The thin window of time between 1964 and 1971 provided a fantastic view of Porsche’s transition from sports racers with insufficient displacement to be consistently deadly, to the vicious, bloody-of-tooth-and-claw 917. The era of the fiberglass “plastic Porsches” began at Sebring in 1964, when one of the new 904 racers forced itself into the top 10, still relying on the old four cylinder Fuhrmann engine. In 1965, half of the first ten finishers were 904s, and the first of the 906s joined the ranks the next year. Sebring 1967 saw the successful entry of the two-liter 910s, followed in 1968 by the 907s, which claimed a first and second overall in that race. The following year saw a delicious mix of 907s, 908s, and the 906 of television funny man Dickie Smothers push their way into five of the first ten spots. Finally, as you no doubt know, 1970 marked the thunderous entrance of the 917.
The image this time, from the 1969 Sebring contest, shows the 907 driven to fourth overall by Alex Soler-Roig and Rudy Lins. Not yet working for Panorama, which required black and white images at that time and for some years after, I was free to shoot color at my discretion. Using an early SLR, a Pentax, with a 28 mm lens, I was learning the value of a dramatic low angle and the importance of a wide angle lens (great depth of field, interesting “distortion” up close, and the chance to get in front of other photographers using longer glass!)
Another lesson learned was to save even marginal images. They not only might possess some content unrecognized at the initial edit, but future evolution of technology can improve a borderline photograph. In this case, there was too much contrast between the part of the car in the sun and that shaded by the pit structure for the film of that day to deal with; transparency film was pretty unforgiving in its need to be correctly exposed, and automated bracketing techniques and HDR were 30 or 40 years in the future. Today, a careful scan of the original slide and some work on the digital result produces a more usable image; tomorrow it will be even better.
Constant innovation, attention to details, better results. Kind of true for both photography and Porsche’s racing program, isn’t it?