Thursday, November 08, 2007

The stars of the show...

...were, officially and unofficially, several examples of Porsche's Type 917 racing car. The paint scheme on this example will be familiar to the few people who remember Steve McQueen's 1971 movie Le Mans, in which he played the role of a Porsche racer...



All 917s used various versions of a 12-cylinder engine, designed in the same fashion as a normal Porsche (or VW Beetle) engine. Initially, it developed roughly 600 horsepower but later, when turbocharging was added, the flat-12 put out as much as 1500 horsepower for short bursts, but was normally restricted to "only" 1000 hp...



This was a car capable of nearly 250 mph; it was very sensitive to aerodynamics. Many different body designs were tried to make the car driveable. Some were successful, and some were not. From all accounts it was always a "nervous" car to drive...



There were essentially two version: the 917/10 and 917/30, with many individual variations and modifications. The 917/30 was longer, one way it was hoped the car could be made easier to drive. Both coupe and open ("Spyder," in Porsche-speak) versions were built. The open cars raced most often in US events, and did extremely well...



The driver of a 917 Spyder didn't have too many distractions. He didn't need any; the car provided plenty of distractions as it was...



But the most famous of all 917s for Americans would be this 917/30, with which the late Mark Donohue dominated the Canadian-American Challenge racing series in 1973. After it was essentially legislated out of contention by the series rule-makers, Donohue drove it one last time in 1975, taking it to what was then a closed-course speed record (over 221 mph) at Talladega Speedway in Alabama.



Those 917 drivers I've talked to loved the cars, but were very careful about describing "good" qualities beyond massive power. One often heard words such as "frightening" when they were in a position to be candid about these monsters.

Take heart: there are only two more entries to come regarding my Daytona trip....

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

....waiting:)

Bud

MrScribbler said...

Bud -- Hang on, it'll all be over soon!

John said...

What a great entry. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the above.

DAL said...

Wowsers. More Porsches than you can shake a checkered flag at.