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  Porsche 917

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Click here to open the Porsche 917 gallery   
Country of origin:Germany
Produced from:1969 - 1970
Numbers built:25
Internal name:917
Successor:Porsche 917 K
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:September 09, 2008
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Click here to download printer friendly versionHomologation time
Although there were rumours about a large Porsche sportscar being constructed, there was no concrete evidence until the wraps were taken off of the 917 at the 1969 Geneva Motorshow. The stunned press realised a new class of racers was born. There was still a long way to go until the 917 could actually race at LeMans. When Porsche was first visited by the CSI homologation inspectors three cars were assembled, 18 being assembled and sets of parts for seven more were present. Porsche argued that they could easily build the 25 cars needed, but would then have to take them apart again to prepare the cars for racing. The inspectors refused to homologate the 917 and demanded to see 25 completed cars.

Porsche took the CSI's request very literally and set out to construct 25 cars. In a stunning three weeks the cars were completed, quite an accomplishment considering one engine alone took 160 man-hours of work to be completed. Porsche lined up the completed cars behind the factory for inspection by the CSI. As of April 1st 1969, the 917 was homologated. Ironically the 917's only true competitor, the Ferrari 512 S, was homologated a year later even though only 17 examples were completed when the CSI visited the factory.

Disastrous debut
What was feared from the outset came through, the Porsche 917 didn't work as well on the racing track as it looked to work on the drawing boards. For some reason the handling was terrible and many thought the 580 bhp engine was too much for the lightweight frame. At its competition debut at the Nürburgring 1000km in April 1969, all works drivers preferred the 908 over the 'unsafe' 917. Longtime Ferrari privateer David Piper was flown in at the last minute to drive the 917, which very carefully driven eventually finished eighth. Porsche searched frantically to figure out what caused the unpredictable and dangerous driving characteristics of the 917.

No solution was found yet, but Porsche persisted reasoning that LeMans with its long straights would better suit the 917. They were proven partly right, but it was not a 24 Hours race Porsche would like to be reminded of. Again none of the works drivers were willing to risk it all in the 917. Three cars were entered, with the Ahrens/Stommelen 917 qualifying on pole. Disaster struck when one of the 917s crashed out and killed its British driver. The two remaining cars continued and lead the race for a while, but both cars retired. The Ford GT40 again beat the Porsche 908, but by just 2 seconds, the closest margin ever. Much work was needed to fix whatever was wrong with the 917.

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  Article Image gallery (3) Specifications