the king of sports cars
A whitewash. There’s no other word for it.
The John Wyer-run J. W. Automotive
Engineering Porsche 917Ks dominated the
Spa 1,000km in May 1971, with no one
else getting even a look in. And it was
Pedro Rodriguez whose star shone the
brightest of the quartet of drivers in the
blue-and-orange coupes that day.
Right from the start, Rodriguez in the
No. 21 917K (chassis 917-015, the star of
our photo shoot on the preceding pages)
and teammate Jo Siffert in the No. 20 raced
away from the opposition, the rival Martini
Racing 917s and a Ferrari 312P shared by
Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni. Ickx was
30sec behind the J. W. duo after just five laps.
The end result was a four-lap victory
for the two Porsches, a new lap record
for the old and fearsome 8.76-mile Spa-Francorchamps track, and the fastest ever
race speed for a world championship sports
car race – an astonishing 154.77mph
average that remains unbeaten to this day.
Jackie Oliver believes that his teammate,
Rodriguez, was the catalyst for the amazing
performance of the two Porsches that day,
drew Siffert along,” recalls Oliver. “There
were some tracks were Pedro outshone me,
and Spa was one. There were some tracks
where I held my head up, like Le Mans and
Brands Hatch. The old Spa was a daunting
place and deserved a bit of respect, but
we all know how brave Pedro was. The
high-speed corners definitely suited him.”
The dominance of the J. W. Porsches was
such that Rodriguez and Siffert were being
shown a board reading “EZ” for easy
before either handed over to their
respective teammates, Oliver and Derek
Bell. Oliver doesn’t remember similar
instructions for himself and Bell until the
closing minutes of the race.
Bell had lost time to Oliver in traffic after
taking over from Siffert, but was back with him
by the time they made their final fuel stops.
“The board came out for us to maintain
station over the final few laps,” explains
Oliver. “He kept his distance for a while, but
on the final lap it was a bit fraught on my
part. I wasn’t sure if Derek was going to
honor our instructions. If you look at any
photographs, it was a pretty tight finish.”
Rodriguez. Siffert. 917K. That stellar combination made the ’ 71 Spa 1,000km the fastest sports car race ever.
even if fastest lap of the race ended up in
the possession of Siffert with a 3m14.6s/
162.08mph flier that was quicker than
either car had gone in qualifying.
“The performance that day was, I
believe, very much led by Pedro; I think he
“The old Spa was a daunting
place and deserved a bit of
respect, but we all know
how brave pedro was”
(MAIN) The ’ 71 Spa-winning J. W. Automotive Porsche 917K
of Pedro Rodriguez and Jackie Oliver completed 1,000km
(620miles) in only 4h01m09.7s. Oliver (BELOW, left)
and Rodriguez compare notes during practice –
and only one of them looks relatively at ease...