1969 Season (Part III) 





Things 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.

As 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.

Mitter-Schutz 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 #30  They did not finish

Mitter/Schütz in practice (chassis 005) 

Siffert/Redman (chassis 003) They did not start

The 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.

The 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.  

Spa 1969 - The first race of a 917.
In the photograph: 1º) Lola T70 MkIII Chevrolet of Hawkins-Prophet. 2º) With de Gulf's colours, the Mirage M2 300 of John Wyer Automotive (Ickx-Oliver). 4º) The 908LH of Elford-Ahrens  8º) The  917 of Mitter/Schütz (Porsche System Engineering)

In 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




The 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: Germany.

The 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.

In 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.


The Porsche 908 Spyder in action with number one team driver: Joseph Siffert, the most sensitive and versatile.

Click to enlarge

An unusual view of the Porsche 908 Spyder.

Click on the image to enlarge.

See the race standings



After 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.

About Le Mans '69 it can be said that nobody could take the triumph from Porsche’s hands, and nevertheless it happened.

The 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.

Vic 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 broken.

The 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.

"Automobile Historique" Magazine - Gentileza de Philippe Moriniere

Era 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"
(Ver en la Sección "NOTAS DESTACADAS", la nota aparecida en la revista "Club News" titulada con los motes endilgados a los 917).

Since the 908´s also underwent innumerable problems, Porsche left Le Mans without the result that they had hoped. The statistic indicates that Ickx-Oliver took the win with a Ford GT40. Herrmann-Larrousse finished in second place with a Porsche 908.

Porsche 908 Nº20 of Siffert-Redman during the tests of Le Mans. The model was specifically designed for this circuit.

Seppi 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 championship.

Click to enlargement Click to enlargement Click to enlargement

Porsche 917 #12 - Vic Elford/Richard Attwood

Porsche 917 #14 - Stommelen/Ahrens

Click para agrandar

"Automobile Historique" Magazine - Gentileza de Philippe Moriniere

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.

Previous tests
Previous tests
 See the race standings
to 1969 (II) Season

to 1969 (IV) Season

1953-1968 SEASON 1970 SEASON 1971 SEASON




Webmaster IngeWeb