917 Exhibition – Where it all began
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917 Exhibition – Where it all began

917 could be described as Porsche’s second “golden number”, coming six years after the 911 hit the world’s roads and racing tracks.

In 1968, the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI, the FIA’s predecessor) overhauled the World Sportscar Championship regulations and cut the 50-car homologation requirement to just 25 units for the Sports class (5-litre sportscars). This decision spurred Porsche’s project 917, which aimed to build a vehicle specifically to take overall victory at Le Mans. At the time, it was a bold gamble for the marque, which had not missed a single 24 Hours of Le Mans since 1951.

The engineers thus set to work and, in less than a year, came up with an extraordinary car – the now iconic 917. It was a tour de force of automotive design and construction, with 55 mechanics split into 13 teams sparing no effort to build 25 cars on time.

The 917 first went on show to the public at the Geneva Motor Show on 13 March 1969. It was a car quite unlike any other: low, lightweight (800 kg, including an aluminium tubular frame weighing in at less than 50 kg), aerodynamic, powered by Porsche’s first ever 12-cylinder engine (a 180° flat-12 delivering over 580 hp) and, from the outset, designed for one mission: winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

A month later, on 20 April, 25 freshly-built 917s were displayed in front of the Porsche factory for the CSI’s inspectors. The car was officially homologated on 1 May 1969, just a month and a half before the 37th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans where there were three 917s on the grid. None of them made it to the finish line, but the car showed outstanding potential, taking pole position and the lap record, and holding the lead for much of the race. Powerful confirmation of the car’s potential came in 1970 and ’71.

The '917, made for Le Mans' exhibition tells the story of one of the greatest machines ever built to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Authentic 917s can be admired in an outstanding setting at the Museum until 10 January 2021.

Crédit photo : Remi Dargegen/Porsche Museum