24h Le Mans
06/07/2019 - 10:01

The Porsche 917 from the 24 Hours Museum at the Goodwood Festival of Speed

One of the most stunning gems in the 24 Hours Museum collection, the Porsche 917 LH is having quite the holiday. After being highlighted last week at the Chantilly Concours d'Elégance thanks to Gérard Larrousse, this weekend the car is in the U.K. for the Goodwood Festival of Speed, one of the most popular gatherings of vintage racing cars in the world. It will be driven by another Le Mans winner, British driver Derek Bell. Here's a look at the car's short but distinguished career at the 24 Hours.
The Porsche 917 from the 24 Hours Museum at the Goodwood Festival of Speed

In the genealogy of the first Porsche to win at Le Mans, this car carries the chassis number 917-045. Its racing career was extremely short, only taking the start in the 1971 24 Hours.

The 917-045 chassis was one of two 917 LHs (for "langheck" in reference to the rear portion of its body) fielded by the John Wyer's Gulf team. The car sported the racing number 17 and a livery in the oil company's iconic colours, entirely sky blue with the exception of orange on the cockpit and bonnet. The other 917 LH Gulf, the #18 shared by Pedro Rodriguez and Jackie Oliver, boasted a more traditional Gulf livery, sky blue with an upper orange stripe and was entrusted to Derek Bell and Jo Siffert. Siffert qualified the car in third position on the starting grid.

The British and Swiss drivers endured a white-knuckle race. Siffert held the lead in the second hour, but after that, problems snowballed. The 917-045 chassis climbed back to third position after ignition box troubles, but dropped to 14th after a changing out a hub carrier. Later, in sixth position, Bell and Siffert were forced to retire in the 18th hour with an oil leak.

PHOTO BELOW (Copyright - Archives/ACO): LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, 12-13 JUNE 1971. The Porsche 917 LH from the 24 Hours Museum in its original Gulf Oil livery.

After being repainted in the colours of Gérard Larrousse and Vic Elford's #21 car also from the 1971 24 Hours, the 917-045 was bequeathed to the 24 Hours Museum.

Initially, the colours of the #21 were the same as the 917-042 chassis, seen at the 1970 and 1971 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 1970, the car was fielded by Porsche Konstruktionen Salzburg and was given the number 25, shared by Kurt Ahrens and Vic Elford, who clinched pole position by exceeding an average of 240 kph. The car remained a serious contender for victory until it was forced to retire on Sunday morning at 08:30 with a failed engine. The 917-042 chassis had a role in Steve McQueen's film "Le Mans" driven by Herbert Linge.

PHOTO BELOW (Copyright - Archives/ACO): LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, 13-14 JUNE 1970. The liveries of the 917s fielded by the Porsche Konstruktionen Salzburg team included flames around the headlights and the Austrian flag on the fins of the rear spoiler.

The 917-042 chassis made its final appearance at Le Mans the following year with identical aerodynamics to the 917s of the Gulf team. Fielded by Martini Racing as the #21, the car was once again driven by Vic Elford, along with Gérard Larrousse. Second on the starting grid, it remained in the top 5 on Saturday until 21:25 with Larrousse at the wheel when the car experienced engine failure due to the rupture of a cooling turbine fixing bolt.

PHOTO BELOW (Copyright - ACO/Archives): LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, 12-13 JUNE 1971. For the 1970 24 Hours, the aerodynamics of the 917-042 chassis were significantly modified, just like the 917-045 shown further above. These two cars present today the identical livery of Martini Racing.

The 917-042 chassis on display at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart has retained its red, gray and blue Martini livery, while the 917-045 chassis from the 24 Hours Museum will reunite this weekend at the Goodwood Festival of Speed with Derek Bell, one its drivers at the 1971 running of Le Mans. This reunion will be yet another highlight of the museum's year after the 70th anniversary exhibition for the Ferrari's first win, and the current expositions for BMW's Art Cars and Bentley's 100th anniversary.

COLOUR PHOTO ABOVE (Copyright - Louis Monnier/ACO): GOODWOOD CIRCUIT (U.K.), GOODWOOD FESTIVAL OF SPEED, 4-7 JULY 2019. The Porsche 917 LH from the 24 Hours Museum will reunite with Derek Bell, one of its drivers at the 1971 24 Hours in the colours of Gulf Oil. Bell is also the winningest British driver at Le Mans with five wins (1975, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1987).