Archive for January, 2015

Pleasure and pain

This great shot shows the sheer excitement of ones’ first Grand Prix…

The photo has amazing ‘people factor’, the cars are superbly placed amongst the crowd, the shot rare in that sense. The composition is great; from the joy and excitement on the teenagers face, the marshalls presence giving a sense of crowd and the sheer lunacy of the photographers handily placed on the exit of the corner where they can nicely cushion the impact of an errant car!

The question is where and when it is?

I lifted the shot from a photographic annual some years ago, the photographer may have been identified but not the place or date as it wasn’t a racing publication and therefore the important stuff to us wasn’t there.

High wings came in later in 1968 and were banned from Monaco ’69, the tyres on the car in front at least, are wider than in ’68 so i think its post Monaco 1969 and either Zandvoort or Clermont Ferrand that year. Dutch and French GP’s respectively.

But i am guessing! An educated guess but a guess all the same.

Any thoughts on who, what, where and when anyone?

Johansson Ferrari Monaco 1985

Stefan was out on the 1st lap, he ran up the chuff of Bergers Bennetton BMW when the engine misfired…Prost won in a McLaren MP4 Honda

Stefan Johanssons’ Ferrari 156-85 twin-turbos lighting up some unburnt fuel in its diffusers…Monaco 1985, sensational Rainer Schlegelmilch shot…

Schlegelmilch picks up the story in’Automobile Year 44’…’For the first practice session of the Monaco Grand Prix in 1985, I took up the same position as I had the year before, at the Rascasse corner. I had my Nikon F3 and a little 43-86mm zoom lens, and as I waited for the cars to come I noted that they would be passing under full acceleration within a metre of my chosen spot beside the guardrail.’

‘I therefore chose a slow shutter speed, around 1/15th or 1/30th of a second, and closed the aperture down in order to achieve the effect I wanted, with the car relatively sharp and the background blurred to accentuate the feeling of speed. I wanted the drivers’ helmet to be the sharpest point, so that identification was  easy, and since I wanted to move the zoom during the exposure to add to the blurred effect, I knew that the helmet had to be in the centre of the viewfinder. I was doing all this when Stefan Johannsons’ Ferrari burst into view. Everything worked, and by good luck- or sheer chance- at the very millisecond I pressed the button the Ferraris’ exhausts belched sheets of flame!’

Johannson McLaren

Stefan, McLaren MP4/3 TAG Porsche in 1987 (The Cahier Archive)

Johannson Spirit Honda British GP Brands 1983

Johannson heads into Druids Hill bend, Brands Hatch, European GP 1983. Spirit 201 Honda . Finished 14th 2 laps down after qualifying 19th. (unattributed)

Honda returned to Grand Prix racing via F2 and Ralt...Ron Tauranac and Jack Brabham formed a successful partnership with Honda winning the European Championship in 1966, so they gave Ron a call when they wanted to return, achieving quick success, initially winning the European F32 Championship with Geoff Lees in a Ralt RH6 Honda in 1981.

Ron was never going back to F1 though, so they teamed up with Spirit, who had also used their 2 litre V6 in F2. The F1 turbo-charged 1.5 litre V6 was explosive in its power delivery giving Spirit plenty of engineering challenges to what was essentially its F2 chassis. Johannson cut his F1 teeth with the team and Honda signed with Williams for 1984…

Spirit Honda Brands 1983

Not so pretty from the side…in search of downforce and somewhere to mount the ancillaries!

Stefans’ route to F1 was via the British F3 Championship which he won with a Project 4…(Ron Dennis) run March 803 Toyota. Like Ron he was off to F1 but a couple of starts with Shadow didn’t launch his career which was via Spirit after some F2 promise in 1982.

He raced for Tyrrell and Toleman in 1984, picking up a Ferrari drive after Rene Arnoux was sacked early in the season for unspecified misdemeanours.

Johnannssen Spa 86

La Source hairpin Spa 1986, Belgian GP. Ferrari F1/86, 1.5 litre twin turbo V6. Stefan drove well finishing 3rd behind the winning Williams FW11 Honda of Nigel mnasell and Ayrton Sennas’ Lotus 98T Renault .(unattributed)

In  1985  and 1986 he was often quicker than team leader Alboreto and in the lead more than once but he was shown the door at the end of’86, McLaren picking him up.

