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FEATURE: A look at Porsche’s 16 Le Mans wins

Speedcafe.com

Wednesday 11th June, 2014 - 9:51am

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The 1970 917k

The 1970 917k

Porsche has mastered the art of conquering the world’s most taxing car race.

After first taking the plunge at Le Mans in 1951, it would be another 19 years before the Zuffenhausen manufacturer took the chequered flag first.

As Porsche returns to chase further Le Mans 24 Hour success this weekend after last competing for outright honours when it finished 1-2 in 1998, Speedcafe.com looks back on its record 16 successes to date.

1970
917k (short tail)
#23
Engine: 12 cylinder
Capacity: 4494cc
Weight: 830kg
Top speed: 340km/h
Drivers: Hans Herrmann, Richard Attwood

As the successor to the 907 and 908, the 917 was initially powered by a 4.5-litre 12-cylinder motor producing around 560hp at 8,300rpm.

The new engine would accelerate the 917 to speeds just below 400 km/h – a huge challenge for the aerodynamicists at Weissach.

At Le Mans, the 917 leads at his first outing in 1969 until three hours before the finish – only to retire with clutch failure.

Porsche returns in 1970, and this time yields success. The 917K brings home the first outright win for Porsche.

Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood share the cockpit of the racer with its aluminium space frame under its thin plastic bodywork.

A long tail 917 also clinches second place overall.

In the sports car world championship, Porsche secures the title thanks to the seven wins of the now-dominating 917.

1971-winning 917k

1971-winning 917k

1971
917k (short tail)
#22
Engine: 12 cylinder
Capacity: 4907cc
Weight: 800kg
Top speed: 360km/h
Drivers: Helmut Marko, Gijs van Lennep

It featured an ultra light magnesium frame which proved to be a third lighter than its aluminium counterpart.

Only the #22 917 KH and the 917/20 with the starting number 23 were fitted with this frame.

Thanks to the lighter space frame construction, Porsche was able to specifically place ballast to lower the car’s centre of gravity.

The displacement of the air-cooled 12 cylinder increased by 400cc to 4.9-litres so that the engine now delivered a reliable 600hp.

1976 936

1976 936

New for Le Mans were the shark fins at the rear that had already been used in Monza which improved the directional stability at extreme speeds and reduced the drag by 11 percent, which resulted in lower fuel consumption and higher top speeds.

Van Lennep and Marko won with a record distance of 5335.16km and an incredible average speed of 222.30km/h. Both records stood for 39 years.

1976
936
#20
Engine: 6 cylinder
Capacity: 2806cc
Weight: 970kg
Top speed: 350km/h
Drivers: Jacky Ickx, Gijs van Lennep

The first race-worthy Porsche 936, called the ‘black widow’ within Porsche because of its matte black body, conducted tests in the second half of February on the southern French race course in Le Castellet.

Participation in the Le Mans 24 Hours was rewarded in June 1976 with a convincing overall victory for Jacky Ickx and Gijs van Lennep.

1977 936/77 Spyder

1977 936/77 Spyder

1977
936/77 Spyder
#4
Engine: 6 cylinder
Capacity: 2142cc
Weight: 740kg
Top speed: 360km/h
Drivers: Jacky Ickx, Hurley Haywood, Jurgen Barth.

The 936/77 featured a smaller body, lower, shorter and was further refined aerodynamically aerodynamically than its predecessors.

The engine now featured two turbochargers and delivered 20 more horsepower.

At one of the most dramatic races in history, Jacky Ickx, Jürgen Barth and Hurley Haywood triumphed against four Renault works machines and two factory-backed Renault powered Mirages.

Win #5 - 1979 935/K3

Win #5 – 1979 935/K3

1979
935/K3
#41
Engine: 6 cylinder
Capacity: 3000cc
Weight: 1025kg
Top speed: 350km/h
Drivers: Klaus Ludwig, Bill Whittington, Don Whittington.

Parallel to the factory in 1976, Kremer Racing had built a 935 K1, and in 1977, modified their customer 935 to the K2.

For 1979, they introduced the 935 K3 (for “Kremer Type 3”; the derivative of the successful K2).

Driven mainly by Klaus Ludwig, it won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979, beating all prototypes, in heavy rain, which is usually considered a disadvantage for race cars with windshields.

1981 2.6-litre 936

1981 2.6-litre 936

1981
936
#11
Engine: 6 cylinder
Capacity: 2.65cc
Weight: 1025kg
Top speed: 350km/h
Drivers: Jacky Ickx, Derek Bell.

Porsche combined the larger capacity turbo-charged six with the four-speed gearbox from the Can-Am 917.

The 936/81 Spyder of polesitters Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell controlled the race, claiming a 14-lap victory to start a remarkable stretch of domination for Porsche.

1982-winning 956

1982-winning 956

1982
956
#1
Engine: 6 cylinder.
Capacity: 2649cc
Weight: 855kg.
Top speed: 360km/h
Drivers: Jacky Ickx, Derek Bell.

The first race car to feature an aluminium monocoque chassis, the 956 used the same 2.65litre twin turbo engine as the 936 however everything else was new.

Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell led home a trifecta of 956s.

The 1983-winning 956 co-driven by South Australian Vern Schuppan

The 1983-winning 956 co-driven by South Australian Vern Schuppan

1983
956
#3
Engine: 6 cylinder
Capacity: 2649cc
Weight: 855kg
Top Speed: 355km/h
Drivers: Vern Schuppan, Al Holbert, Hurley Haywood.

Porsche moves to make the 956 available to customer teams with the model taking a stranglehold on the top 10 placings after 24 hours. The only non-956 was the ninth-placed Sauber-BMW.

Aussie Vern Schuppan, Al Holbert and Hurley Haywood took the win. It was not all smooth sailing with the winning car losing a door during the race which disrupted the air flow and impeded cooling to a cylinder bank.

