1969 Season (Part III)
SIXTH RACE - 1000 KM. SPA FRANCORCHAMPS
DEBUT OF THE 917
did not come well prepared when the Stuttgart team, directed by Rico
Steinemann arrived at Spa in the middle of May 1969. Porsche
had chosen that 14.1 km long, super quick circuit to make the official debut of
the 917 that would compete in the Sport Class against the Lolas
and Ford GT40.
it happens quite often in Spa, rain watered down the tests for Porsche.
Due to that fact, the correct setup of the 917 was delayed for some days,
and everything had to be rushed. When Siffert went finally to track, it
declared to Steinemann "This car is not
only unstable, but it is frankly dangerous ". The 917
did not behave well in quick curves, and neither in straight line. "Seppi"
Siffert - only pilot who had the option to choose - chose to race the 908
Long Tail that had been already tested, and approved.
were in charge to try to tame the 917. All three 908´s were
equipped with Firestones, which gave better and safer directional control. As
for the 917´s, they kept faithful to the Dunlop, which made turning and
braking far better to the new car. The competition, like always, came from the
side of Modena. Once again in the 1969 season, Siffert was the one in
charge "to take" the Ferraris
Mitter/Schütz in practice (chassis 005)
Siffert/Redman (chassis 003) They did not start
test had hardly begun, and the only 917 began to show engine failure, as
a result of the extreme demand previous to the race, and Mitter
aggravated the proceeding when he had an off track and unaligned the direction
and the tires. A frequent driver error consisted in which, instead of changing
to fifth gear, the drivers engaged third gear, with the consequent, and
inadmissible over revving of the engine.
Ferrari were quicker than the Porsche 908 Long Tails, and the
Germans already knew it from the 24 hours of Le Mans tests. There
not only the Ferrari but also the Spyder Matra 650 had clocked
quite inferior times to those of Porsche. However, in Spa, Porsche
also took the victory and the people in charge had been again Jo Siffert-Brian
Redman. Before this reality, the team decided to go to next race, in Nürburgring
with the 908 Long Tails and a different aero package that improved the
drag coefficient considerably.
- The first race of a 917.
synthesis, Brian Redman took the Pole Position with a Porsche 908LH.
The race was won by Siffert-Redman with a 908LH, second place fell
for Ferrari, with Rodriguez-Piper’s 312P, and third,
fourth and fifth positions were for Porsche 908´s.
Porsche 908 LH Elford-Ahrens. They finished in the third place.
See the race standings
championship could be decided in this event. Of course, Porsche was there
taking all the precautions necessary to avoid failure in it’s home race:
917 had been improved. New springs, and reinforced shock absorbers were
incorporated, but the results were not better. The 917 was still an
extremely mediocre car under braking, and the solution had still not arrived.
All the team drivers wanted to win, and very specially in Nurburgring, where the
handling is fundamental part in the final result. Nobody wanted to sacrifice
itself to drive the 917, since their possibilities were very small. Hubert
Hahne and Dieter Quester (official drivers for BMW in Turismo
Group 2 and 5) came out to help Porsche. Both were confident and fast,
but their times were not the best ones. In addition, BMW did not give
them permission to mount the 917 the day of the race. Finally, Steinemann
managed to put David Piper and Frank Gardner at the wheel of the
almost five-litre Porsche. After the prescribed practice sessions, they
managed to qualify in eighth position, which indicated that the conduction of
the apparatus was indeed difficult.
the end, the Siffert-Redman duo take the win, and six 908 Spyders
were classified at the end of the race; with this victory, Porsche had
gained the title and just on time, because the series of triumphs was abruptly
interrupted at Le Mans.
908 Spyder in action with number one team driver: Joseph Siffert,
the most sensitive and versatile.
An unusual view of the Porsche 908 Spyder.
Click on the image to enlarge.
the 1000 km of Nürburgring, some works were made destined to
improve the performance of the 917. They consisted in adjustments in the
front suspension and modifications in the fuel system to surpass the
vaporization problem, caused by the exit of exhaust gases from the engine bay.
Le Mans '69 it can be said that nobody could take the triumph from
Porsche’s hands, and nevertheless it happened.
3-litre 908´s, the 917´s, along with official and particular
cars were sent, on June 14th, to what would be the most resonant
triumph of their trajectory. Records fell, the domination was at will, but
unexpectedly the fiasco began and three hours prior to the end of the race, the
only remaining Porsche in the race, Herrmann-Larrousse´s 908
was involved in a meter-to-meter battle against the Ford GT40 of Ickx-Oliver.
The almost 5-litre cars of Ford prevail over Porsche’s 3-litre
engines and a few meters before the finish line, the incredible thing happened.
As it is known, the Ickx-Oliver duo took the win in a John Wyer sponsored Ford GT40.
Ickx/Oliver - Ford GT40 - The winners in Le Mans 1969
The Porsche team had to face some upheavals.
By the side of the 917, the 5 liters had disadvantages.
Elford gained the classification with a 917. Once in race, and after
a first lap with a great advantage in favor of Rolf Stommelen and its 917,
the young driver managed to stay in the lead during some hours, but after a
while, the clutch of its car was destroyed in regard to the effort. Vic
Elford´s 917 holded for 20 hours - according to Steinemann by
a more careful conduction – but couldn’t support the fatigue either. When
the clutch was dismounted, it was discovered that in addition the gearbox was
clutch problem was the following one: the spring was too tense when the clutch
begun to wear out. That is that, at the beginning, it worked perfectly, but
after certain use, the clutch boards suffered and begun to slide, destroying the
disc. In the 917 of Elford-Atwood there were also brake problems,
due to the poor ventilation of brake discs. The liquid had tendency to boil and
bursted a brake line.
A third Porsche 917, of a privately entered team, with John Woolfe and Herbert Linge at the wheel, made an excellent start, but soon, while it was Woolfe to the steering wheel, he lost control of the car in a curve and crashed.
Serie de fotos del 917 #10 y su malogrado piloto John Woolfe
The car was at that moment with the fuel tank almost full, which resulted in the car catching fire, and killing the driver.
vox-pópuli que los 917
eran máquinas muy indóciles y peligrosas por lo que la muerte de Woolfe
desencadenó una crítica de la prensa hacia la Casa Porsche, acusándola
de comercializar irresponsablemente un auto solo para expertos. A raíz de ésta
cuestión, los 917 recibieron los motes de "Fabricante de
Viudas", y "La Úlcera".
Porsche 908 Nº20 of Siffert-Redman during the tests of Le Mans. The model was specifically designed for this circuit.
Siffert and Brian Redman talking with Stirling Moss.
Both were the best drivers of the marque in 1969, and therefore those
that obtained most of the points for Porsche at the end of the
Elford-Attwood al mando de éste 917LH del Equipo Oficial Porsche debieron abandonar a poco del final por una rajadura en la carcaza de la caja de cambios.
Stommelen-Ahrens con el 917 #14 del Equipo Oficial Porsche. Abandonaron en la vuelta 148 por pérdida de aceite.
See the race standings
|to 1969 (II) Season