He finished sixth in the drivers championship but was really keeping the seat warm for Ayrton Senna who was under contract to Lotus until the end of 1987, still winless but a frontish-runner, he failed to get the second seat at Williams Riccardo Patrese bagged and steadily slipped down the totem pole in mid-field teams…Ligier in ’88, Onyx in ’89/90, and AGS and Footwork in 1991.

He placed second four times, very unlucky not to win, after 1992 he moved to CART, Sportscars and driver management.

Johannson Ferrari F156-85 Adelaide 1985

Johannson, Adelaide, AGP 1985. Ferrari F156-85. Qualified 15th and finished 5th, Rosberg won in his Williams Renault (unattributed)

Stefan Jonannsen Monza 85

Pitstop at Monza in 1985, Ferrari 156/85. Q 10 and 5th in the race won by Alain Prosts’ McLaren MP4/2B TAG. (unattributed)

Johannson Austrian GP 1987 McLaren MP4 3 Honda

Last drive in a competitive car was with McLaren MP4/3 Porsche chassis in 1987. Here in Austria he qualified 14th and finished 7th after a big fright in practice having hit a deer! and cracking a rib in the ensuing accident. Nigel Mansell won in a Williams FW11B Honda. (unattributed)

Photo Credits…

Rainer Schlegelmilch, The Cahier Archive



Reg Hunt 'Sports Cars and Specials'

I wrote an article a while back about Reg Hunt…a little known Australian Champion Driver of the 1950’s and a very successful business man subsequently. At the time i was searching for ‘that shot’ to go with the article but my own library of 50’s stuff is a bit skinny and ‘google’ wasn’t friendly either, so i went with what i had.

I enjoy country drives with ‘der Fuhrer’ for a whole lotta reasons not the least of which are the places in the country with  some automobilia, i do that whilst the chief looks at retro-dresses, art and other such chick stuff.

Throw in a nice meal, a bottle of vino and everybody is happy, a temporary state i grant you!

One of our favourite day trips from Melbourne takes in Kyneton/Daylesford/Maldon and return, a run up Mount Tarrengower hillclimb at Maldon is a plus. Overseas readers should add these locales to your Victorian travel agenda, essentially the villages are in the old Victorian Goldfields,

‘Junked Restoration’at Kyneton has become a stopover on these jaunts, it has rather a nice gallery/design studio as well as the car stuff so the ‘mutual satisfaction’ criteria above are met.

At the weekend i approached the magazine racks and there staring me in the face was Reg in his Maser 250F, on the cover of ‘Sports Cars and Specials’ October 1956, its not even a local magazine i had heard of.

Even more bizarre is the article on the cover comparing Reg Hunt, Stan (father of Alan) Jones and Lex Davison…it just so happens i was in the process of  completing the article on Stan, i uploaded two weeks ago, about whom little has been written.

Stan was an interesting character and successful driver, i had been searching the blogosphere for some contemporary information on where he ‘sits in the pantheon of Australian champion drivers’ of the day and found nothing.

What are the chances of finding that!?

I would rather have won ‘Lotto’ of course but its still an amazing bit of chance, i literally didn’t move a magazine, it was just there waiting for me to pick it up, ’twas meant to be.

The magazines’ writers include Ian Fraser, decades later the editor and ultimately owner of English magazine ‘Car’, the best road car magazine in the world…so not only did the article fall into my lap but its also credible.

Some days yer can be lucky!

Mind you, i did get ‘pinged’ for speeding on the return trip to Melbourne!

'Junked Restoration'

‘Junked Restoration’ is at 98a Piper Street, Kyneton, there are many top spots for food and wine on this street…then do Daylesford/Castlemaine/Maldon and come back thru tiny Blackwood which has a good pub…The Daylesford Market, open every Sunday is also a good place for automobilia hunting, whilst i am playing tour guide!

Le Mans start 1969

#14 Stommelen/Ahrens Porsche 917LH, #20 Siffert/Redman Porsche 908/2, #22 Lins/Kauhsen Porsche 908LH, #23 Schutz/Mitter Porsche 908LH, #2 Bonnier/Gregory LolaT70 Mk3b Chev, #7Hobbs/Hailwood Ford GT40…and the rest (unattributed)

Spectacular start of the tragic Le Mans 24 Hour Race, June 1969, the last with the traditonal driver sprint to the cars…

The Porsche 917 was a tricky, somewhat under-developed beast in its original specification even for experienced professionals. British privateer John Woolfe lost control of his on the first lap of the ’69 race perishing in the subsequent accident. Despite that, a 917 took pole and lead the race for 20 Hours, maybe its been somewhat maligned in its formative year?

