Grady Davis, John Wyer, Porsche 917: London 30 September 1969…

Posted: November 21, 2017 in Icons & Iconoclasts, Sports Racers
Tags: , , , , , ,

What a great commercial, symbiotic relationship it was between Gulf Oil Corporation and JW Automotive…

The success they achieved together with the Ford GT40 in 1968 and 1969 carried through into the Porsche years of 1970-1971 and beyond of course.

In 1968 the GT40, then getting long in the tooth, won the Manufacturers Championship and Le Mans. In 1969 the reliable old war-horse, again in Gulf-Wyer colours won at Le Mans, narrowly from the Porsche 908, undoubtedly the car of the year. It was one of the few races the 3 litre flat-8 Spyders and Coupes did not win- albeit not by much. The Jacky Ickx/Jackie Oliver GT40 ‘1075’, also the ’68 Le Mans winning chassis (driven by Pedro Rodriguez/Lucien Bianchi) beat the Hans Hermann/Gerard Larrousse 908L by only seconds, or around 120 metres after 24 hours of racing.

The Porsche 917, first raced in the Nurburgring 1000 Km in June, showed promise towards the end of 1969, winning the Osterreichring 1000 Km in the last Manufacturers Championship round on 10 August. It made sense for Wyer to race Porsche in 1970, and the German’s were happy to contract the racing of their cars to JW- with Gulf again providing commercial support. This event at the Carlton Tower Hotel i assume is the announcement of the parties plans for 1970.

JW were very successful in 1970, they won the lions share of the races- Daytona, Brands Hatch, Monza, Spa, Watkins Glen the Osterreichring and Targa, the latter won by a 908 Spyder. But they didn’t win Le Mans, nor did they do so in 1971.

In both cases Porsche Salzburg won the blue-riband endurance event. At the time JW signed with Porsche Wyer didn’t know about the Porsche family plans to cover its bases with two factory teams- Porsche Salzburg, owned by the Piech family being the other. Cunning plan. The right plan.

The car pictured at The Carlton is interesting to show the September 1969 917 paradigm, especially it’s aerodynamics.

Shortly after the JW engineers and drivers got hold of the 917, working with Weissach, the winning cocktail of changes which made the car so successful in 1970/71 was quickly determined.

One was a Lola T70 Mk3/3B type rear deck which cured the aerodynamic instability issue, the other involved changes to the suspension geometry both front and rear to both make good what was never quite right- and was needed anyway to suit the latest generation of wider and lower profile tyres to be used in 1970.

And the rest, as they say is history…

Compare the 1970 917K of Leo Kinnunen during the Brands 1000 Km with the 1969 917K spec of the original design shown in the brochure below. The Brands race is the one made famous by Pedro Rodriguez, who in this car mesmerised spectators and fellow drivers alike with his wet weather skills to win in this twitchy, difficult to master, high powered car (unattributed)

Photo Credits…

Wesley, Getty Images, Porsche AG

Porsche 917 in 1969…

Check out my article on the Porsche 917 first year of competition;

https://primotipo.com/2015/01/03/porsche-917-1969-the-first-season/

Etcetera: 1969 Porsche 917 ‘Sales Brochure’ in a mix languages…

Finito…

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