1971 Season (Part V-I)
NINTH RACE: 24 HS. of LE MANS OFFICIAL TESTING , PRIOR TO THE 24 HS. RACE
April 17th and 18th, 1971
The traditional 24 Hours of Le Mans, are usually held in the month of June.
prior to the race, on April 17th and 18th the Le Mans Test Weekend took place in
which the following 917´s participated: : two 917K (#17 from
and #18 from the John Wyer-Gulf team) one 917LH (#21) entered by the factory,
and one 917/20 (#20) from the Martini Team
#17 was chassis N°052 Mg (Magnesium) and in this test weekend was driven by
Joseph Siffert and Derek Bell.
#18 was chassis N°016 and in this occasion was driven by Jackie
Joseph Siffert and Derek Bell
#20 was chassis N°917/20.001 and it was driven by Kauhsen and Siffert. This
particular car (#20) would be driven in the actual 24 hour race of 1971 at
the hands of Kauhsen-Jöst
#21 was chassis N°043 and it was tested by Jackie Oliver, Jo Siffert and
Gijs Van Lennep. This particular car would be driven in the actual 24 hour
race of 1971 with # 18 at the hands of Rodríguez-Oliver.
Here are some pictures that capture that test weekend. Note the air intakes above the roof . Click on pictures to enlarge. (Photos courtesy of Philippe Moriniere)
The four images above, were extracted from the book "Archives d'un passionné. Le Mans 1970-1980" by Michel Bollée. The author wrote, some years ago, a book about the 1000 km. of Paris.
Note of published in the magazine Parabrisas Corsa Nş269 under the Title:
"Like a diva that has already proven everything that she could give, and chooses the play of more exposure to say good bye to her public in a memorable “solo”, Porsche chose Le Mans to demonstrate the overwhelming superiority that puts them apart from the rest of the marques fighting for the World Championship of Makes"
Half a dozen of Porsche 917´s in modified version that included a flat nose cone a la 908/03 "Targa", long tail rear end with vertical fins maintaining a long horizontal wing, careened back wheels and an inexplicably homologated 6 litre engine, monopolized the greater amount of lead and ink, in the cover of the most important newspapers of the world in the last weekend, on the basis of speeding though the five kilometers of the Hunnaudieres straight at almost 400 km/h, turning everywhere like authentic "scalextric" slot cars and to win a race that already was "in the pocket" even before the start, due to the total absence of considerable opposition.
Jackie Oliver was in charge to show the intentions that Porsche had, when in the practice sessions he managed the best lap time clocked in Le Mans to the present day: 3m13s9/10 at 250.069 km/h average speed, and reaching, during night practice, the barbaric top speed of 396.004 km/h in the Hunnadieres straight, managing to shadow his famous co driver Pedro Rodriguez -star of the race- in the pre-race prognoses.
Elford, however, won the qualifying sessions with Team International
Martini’s 917, setting a lap time of 3m14s9/10 at 248.786 km/h
special 917´s which were going to dispute the race between
themselves, were those of Elford-Larrousse, Rodriguez-Oliver,
Siffert-Bell, Attwood-Müller and Van Lennep-Marko, whereas the only
non-Porsche machinery that had a slight possibility of obtaining the
triumph were, peculiarly, Ferraris that, although private entries,
were all transformed into 512M with the best spare available for that
model, arranged by the factory. Their more fierce drivers were paired
like this: Vaccarella-Juncadella with the Escudería Montjuich
machine, Parkes-Pescarolo with the Scudería Filippinetti car,
Posey-Adamowicz with one of the North American Racing Team cars, and
as a last minute entry, the other NART machine, driven by Donohue and
Hobbs, Sunoco drivers, that, with permission of Roger
to La Sarthe to help out with the anti-Porsche effort.