Groups 5 and 6…

917 homologation CSI

By 1967 the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI) were concerned about the growing speeds of the unlimited ‘pushrod production’ 7 litre Ford GT Mk4 and Chaparral 2F, and the 4 litre ‘racing engine’ Ferrari P4 and banned them. It did so by increasing the required number of cars to be built and lowered engine capacity limits for homologation, or admission of cars into both classes.

For 1969 there were no minimum production numbers to qualify in Group 6 ‘3 litre Prototypes’ with a minimum of 25 cars to be built for homologation into Group 5 ‘5 litre Sports Cars’.

Effectively this allowed the existing Mark 1 Ford GT40 and Lola T70 Mk3B cars to reamin eligible to keep grid sizes up, but with the hope or intent that 3 litre prototypes would be built in large numbers, Formula 1 having the same capacity limit at the time.

Porsche would not have had the 908 ready to race in 1968 had they not anticipated the rule changes for 1968 which were only announced by the CSI in October 1967. 50 cars were required to be built to qualify in Group 5 in 1968, but that was reduced, as stated above, to 25 for 1969, which left the door ajar for Porsche…

The FIA, as the governing body by then was, had another crack at rewriting the rules to encourage 3 Litre prototypes with effect 1 January 1972 given the speed of the 5 litre Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512S in 1970 and 1971 but that is another story- lets not get ahead of ourselves.

Porsche had come close to Le Mans victory with their ‘class cars’ and wanted to win outright, to do so they audaciously built twenty-five 4.5 litre air-cooled Flat 12 engined cars, the 917 in 1969.

Having thrown down the gauntlet, Ferrari, with his coffers full of Fiat money- having sold his road car division to them in 1969, built twenty-five 5 litre V12 512S to go head to head with Porsche in perhaps the two best years of sports car racing ever, 1970 and 1971.

On 12 March 1969 a 917 was displayed at the Geneva Motor show with a price tag of DM140,000 a fraction of the cars development costs.

The cars above were displayed for inspection at the factory to the CSI on 20 April, Ferdinand Piech cheekily offered the CSI inspectors the opportunity to drive any of the machines to prove they were complete and running, the offer was declined.

917 at Geneva Show

917 homologation

25 917’s lined up at Zuffenhausen awaiting the CSI chassis count for homologation into Group 5…22 April 1969. (Porsche AG)

Design and Construction…

917 brochure

Sales brochure for the 917, a snip at DM140,000 in 1969

Engineer Ferry Piech said that Porsche would not have built the 3 litre 908 had they known the CSI’s intent in relation to the 5 litre Group.

At the time they built the 908, a Group 6 car, the minimum production number for homologation into Group 5 was 50 cars not 25, so he can be somewhat forgiven for not being able to read the minds of the rule-makers, then as now unpredictable.

The regime of rules was not about encouraging 5 litre cars with ‘racing’ as against ‘production’ based engines.

So Porsche surprised everyone- until then they had built class contenders rather than outright cars, and even then it was not thought possible to build a 5 litre air-cooled engine, to that time a Porsche specialty. Water cooled Porsches were not to appear for nearly a decade.

Work started on the design of the 917 in July 1968, Porsche were convinced they could build a car down to the class minimum weight limit of 800 Kg based on the 908 which was 300 lbs lighter than their Alfa, Matra and Ferrari 3 litre rivals.

917 engine cutaway

Cutaway shot by Vic Berris of the aircooled, flat-12, SOHC 2 valve, fuel injected engine. Capacities/power  1969 4494cc/580bhp@8400rpm, 1970 4907cc/600bhp@8400rpm, 1971 4998cc/630bhp@8300rpm. Torque 376/415/425 lb ft. More than enough to see off the 512S/M Ferraris’…cooling fan absorbed around 17bhp@ maximum revs, far less than that absorbed by a water radiator @ equivalent speeds.(Vic Berris)

To speed up the development of the 917 engine the same reciprocating parts, bore, stroke, valve and port sizes of the 908 engine were usedgiving a capacity of 4494cc with a bore and stroke of 85 X 66mm. Porsche believed initially at least it wouldn’t be necessary to build a car to the full, allowable 5 litre limit to dominate.

