As part of the grand celebration of the 917's 50th birthday, several major names were given the chance to parade some of the most iconic variants of the car at Goodwood's 77th Members' Meeting last month. One of those names was the affable and straight-talking Aussie who's done quite well at the top of the racing ladder for the last two decades: Mr. Mark Webber.
Barely fitting his lanky frame inside the cramped cabin of chassis #001, Webber explains how ergonomics weren't the top priority for the 917's engineers. An awkwardly placed wheel at a canted angle and a roof that forces the 6'2" Webber into the seat don't make for a comfortable jaunt around Goodwood, but he's pleased nonetheless.
Getting to sample a car with so much history is worth a little discomfort—even a few compressed discs. Prior to the event, 917-001 underwent a full restoration to the exact specification in which it left Zuffenhausen in 1969, bound for its international debut at the Geneva Motor Show. Having been thoroughly reworked, we can only imagine what it was like to campaign one of these cars at Le Mans; what it was like to drive one in the lashing rain for hours on end.
When asked if he'd liked to have raced one in its heyday, we get an answer that seems quite diplomatic from the typically blunt wisecracker. While he admits to wanting to, he implies the danger inherent in driving such a car—a car with the driver's feet well ahead of the front axle. Webber's seen some wild accidents in his 30 years of racing, and sensibly, he feels some trepidation at the thought of racing such a wild animal. It's hard to blame him.