24 Hours of Le Mans 1970-2015 - 45 Porsche stories (5)
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24 Hours of Le Mans 1970-2015 - 45 Porsche stories (5)

The descendants of the 917, the first Porsche to win at Le Mans (in 1970), often aroused curiosity by their appearance and performances, like the 935/78.

Other than the presence of the 936 prototype that had already won at Le Mans in 1976 and '77, in the 1978 edition Porsche entered a spectacular extrapolation of its 935 which had appeared two years earlier based on the 911. Called the 935/78 and powered by a 3.2-liter turbocharged engine, it had a sloping hood and long rear reminiscent of 917 LH prototypes (or "Langheck" for longtail) from 1970 and 1971. Its shape and immaculate livery at the first free practice sessions earned it the nickname "Moby Dick," referring to the mysterious white whale in Herman Melville's book of the same name. It won its first race - the 6 Hours of Silverstone - with Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass at the wheel. Driven at Le Mans by the German duo Rolf Stommelen-Manfred Schurti, it finished eighth after various technical problems.

At these two circuits conducive to high speeds, the 935/78 gave impressive performances. At Silverstone, the pole position and the best race lap of Mass-Ickx was at only four seconds from those of James Hunt and his McLaren-Ford M26, victorious at the Formula 1 British Grand Prix at the same circuit the previous year! At Le Mans on the Mulsanne Straight (before the chicanes), "Moby Dick" clocked the fastest top speed of the 1978 24 Hours (366 km/h) and qualified in third position on the starting grid - making it one of the most fascinating Porsches ever seen at Le Mans.

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

PHOTO (Copyright - ARCHIVES ACO): LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, SATURDAY & SUNDAY JUNE 10 & 11 1978, RACE. The 935/78's top speed was faster than those of the Renault-Alpine and Porsche 936 prototypes in the fight for victory!