one crashed in the first lap and the pilot John Woolfe died. The car needed a solution, so for 1970 Porsche decided to leave the 917 program to private teams. These teams (Martini Racing, JWA Gulf Racing and Porsche Salzburg) received full factory-support. And with input from them, engineers developed a shorter tail section and the 917K was born – and the car was good! So on June 14th, 1970, after a race full of accidents because of the torrential rain, the 917K #23 crossed the line in first place, bringing Porsche the coveted Le Mans win.
For the following year, the 917 was back at La Sarthe, but with upgraded aerodynamics and engine. The engine was the same 4494 cm³ flat-12 though expanded to 4907 cm³ of displacement. Both of Porsche’s “factory” teams (Martini Racing and JWA Engineering) were betting on the 917LH as the real contender. To their surprise, however, none of the Langheck cars made it to the finish line. The John Weyer team had three cars in the race, two 917LH and one 917K. The 917K #19 was their only car to finish the race, just two laps behind the winning Martini 917K #22.
Being one of the most beautiful race cars to ever grace La Sarthe, I needed more 917s in the Garage. And this one, in Gulf colors, is not exactly easy to find. I only got one because the Vicar of Northumberland was kind enough to be a middleman in an eBay deal for me. All in all, very nice model from Minichamps. Unfortunately though, it looks like it will also have some decal issues in the future 🤨.