Porsche again split its challenge between the 908 and the 917 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Redman and Siffert chose the 908, but Vic Elford wanted to race the 917, despite all of its vices. “It was
a nasty little monster,” he recalls, “but I loved it because it was so fast. My philosophy on winning Le Mans – which unfortunately I never managed to achieve — was the same as Piech’s. I
“It was a nasty little monster,
but I loved it because it was
so fast. I wanted the highest
top speed [at Le Mans]”
wanted to be driving the fastest car in
a straight line, so that the last thing
I needed to do was actually race. I wanted
the highest top speed, so I could drive
past everyone on the straight.”
Porsche could have won that year.
Hans Hermann and Gerard Larrousse
famously missed out on victory in their
908 by the narrowest of margins, but
Rolf Stommelen had qualified on pole in
one 917, while Elford and teammate
Richard Attwood led into the 22nd hour
in the other factory car.
“That first one was evil,” continues
Elford. “It was aerodynamically unstable.
You have to remember that aerodynamics
at that time were in their infancy.”
Just how little was known about
aerodynamics is illustrated by the story of
the test at which the instability issues
that dogged the 917 right through its
debut season were finally addressed.
John Wyer’s British-based JW Automotive
team had been sounded out as a potential
(ABOVE) Although visually
memorable when it raced at Le
Mans in 1971, the “Pink Pig”
didn’t leave a big impression
on the actual results sheet.
(LEFT) The instantly
THE KING OF SPORTS CARS
Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon for
racecars to change chassis numbers
over their career. Accidents, mixing and
matching major components, ease of
paperwork – the reasons are many, but
often lost in the mists of time.
The J. W. Automotive-run Porsche
917K showcased on these pages
had been unraced chassis 035, but
was renumbered 015 as the J. W. team
prepared it for the 1971 season.
In the Jan. 10 Sportscar World
Championship season-opener, the
Buenos Aires 1,000km, the car took
pole and finished second, courtesy of
Pedro Rodriguez and Jackie Oliver.
The pair also drove it on its next
appearance, April 4’s Brands Hatch
1,000km, where they started fourth,
but DNF’ed with a fuel system glitch.
A month later on May 9, Rodriguez
and Oliver took 917-015 to a famous
win in the Spa 1,000km, at a record-breaking 154.77mph in a J. W. 1-2 with
Jo Siffert/Derek Bell (see page 53).
Spa was the duo’s third ’71 win, but
the first in “our car.” Pedro then won at
the Österreichring in late June, sharing
with Richard Attwood (in 917-013),
but was killed in an Interserie race at
the Norisring, July 11, driving a Ferrari.
015’s last SWC race was the July 24
Six Hours of Watkins Glen, with Bell
and Attwood finishing third. Next day,
Gijs van Lennep took ninth in the
Glen’s Can-Am counter, before the car
was sent back to Porsche and, later,
to a museum. And now? See page 54...
A RACECAR DIARY
(TOP) Chassis plate 917-015. (ABOVE) ’71
Can-Am round at Watkins Glen was the final
race for the Spa-winning 917K (No. 92).