Record-Setting Porsche 917 Comes To Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
- February 14, 2018
- Posted by Marc Enger
From 1971 Martini Racing’s Porsche 917K Le Mans winner became the speed standard against which all other Le Mans winners were measured: 138.089 mph average, covering 3314.124 miles, 396 laps of the 8.369 mile road circuit. A ten percent speed improvement in just one year. It was epic.
The Martini Porsche 917K spent long stretches at full throttle easily outrunning the camera aircraft that followed the 1971 24 Hour French endurance classic.
“Le Mans is the high alter of sports car speed,” said Bill Warner, founder and Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “In those days they raced side by side, day and night on two-lane country roads at speeds never seen at Daytona or Indianapolis.”
In 1971 Le Mans had no chicanes save the Virage Ford built after Dan Gurney’s and AJ Foyt’s record-setting 1967 victory. The 1971 winner gave away two liters of engine displacement to the ’67-winning 427 cubic inch Ford but that didn’t matter. The Martini 917K simply devoured Le Mans’ Mulsanne straight spending nearly a minute above 230 mph on each lap, day and night and day again on Le Mans’ two-lane French country roads.
For the first three hours of the 1971 24 Hours the Martini 917 ran fifth in a five car train that went absolutely flat out. Just before midnight the Ferraris and the Gulf Racing Porsches ran into mechanical troubles. With 12 hours to go the other highly touted teams began to fade and the Martini Racing pair of Dutchman Gijs van Lennep and Austrian Dr. Helmut Marko built a five-lap lead! Ultimately the pace was so brutally fast that only 12 of the original 49 starters finished.
The winning number-22 Martini Racing 917K that will appear at The Amelia on March 11, 2018 was delayed for only an extra ten minutes and eleven seconds to replace an alternator belt.
They ultimately built a seven lap lead and drove the rest of the race under strict orders. They conserved, slowing their pace, giving back five laps of their seven lap lead to the second place Porsche by 4:00 o’clock Sunday afternoon. It took nerve and careful planning to get the winning pace just right.
“Once they took the lead at just after 4:00 AM Sunday they never gave it up,” said Warner. “The story of the 1971 Le Mans is one of the grandest legends in motorsport. Amazingly, they probably could have gone even faster.”
That June weekend 47 years ago even winning drivers Marko and van Lennep were unaware that their Martini 917K was the first Porsche to race with magnesium space frame. The material is significantly lighter than aluminum. The 1971 Le Mans-winning 917K is so light that Porsche engineers fitted a huge 55-liter oil tank and only then did it reach the 800 kilogram (1760 pounds) minimum weight.
The car’s racing career was brief, meteoric and heroic. Finished on June 5th, it completed 552 kilometres in practice at Le Mans before the 1971 24 Hours. The record-setting victory marked the end of its racing career.
Still wearing Martini Racing’s signature red-and-double-blue stripes and their world famous bar-and-ball Martini insignia, the 1971 Le Mans winner will come to Amelia Island on special loan from the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart Germany as the centerpiece of The Cars of Martini Racing Class.
Tickets for the 23rd annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance on March 9-11, 2018 at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island are available now. Click Here for Tickets
Report by ameliaconcours.org