The 956B winning in 1984

The 956B winning in 1984

1984
956B
#7
Engine: 6 cylinder
Capacity: 2649cc
Weight: 855kg.
Top Speed: 355km/h
Drivers: Klaus Ludwig, Henri Pescarolo.

The Porsche factory chooses not to compete after the belated rule change announcing a 15 percent fuel reduction.

Porsche set about optimising the engine then two months before the race the rule change was rescinded.

In the race Klaus Ludwig and Henri Pescarolo win in Joest Racing 956 which had beaten another customer-run 956 by two laps.

The 962C of 1985

The 956 of 1985

1985
956B
#7
Engine: 6 cylinder
Capacity: 2994cc
Weight: 850kg
Top speed: 350km/h
Drivers: Klaus Ludwig, Paolo Barilla, John Winter.

Hans-Joachim Stuck had clocked the fastest lap of Le Mans with an average speed north of 250km/h which stood as an ominous sign in qualifying.

But Klaus Ludwig would take his third outright victory in the 956B which had won the race the previous year.

The race would be the final 24 for 6-time winner  Jacky Ickx, who finished in 10th place.

1986-winning 962C

1986-winning 962C

1986
962C
#1
Engine: 6 cylinder
Capacity: 2994cc
Weight: 850kg
Top Speed: 350km/h
Drivers: Derek Bell, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Al Holbert

The new 962 debuts with the layout of the car seeing the location of the front axle drastically change while the wheelbase stretched to 2.77m.

Porsche claims outright win #10, with Derek Bell, Hans-Joachim Stuck and Al Holbert taking victory.

The Zuffenhausen maker would be responsible for seeing its marques claim nine of the top 10 places.

The 1987 962 took victory by 20 laps

The 1987 962 took victory by 20 laps

1987
962C
#17
Engine: 6 cylinder
Capacity: 2994cc
Weight: 850kg
Top Speed: 350km/h
Drivers: Hans-Joachim Stuck, Derek Bell, Al Holbert.

Jaguar’s XJR-8LM shaped as the car to beat. Ultimately Derek Bell, Hans-Joachim Stuck and Al Holbert claim victory but not before a bizarre lead up to the race.

It begins with the tests at Weissach when Stuck destroys Jochen Mass’s vehicle.

Mass then gets Stuck’s car at Le Mans.

Price Cobb throws another of the Porsche fleet away in practice when he writes the 962C off on a barrier.

Then soon after the start, Jochen Mass glides to a halt with engine failure caused by tainted petrol – a fate that would afflict many Porsche customer cars.

Stuck/Bell/Holbert continue with recalibrated electronics, but the work has cost them time in the pits.

During the night Stuck rolls off three consecutive stints to set up the win.

When a puncture results in a crash and a head gasket blows, two Jaguars are out of contention.

The third steers into the pits for a new gearbox.

The works-run 962C continues without problems.

The Dauer 962 thwarts the Toyota C90 effort by a lap

The Dauer 962 thwarts the Toyota effort by a lap

1994
Dauer 962
#36
Engine: 6 cylinder
Capacity: 2994cc
Weight: 850kg
Top Speed: 350km/h
Drivers: Yannick Dalmas, Hurley Haywood, Mauro Baldi.

New regulations see the 962C modified to comply with the new GT1 class. Porsche designed a Dauer 962 LM-GT.

A Toyota prototype appears set for the win but suffers gearbox trouble leaving Yannick Dalmas, Hurley Haywood and Mauro Baldi to claim Porsche’s 13th Le Mans 24 hour crown.

1996 ... the TWR Porsche WSC-95

1996: The TWR Porsche WSC-95

1996
TWR Porsche WSC-95
#7
Engine: 6 cylinder
Capacity: 2994cc
Weight: 885kg
Top Speed: 320km/h
Drivers: Manuel Reuter, Davy Jones, Alexander Wurz.

Between the Porsche factory and customer teams, the marque claims victory in all classes. Reinhold Joest took charge of the two former TWR WSC 95 prototypes that had been intended for 1995.

Joest modifies and optimises the aero with assistance from Weissach which propels Manuel Reuter, Alexander Wurz and Davy Jones to victory

Porsche’s two factory GT1 entries complete the outright podium.

WSC-95 wins

WSC-95 wins

1997
TWR Porsche WSC-95
#7
Engine: 6 cylinder
Capacity: 2994cc
Weight: 885kg
Top Speed: 320km/h
Drivers: Michele Alboreto, Stefan Johansson, Tom Kristensen.

Supported by the factory, Reinhold Joest returned with a freshened TWR WSC-95.

After a hard fought battle former Ferrari F1 drivers Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson along with Tom Kristensen take the win.

It goes down as the fourth triumph for Joest and the 15th for Porsche.

Porsche's last outright victory in 1998 when it fielded its last outright effort

Porsche’s last overall victory in 1998 when it fielded its last outright effort

1998
911 GT1-98
#26
Engine: 6 cylinder
Capacity: 3200cc
Weight: 970kg
Top Speed: 350km/h
Drivers: Laurent Aiello, Allan McNish, Stephane Ortelli.

An all-new car for the burgeoning prototype class is built. The 3.2 litre twin turbo six is positioned in front of the rear axle as with the 911 GT1.

Throwing concerted weight behind prototype programs are Mercedes, Toyota, Ferrari and McLaren.

With under two hours remaining Allan McNish is 44s behind the Toyota. With five minutes left McNish reports over the radio the Toyota is out of the running.

Porsche claim the quinella with Jorg Muller, Uwe Alzen and Bob Wollek finishing a lap down on the winning Porsche. The victory was Porsche’s 16th in outright competition at La Sarthe.

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