On June 12th, 1971 at exactly four o clock in the afternoon, the pace car led the way to the 49 cars that had entered the marathon, with Pedro Rodriguez taking the lead immediately, while the cars at the back of the pack, were still whirling trying to sort out the quite ridiculous chicane of the main straight. The pace imposed by the Mexican was not as expected, according to its previous declarations: "We are going to use the consistency as a basis of our performance for the 24 hours. This is an endurance test, not a Grand Prix". But Pedrito blasted away immediately, and it wasn’t long before he had built a solid advantage on Elford, Siffert and the rest.
After four hours of race, in which the abandonments were not important, and the Porsches ran in howling groups, almost in a demonstrative formation of their power, the meteorological services announced the rain possibility during the night; one of the most nervous moments seen at pit lane, happened when under the dark sky, every team was prepared to change -in record time- the dry wheels by apt rubbers to circulate under rain.
managed second place, but only while the German cars stopped in pits,
alas, when it was his turn for refueling, the slow pit crew of the
NART team -nothing to do with the matchless organization, almost
scientific, of Roger Penske´s crew- ended up not only losing the
accumulated advantages but allowing tenths of seconds until the car
was back on the track.
Siffert and Bell did
not have luck. After the first pitstop of the race, they managed to
lead the pack for a while during the second hour, but from there on,
they gradually started to lose ground due to inopportune pitstops, and
finally at the seventh hour of the race, the motor of the 917 could
not take more and abandoned.
Elford-Larrousse of Team International Martini had been doing a good race, based among other things on the refueling system that the team used.
the fifth hour of the race, Elford-Larrousse that were running third,
and Donohue-Hobbs had abandon the race with their motors burst by the
effort, hence the advantage kneaded by Rodriguez-Oliver (with lap
record scored by Oliver), was unbeatable by Attwood-Müller, who were
three o clock in the morning, while Pedro Rodriguez, satisfied,
savored a coffee back in the paddock, Jackie Oliver entered the pits
suddenly with a broken wheel hub, vanishing his teammate’s dreams of
glory. Half an hour later, Rodriguez would go back to the track with
the problem solved to try to recover some ground - they were sixth,
but it would stop later on, now definitively. The oil conduits were
broken flooding the cockpit and spilling hot oil everywhere; and with
the motor practically melted, there was no other alternative than to
To all this, Van Lennep and Marko had been gaining terrain on the leaders, and took the lead almost at the same time that Wyer´s mechanics pushed the broken car of Rodriguez-Oliver. From that moment on, 4:20 in the morning, and to the end of the race, those that in the end would be the winners, continued with the steady pace of the beginning, and thus without haste and pause, they managed to beat the average speed record and therefore, the distance traveled was the highest of the test, surpassing by four kilometers per hour and almost one hundred kilometers crossed, the numbers obtained by Foyt-Gurney back in 1967.
Gijs Van Lennep and Helmut Marko obtained, peculiarly, their first triumph in Sport, on the basis of running a steady - although quick- pace, and applying what the favorite Rodriguez had said that was going to do and didn’t do. On the picture above, we can see the galant winner, with the scars of a job well done,
In second place, and two laps behind the winners, were Attwood-Müller with John Wyer´s 917K #19. On the picture below, Team Wyer-Gulf staff members can be seen geting the cars prepared.
Le Mans however, has won very little. So it is that the confusion arises and instead of changing the rulebook forbidding those leviathans capable of speeds near 400 km/h, they think to destroy the Hunnadieres straight and to replace it by a winding section less quick than the infamous fastest straight of the championship. Little by little, Le Mans is becoming less like Le Mans to become a race as expendable as any other.
THE FAMOUS "PINK PIG"
this 917/20 of the Martini Team, Willy Kauhsen and Reinhold Jöst entered the
24 hour race. They abandoned due to injection problems.
THE ZITRO RACING TEAM / DOMINIQUE MARTIN TEAM 917
This 917K was driven by Dominique
Martin and Gerard Pillon. They abandoned due to gearbox problems.
Some drawings (courtesy of Philippe Moriniere)
|Drawings courtesy by Philippe Moriniere|
Some photos of Le Mans '71