1969 Porsche 917LH Pilots: R. Stommelen, K. Ahrens Team: Porsche System Engineering Race: DNF (LMS 5.0 class) at Le Mans in 1969 Ebbro - 43750 (diecast)
LUWerner on W-143:
In 1968 the Commission Sportive Internationale (the competition arm of the FIA) decreed a rule change. From 1969 to 1971 to compete in the sport category of the International Championship of Makes (later the World Sportscar Championship) manufacturers needed only 25 cars instead of the previously mandatory 50 cars for homologation. That was the push Porsche needed to start the development of a Le Mans winner. Based on their current 908, in 10 months the first 917 was ready. The engineering department at Stuttgart simultaneously developed two cars, the 917K (“Kurzheck”) and the 917LH (“Langheck”). The latter was specifically for Le Mans. To power the brand’s new hope for their first victory at La Sarthe, an all-new engine was necessary. And that was the groundbreaking Type 912. It was a 4494 cm³ flat-12 (180º V-12, not a boxer) with DOHC and 24 valves.
Porsche’s anxiety levels for the 1969 24 Heures du Mans were high. For the first time ever they had a solid chance at an overall victory. However, their groundbreaking car was not any good. Ferdinand Piech’s engineering department could not solve the handling issues. At high speeds, the car was truly scary. To the point that factory drivers preferred the older 908. With that in mind, for Le Mans Porsche had both the 917LH and 908 in the factory team. Stuttgart had two 917, 917LH #14 (chassis #917-007) and #12 (chassis #917-008). Unfortunately though, neither finished the race. While #12 lasted almost to the end, 917LH #14 abandoned on lap 147 with an oil leak.
Gorgeous as it was, the 917 was a very problematic car in the beginning. The following year Porsche sorted the car out, but its first year was a disaster. Le Mans is harsh enough to take out even the best pilots and cars, so imagine a car with design issues…
Nonetheless, the 917 is my favorite racing car, so I’m always interested in expanding my fleet. This 917LH #14 was one of the problem cars, and I do have the other 1969 works car. But I couldn’t resist completing the team, and besides, Ebbro did a GREAT job on them. The #12 faired better (less bad?) than #14, so maybe it would be the one to get. But for the 917 fan both are great.