The racing giant that was the Porsche 917 has earned itself the reputation of the best sports car of all time. Motorsport Magazine in 1997 called it “The Greatest Racing Car of All Time”. A group of motorsport journalists in 2000 at Le Mans pronounced the Porsche 917 as “The Car of the Century”.
With such a successful racing career, it is not too difficult to understand why the Porsche 917 is legendary and a well deserved acclaimed car.
Towards the end of the 1960′s, the F.I.A. made changes to the Groupe 6 category to reduce the capacity of the competing cars. Porsche, who had been regularly changing chassis design, took advantage of these changes and using the Porsche 908, developed the Porsche 917. They had one goal in mind, to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans outright.
Porsche built the 917 in just ten months and in March 1969 the 917 was displayed at the Geneva motorshow. It would cost the same as ten 911′s to buy the 917! In April of the same year, 25 Porsche 917′s were shown to homologation inspections all parked in a row outside of the Porsche factory. Porsche were set to enter the race series.
Porsche entered the 1969 season with the 908 cars, but by the 6th race, the 917 made its racing debut.
Porsche achieved its first overall wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the 917 in 1970 and then again 1971. The 917 was powered by the Type 912 flat-12 engine with capacities of 4.5, 4.9, and 5 litres. Performance was breathtaking – The 917/30 variant was capable of a 0-62 mph time of 2.3 seconds, 0–124 mph in just 5.3 seconds, and a top speed of more than 240 mph.
There were a total of six variants of the 917. Interestingly the least-powerful version is the 917K was porsches most successful 917. It produced around 620 bhp. By 1973 the turbocharged version Porsche 917/30 for the can-am series developed over 1,100 bhp, and as much as 1,580 bhp in qualifying set-up.
The 917 was incredibly successful in its short career. The 917 officially participated during three seasons (1969, 1970 and 1971) in a total of 21 competitions, winning in 14 of them, and being the runner up twice. It won 14 clasification tests and obtained various records, in particular the average speed and ammount of laps completed in the 1971 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which hasn´t been broken to this day. It also held the record for maximum speed of 396 kmh.
By the end of its racing career the Porsche 917 had totally annihilated all opposition from the likes of Ferrari, ford and Alfa Romeo. In the end its success would be its downfall and the F.I.A. changed the racing regulations, that would make 1971 the last year in which a 917 would ever race.