All the fuel injection and valve timing settings were taken over from the 908 albeit the valve angle differed to allow cooling air passages between the valves. Four valves per cylinder was never an option for this reason.

Apart from the above the flat 12 is an entirely different engine to the 3 litre flat 8.

A long crankshaft did not allow anything other than a central power take off to avoid catastrophic torsional vibrations. The long crank hence became effectively two shorter cranks joined together at their flywheels, which were just a gear in mesh with another on the output shaft running parallel to, and under the crankshaft which ran on 8 main bearings.


917 engine on the dyno in 1969 (GP Library)

The power output shaft drives the triple gear type oil pump with 4 additional small oil pumps driven by the exhaust camshafts. Another shaft running symmetrically with the crank drives the 2 distributors of the electronic ignition, the Bosch fuel injection pump being driven off the left hand exhaust camshaft.

The engine had few steel or iron parts- the crankcase, cam covers and timing gear case were magnesium. The heads and cylinders were aluminium with titanium used for conrods, auxiliary drive shafts, the main output shaft and later in the engines development, valves and valve springs. The cooling blower and most of the air ducts were plastic.

The 4.5 litre engine weighed 528lb in original form and developed 542bhp on its first dyno run, this rose to 580bhp @ 8400 by the time the car arrived at Le Mans in 1969.

A new gearbox was built to take 376lb ft of torque, the case was magnesium, used Porsche synchromeshand a wet sump incorporating a ZF ‘slippery diff’ with 75% locking factor.

917 engine cross section

Cross section of the incredibly complex 917 engine, 200 hours to assemble. Magnesium crankcase split along its centreline. Power takeoff by pinion between the 2 middle main bearings, 8 main bearings. DOHC per bank, 2 VPC sodium filled. 2 plugs per cylinder. Not winning was not an option! (Porsche AG)

917 assembly

All hands on deck…homologation and timeline pressures created surely one of the most amazing production lines ever!? (Porsche AG)

The chassis was largely that of the 908…suitably reinforced, the spaceframe was welded aluminium tube. Note that later in the program three chassis’ were built of magnesium. The wheelbase was 90 inches and track in 1969 58.8 inches at the front and 60.4 inches at the rear.

As with all Porsche racing cars the frame had to withstand 600 miles of hard driving on the Weissach ‘Destruction Course’ but even so a tyre valve was incorporated into the 103lb frame to allow it to be ‘inflated’, a loss of pressure indicative of chassis cracks- sub-optimal in a car of this performance!

Again, magnesium, aluminium and titanium parts were widely used for the running gear- titanium for spherical joints, hubs, springs, the gear lever and steering column. Magnesium was used for the uprights and wheels and aluminium for the steering rack, this obsessive approach to weight saving ensured the car tipped the scales at less than 800kg.

917 spaceframe

Porsches’ obsession with weight extended to the chassis which was welded aluminium tube. Total weight 103lbs. The one on the right is unfinished. Strong and light…both 917 and 512S Ferrari were spaceframe chassis’, hardly state of the art in 1969/70 but effective all the same. Porsche did not build an aluminium monocoque racing car till the 956 in 1983. (Porsche AG)

The suspension geometry was the same as the 908but incorporated anti dive geometry by angling the upper and lower wishbone pivots to each other.

Wishbones were used at the front with coil spring/damper units and an adjustable sway bar. At the rear a single top link and lower inverted wishbone was used. Radius rods provided fore and aft location, and again coil spring/damper units were used and an adjustable sway bar. Bilstein provided the shock absorbers.

Initially 9×15 front, and 12×15 inch magnesium alloy wheels were used, with a single centre aluminium lock nut, the same as the 908.

The suspension was largely set up at the Nurburgring- long suspension travel, plenty of camber change and tyres of a rounded tread section were necessary for performance there. This did not translate at other circuits where the car was ‘under-tyred’ and the geometry unsuitable as well. More of this later in the article.

Brakes in 1969 were ATE aluminium calipers operating on cast iron ventilated rotors/discs.

