Porsche Celebrates 50 Years Of Le Mans Success
In the 97-year history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Porsche stands out as the most successful carmaker ever to take on La Sarthe, with 108 class victories and 19 outright race wins. But this weekend, June 13 and 14, it will celebrate the 50th anniversary of when its incredible success began, by displaying the original winning car at its Porsche Museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen.
On June 14, 1970, the Porsche 917 KH driven by Hans Herrmann, co-driven by Richard Attwood, crossed the finish line five laps ahead of the 2nd-placed Gérard Larrousse and Willi Kauhsen, also driving a 917 (a long-tail example entered by the Martini International Racing Team). The red-and-white number 23 had dominated the field for the entire race, as did Porsche itself: the marque finished 1-2-3 – Helmut Marko (yes, that one) and Rudi Lins finished 3rd in a Martini-entered 908/2LH – and of the 16 cars to make it to the end of the race, 12 were from the German automaker.
Before the event, Herrmann, at 42 and already a veteran in endurance racing and Formula 1, had promised his wife he would retire should he win the race. He kept his word, surprising the Porsche team after crossing the line for the final time. Meanwhile, Attwood found he couldn’t hold down food during the entire race weekend, and only later learned he had come down with the mumps.
Porsche would win the event the following year with another 917 KH, Marko this time doing the honors alongside Gijs van Lennep for Martini International Racing, while Attwood and new teammate Herbert Müller finished 2nd for JW Automotive Engineering. In 1976, Porsche claimed the event’s first victory with a turbocharged car with the 936 Spyder, which also won the next year. The carmaker took a record seven straight victories between 1981 and 1987, and four more in the 1990s before focusing on customer cars. A return with a factory team in 2014 with the 919 Hybrid brought three more overall wins in 2015, ’16 and ’17.
*Images courtesy of Porsche