24 Hours of Le Mans 1970-2015 - 45 Porsche stories (15)
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24 Hours of Le Mans 1970-2015 - 45 Porsche stories (15)

Among the personalities that have made Porsche's history since its first win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1970, Hans-Dieter Dechent (1940-2014) holds a special place.

His name is little known to the public, but Porsche's history at Le Mans owes a lot to his capabilities as a PR man and outfit owner. Owed to Hans-Dieter Dechent is the partnership between Porsche and Martini. It began in 1968 when the CSI (Commission Sportive Internationale, predecessor to the current Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) authorized non-motorsports sponsorship (financial partners whose main activities are not linked to motorsports). The friendship between Hans-Dieter Dechent and Paul Goppert, head of marketing and public relations for the German subsidiary of the Italian spirits-maker, culminated that year in the first apperaance of Martini stickers on a competition Porsche.

Two years later was the birth of Martini International Racing Team, of which Hans-Dieter Dechent became the manager, definitively abandoning his activities as a driver. In 1970, he initiated what can be considered the first "Art Car" in the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Painted for the free practice in a mauve and white livery, the No. 2 Porsche 917 LH (long body) of Gérard Larrousse and Willi Kauhsen was given a touch of green the day before the race, at which it finished in second place. This 917, called "psychedelic," it became a legend like the sky blue and orange livery of the 917s of the Gulf team. The year 1971 saw the crowning achievement in Hans-Dieter Dechent's career: the 917 K (short body) Martini de Gijs van Lennep and Helmut Marko won at the 24 Hours, establishing a distance record that would not be beaten until 2010. But the cylinder gel of the 3-liter engines caused Porsche's withdrawal and ended the team. Martini reoriented its sponsorship activities to Formula 1 with Brabham, but nonetheless won two other victories with the Porsche 936 in 1976 and 1977.

Jean-Philippe Doret / ACO - Translation by Nikki Ehrhardt / ACO

Photo: Copyright - ARCHIVES ACO

Photo: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, FRIDAY JUNE 12 1970. A few hours after this shot, the team pulled an all-nighter the eve of the race to add the green colour to the white areas. The next day, this Porsche 917 LH took the start in its final mauve and green with white trim livery.