917 rear suspension drawing

Factory rear suspension drawing. Upper top link, inverted lower wishbone & progressive rate coil spring & damper unit. Titanium driveshafts with ‘rubber donut’. Magnesium uprights, titanium hubs. ATE aluminium brake calipers clamped ventilated iron discs. Wheels in mag alloy with aluminium lock nut. (Porsche AG)

The bodies were developed in the wind tunnel…

917 cutway 1969 LH

Both short and long tails and were interchangeable, with the latter 236mph on the Mulsanne Straight was reached in 1969. The ’69 bodies were fibreglass which were bonded to the chassis and incorporated two seats and doors.

Stability of the cars was critical, front spoilers were fitted and a ingenious setup of mobile rear flaps connected with the rear suspension in such a way that if the suspension was compressed the flaps would create an aerodynamic force to raise the tail whilst if the suspension was extended, the flaps would angle up to push the tail down.

In 1969 these appendages caused major dramas, as only two weeks before Le Mans the FIA banned ‘movable aerodynamic devices’ on all racing cars, a consequence of many wing failures in F1.

As the 917 was almost undrivable without the flaps with which it was designed and homologated, the cars were allowed to race at Le Mans but the devices had to removed thereafter. 25 sets had been made to comply with homologation requirements but only 2 or 3 were used!

917 Wing flaps

Porsche factory drawing showing how suspension deflections actuated the rear wing flaps, from full to no downforce. Movable aero devices banned by the FIA from the end of Le Mans ’69. Changes to bodywork design obviated the need for the flaps in both short and longtailed forms in 1970/71. (Porsche AG)

porsche 917 tail

’69 spec long and short tail comparisons. (Porsche AG)

Racing the 917…

The traditional Le Mans test weekend took place on the weekend of April 4 1969, the 917 making its public circuit debut.

Rolf Stommelen drove the car and achieved a speed quicker then the 908LH, (LH is ‘Langheck’ or Long Tail) on paper the car had potential but the handling and levels of stability were frightening.

917 Le Mans test weekend

The first public on circuit appearnace of the 917 was at the Le Mans test weekend in early April 1969. (unattributed)

Le Mans test weekend 917 in Paddock

Fettling the 917 at Le Mans test weekend. No amount of ‘at the track fettling’ would deal with the high speed instability the drivers were experiencing at the time. Body is fibre glass, bonded to aluminium chassis. (unattributed)

Spa 1969 917

First race apperance for the 917, Spa 1969. Gerhard Mitter and Udo Schutz shared the car but an engine failure early in the race meant only Mitter got a race drive. (unattributed)

After little testing, two cars were entered for the Spa 1000Km in May.

Jo Siffert and Brian Redman tested their 917 but chose to race a 908 and won the event from Pedro Rodriguez/Chris Amon in a Ferrari 312P and Vic Elford/Kurt Ahrens in another 908.

Gerhard Mitter started his 917, having qualified 8th but retired with engine failure on lap 1 having possibly over-revved the engine at the start. The 917’s were experiencing high speed instability, the very reason Siffert elected to race a 908LH.

917 Spa 1969

Mitter wrestles his 917 around Spas’ La Source hairpin, early aero with adjustable wings at rear and no winglets at front…compare front of the 917 at the Osterreichring below. ’69 cars exhausts exited from both the rear and aft of the doors. (unattributed)

Mitter and Udo Schutz won the next event, Targa in a 908, their were no 917’s entered on a circuit totally unsuited to them.

Frank Gardner 917 Nurburgring 1969

Frank Gardner and David Piper brought the 917 home for its first race finish at the Nurburgring 1000Km .(unattributed)

For Porsches’ home event, the Nurburgring 1000Km on 1 June they hired two hardened sports car professionals in Frank Gardner and David Piper to ‘bring the thing home’- that they did in 8th place having wrestled the unruly beast around 44 laps of the ‘Green Hell’, the Nurburgring.

Gardner was a noted test and development driver, Porsche were keen to get his views on changes to make the car competitive. The race was won by Siffert/Redman in a 3 litre 908 ahead of two other 908’s.


