1971 Porsche 917K Pilots: H. Marko, G. van Lennep Team: Porsche System / Martini Race: 1st overall (S 5.0 class) at Le Mans in 1971 Spark - 43LM71 (resin)
In 1970 Stuttgart dominated the World Sportscar Championship, specially with the Porsche 917K (“Kurzheck”) short tail version. However, for 1971 the competition would be stiffer, coming from the highly modified Penske Ferrari 512M and the new Alfa 33/3. So for the 24 Heures du Mans of 1971 the engineering team at Weissach revised the whole car. To make the 917 more aerodynamic, the tail of the car was redesigned, becoming less up-swept and with a more concave rear deck. To keep the moving air centered on the rear and therefore increasing downforce, two vertical fins were added to the sides of the tail.
What that meant is that the new design generated a lot of down force and because the rear deck being now lower, there was less drag. And to make the car even lighter, a brand new chassis was made. Very similar to the 1970 version, but with a big difference: instead of aluminum tubes, Porsche used magnesium tubes. Interestingly, due to magnesium’s bad fame, the chassis was painted black, and even the pilots weren’t aware that it was not aluminum.
The Type 912 flat-12 was one of the 917’s strong points, but Porsche wanted more. The engine was the same, with the DOHC and 24 valves setup, but expanded from the original 4494 cm³ to 4907 cm³. So with the added power and better aerodynamics, the new 917 was even faster than the 1970 car. To the point that in the hands of Helmut Marko and Gijs van Lennep the 917K #22 set an average speed record of 222.304 km/h. And to make things even more impressive, they also set a new overall distance record of 5335.313 km that stood until 2010 by Audi’s R15!
Unfortunately, for the next season, FIA outlawed the 917 by eliminating the Sports category. With that, Porsche’s Le Mans conqueror was out. In total, Porsche built 41 cars between the K and L versions, and of these, only three had a magnesium chassis (all Kurzhecks). The winning #22 was chassis #917-53. Allegedly, Porsche considers it “too fragile”, and after the race it went into storage as it came from the track. Recently, however, it went through a thorough restoration and now resides at the Porsche Museum. It’s the only surviving 917 with magnesium frame. You can see the #22 in action at Le Mans here (2’13”).
Without a doubt this is one of the two most famous Porsche 917K. Therefore, it’s a must have for my collection – so yep, a grail model. And this is a special Porsche 917K, because it was a Christmas gift from my dear wife*. I don’t think I need to comment on the model per se because it’s an “average Spark”. In other words, it’s friggintastic, just like my #23. So to a Le Mans nut like me, a must have (long overdue).
*: Ever thought that an Aston Martin could morph into a Porsche? Well, it happened here. My Christmas (!!!) present was originally an Aston (Le Mans, of course), that my wife bought locally. It arrived with a missing wing mirror, so I had to send it back. Since the store didn’t have a good enough substitute, I ended up ordering this 917K #22 from eBay and only now (!!!) I got hold of it. Oh yes, a very lengthy resolution, but a mighty upgrade. My wife rocks!!!