Update: If you enjoy this post be sure to check out History of the Porsche 917 Part II and History of the Porsche 917 Part III for even more info and vids. Ever since Porsche took the overall win at Sebring a few weeks ago, I’ve been exploring the history of Porsche racing more and more. Out of my research has come a fascination with the Porsche 917. I am in love with both the aesthetics of this car and its impressive track performance capabilities.
So much has been written about these great cars, their development, their race history and the people responsible for them that I could never give them the proper respect they deserve in the format of this web-site. In no way is this meant to be a complete history of the 917. Instead, this is a multi-part story that should provide the casual enthusiast with enough background to pique your curiosity and links to resources where you can learn more.
Part I on the History of the Porsche 917
The 917 is best known as the race-car that put Porsche on the map in endurance racing with their first overall win(s) at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1970 and again in 1971. Based on the Porsche 908 and powered by a 4.5, 4.9 or 5.0 liter flat 12, air-cooled engine, the 917 posts performance figures on par with almost any race-car of the modern era.
We can thank the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI) as the catalyst for the creation of the Porsche 917. Looking to bring manufacturers who were currently building 3 litre motors for Formula One Racing into the endurance racing fold, the CSI opened enrollment to the World Championship of Makes for a 3 litre cars across a four year period from 1968 to 1971.
As there were very few manufacturers who could accept the challenge in the time frame provided, the CSI opened the category up to those 5 litre cars that would be able to meet the homologation requirements of at least 50 cars. This new group, known as Group 4, became part of the Sport category. Shortly thereafter, CSI reduced the minimum production requirements from 50 to 25 (at the request of Ferrari) so the 250LM could compete.
An Open Door for Porsche
This reduction in homologation requirements opened the door for Porsche. Although it would turn out to be extremely difficult and expensive, it was one of the best decisions Porsche made, with regard to racing, ever. The 917 was conceived, designed and manufactured in only 10 months time. This is an amazingly short period for the development of any vehicle, let alone one subject to the homologation rules of the time. The first 25 cars are pictured below:
Despite the 917’s short but storied history, its career as a racer did not start well. I’ll explore the beginning of Porsche's race history in the 917 more in-depth on my next post in this series. In the interim, please enjoy this great video that showcases just how amazing these cars truly are.
Porsche 917 and Making History at LeMans
History of the Porsche 917: Part II
Video History of Porsche Racing: History of the Porsche 917 Part III
Porsche 917 Celebrates 40 Years of Racing History
[Source: Porsche AG, Wikipedia, research-racing]