Gardner/Piper 917 ahead of the Hobbs/Hailwood Mirage M2/300 BRM DNF and Ortner/van Lennep Abarth 2000SP NC (Schelgelmilch)


Le mans start 1969 Siffert in lead

’69 LeMans start. Jo Siffert #20 908/2, Elford #12 917LH, Schutz 908LH, #7 Hobbs Ford GT40, #2 Bonnier Lola T70Mk3b Chev, #64 Hermann 908LH, #22 Lins 908LH…and the rest. (Porsche AG)

Le Mans 1969…

Other than more power, 580bhp and with the anti-dive geometry of the suspension reduced from 50% to 5% the 917 arrived at Le Mans as designed. Fortunately, as described above the cars were able to race with their adjustable rear wings. Commonsense prevailed from a safety perspective.

At Le Mans Porsche famously, very narrowly lost the race, the Herrmann/Larrouse 908LH being just beaten by the Ford GT40 of the ‘two Jackys’, Ickx and Oliver, winning in chassis ‘1075’ the same JW Automotive GT40 which was victorious the year before.

Elford retires 1969

The pole winning Stommelen/Ahrens 917LH retires on lap 148 with an oil leak, the car was hard driven, the teams hare. (unattributed)

Rolf Stommelen put his 917 on pole, outlining the cars potential but the car failed on lap 148 with an oil leak. Vic Elford qualified his car second, co-driven by Richard Attwood, the car led the race for 20 hours and did 327 laps- enough for 9th place, the car was not running at the finish having withdrawn with a cracked bellhousing.

John Woolfe’s car was destroyed in his fatal lap 1 accident, the car having qualified 9th in the hands of factory driver Herbert Linge. Car owner Woolfe started the race rather than the far better credentialled Linge…

elford 917 le mans 1969

Vic Elford in the car he qualified 2nd. He shared the car with Richard Attwood, they lead the race for 20 hours, DNF after 327 laps with a cracked gearbox bellhousing.(unattributed)

Le Mans finish 1969

Ickx wins from Hermann…the GT40 margin from the 908LH, 2 seconds after 24 hours despite losing 20 minutes in a long pitstop for the 908 to replace a front wheel bearing. (unattributed)

The First Win, Osterreichring 1000Km 1969..

Porsche did not take the 917 to Watkins Glen but were victorious again, Siffert and Redman winning in a 908 from another two 908’s.

Osterreichring start 1969

Starting grid Osterreichring 1000Km 1969. #29 Siffert/Ahrens winning 917, #33 Bonnier/Muller Lola T70 Mk3b Chev (2nd) #9Ickx/Oliver MirageM3 Ford (DNF). The 3rd placed Attwood/Redman 917 in white is behind Siffert. #42 Matra is Servoz-Gavin/Rodriguez (DNF)…and the rest. (unattributed)

The Osterreichring was the last round of the Manufacturers Championship in 1969 and a fast track, 130 mph average, well suited to the 917’s qualities.

And so it was that a factory 917 driven by Siffert/Ahrens beat Jo Bonnier/Herbie Muller in a Lola T70Mk3b Chev from Richard Attwood and Brian Redman in David Pipers 917K with Masten Gregory and Richard Brostrom 4th in the first of the 908’s.

It wasn’t the strongest round in terms of depth of entry of the 1969 championship but a win all the same.

Porsche 917 Spa Siffert 1969

1969 Osterreichring 1000Km winning Porsche 917K of Jo Siffert and Kurt Ahrens, the first of many victories for these fabulous cars. 4.5 litre Flat 12 at this stage. Early rear aero treatment clear in this Shell promo shot, in its first 2 races (Spa & Nurburgring) the car raced with a small fixed rear spoiler. Compare with the shot in ‘Etcetera’ below of the 1970 tail. (unattributed)

Siffert and Ickx Austria 1969 1000km

Jo Siffert leads Jacky Ickx, 4.5 litre Porsche 917 ahead of the 3 litre Mirage M3 Ford Cosworth. Osterreichring 1969. JW Engineering, the entrant of the Mirage would be contracted by Porsche to race and develop the 917’s in 1970 and 1971, becoming the dominant team…Le Mans excepted! (Unattributed)

Race Development, Testing and the 917PA…

Jo Siffert Porsche 917PA Bridgehampton 1969

Jo Siffert Porsche 917PA, Bridgehampton CanAm 1969. The race was won by Denny Hulme, McLaren M8B Chev , Jo finished 3rd. (Unattributed)

Whilst a short tail 917K won the Austrian 1000Km race against weak opposition, other than at Le Mans the cars were still uncompetitive. A mix of track, skid pad and wind-tunnel tests improved the car. The team stayed on in Austria to test improvements to the car after its victory.

