Porsche 917 KH - 24H Le Mans - 100th Anniversary - 1971

By Automobilist

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In 1971, the Porsche 917 KH in Martini livery won the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans race, setting two records with a distance of 5,335 kilometres and an average speed of 222.3 km/h. Driven by Gijs van Lennep and Helmut Marko, the car featured tail fins on both sides, giving it more directional stability and reducing drag. The car was also the first Porsche to race with a magnesium space frame, a material that was considerably lighter than aluminium, allowing for a 55-litre oil tank.

Despite not being the fastest Porsche 917 on the day of the race, the car held a secret advantage with its magnesium-alloy tubing, which was lighter and stiffer than the aluminium norm. Even the drivers were not aware of this advantage until after the race. The car faced mechanical problems during the race, including a broken cooling fan and cracking brake discs, but the team overcame these issues with innovative solutions, such as changing one bolt at each pit stop to replace those on the cooling fan. In the end, the Porsche 917 KH in Martini livery won the race and set a record that stood for almost 40 years, cementing its dominance over this era of motorsport.

Today, the Porsche 917 KH is revered as one of the most iconic race cars of all time. It was building upon the success of its 1970 predecessor, the famous car that brought Porsche its first overall victory at the world's most gruelling race. Setting an impressive record for decades to come in the prototype racing series, the car's racing achievements and bold design makes it one of the most recognizable racing cars of the last century.

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