The 917 was modified in its aerodynamics by having the waistline of its doors raised and raising the tail to give the car more of a wedge shape. The changes increased drag but critically improved downforce and stability, the rear flaps now long gone. The aero changes were partially attributable to JW Automotive, who were to race the car on behalf of the factory the following year, the aero changes alone improving lap times by 4 seconds per lap at the Osterreichring.

Testing showed that wider wheels and tyres were quicker, as were stiffer springs, however the suspension geometry itself was unchanged.

The engine was largely as was albeit the exhausts now exited at the rear whereas at first the front cylinders gasses had exited via the doors. The Fichtel and Sachs clutch was replaced by a triple plate Borg and Beck item and the gearbox and clutch housing was reinforced to avoid the failures experienced at Le Mans.

To further test some of the changes made, an open car was built, designated the 917PA (PA ‘Porsche Audi’ the US importer of Porsche) for Jo Siffert to drive in the 1969 Can-Am series, late that year.

The 917PA competed in six races with its best results a second and a third, the car was ‘blown away’ by the 7 and 8 litre Chevs, Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme were dominant in their McLaren M8B Chevs. Valuable experience was gained for the 1970 Manufacturers Championship as well as another tilt at the Can-Am series and information which would prove useful for Porsches’ successful assault on the Can-Am championship in 1972 and 1973 with the awesome, turbo-charged 917/10 and 917/30.

Porsche had a fantastic 1969 season winning all but Le Mans..the Manufacturers’ Championship, the GT Trophy and the Endurance Triple Crown despite not winning the most important race of the three…

For 1970/1971 Porsche changed their approach to racing the cars, the factory continued to develop them but the race organisation was contracted to JW Automotive and Porsche-Salzburg, but those seasons of success are another story- the seeds of dominance were sown in 1969.

Porsche 917PA and 917K late 1969

Porsche media day late in 1969, the Porsche 917PA CanAm car and 917K in shot…Brian Redman, Jo Siffert and Pedro Rodriguez in attendance. You can see the refinements to the rear bodywork of the 917K, reputedly ‘cribbed’ off the Lola T70Mk3b in shot, and also on the #23 1970 Le Mans winning car below…(unattributed)


Porsche kaleidescope le mans 1969

Porsche kaleidescope of 908 and 917 wings Le Mans 1969. See the text for the operation of these rear wing flaps, 25 sets made for homologation but only 3 or so actually used!. Flaps banned post Le Mans. (unattributed)

Porsche 917 at Le Mans

The original 1969 917 body in all its glory. #15 Linge/Redman/Lins car which tested but did not race at LeMans. Its a 917LH spec note front trim wings but lack of adjustable wing flaps @ rear. (unattributed)

917 cockpit

Porshce racing cockpits have always been about function…Momo steering wheel, lever for 5 speed synchro (sometimes 4) ‘box. Ally tube frames on floor visible. 6 point harness, minimalist instrumentation. (Geoff Goddard)

Jo Siffert Porsche 917PA Laguna Seca 1969

Jo Siffert being chased at Laguna Seca CanAm by Denny Hulmes’ McLaren M8B Chev, the dominant car of 1969. Porsche 917PA. Bruce McLaren won the race from Hulme, Jo 5th.(unattributed)

Hermann 917 1970

Quintessential 917K (short tail) 1970 spec car. Here the Porsche Salzburg Le Mans winning Hermann/Attwood car. Shot included to show the changes made to the cars body work very late in 1969; different door line, no exhaust exits aft of the doors, wedge shape and Lola inspired rear deck. (unattributed)

Larrousse Porsche 917L Le Mans 1970

For the sake of completeness the 917LH evolved into this bodywork in 1970…here the Martini Racing Team ‘Hippy Car’ of Larrousse/Kauhsen, 2nd at Le Mans 1970, compare and contrast the swoopy, curvaceous long tail body with the 1970 917K above. (unattributed)

Le Mans poster 1969


Vic Berris cutaway drawing, Porsche AG, ‘Cars in Profile Collection 1’ Paul Frere, Geoff Goddard, Rainer Schlegelmilch

Tailpiece: No time to admire the scenery for Gardner! 917/004 during Nurburgring 1000 Km practice in June…