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1000 km Zeltweg 1969

Jo Siffert and Kurt Ahrens Jr were winning the inaugural race at the new Österreichring which was also the very first win for the new Porsche 917!

The win was quite a surprise even for Porsche as the 917 was still very troublesome and plagued with unstable handling. Porsche was still in the process to identify the source of the problems and there for they did not expect a win already in the 4th race.

Only after this race the solution was found in a different rear design. Compare it to today's known shape and you'll see the obvious difference.

In the following, read the race and training report as well as the 917 development milestones until that first win.

10. August 1969

Race Report

Sources: János Wimpffen: Time and Two Seats, Book I; Walter Näher: Porsche 917

Juan Manual Fangio had the honor to start the inaugurational race on the new Österreichring.

Jo Siffert grabbed the lead from Jacky Ickx's pole sitting Mirage-Ford on lap 4. Jo and Jacky stayed within 50 meters while trading the lap record back and forth. Finally, on lap 24 Jacky managed to get passed Jo and opened a sizeable lead.

When Kurt Ahrens took over from Jo after 38 laps the engine  wouldn't dare to restart for a mere eternity of more than 4 minutes (!) which caused a drop to P7. Kurt was fast in catching up and carved to P4 by half distance.

When turning over to Jo the engine was stubborn to fire up again but this time only for one and a half minutes. Still it meant a drop back in the lap charts. 

While Jo maintained a good speed the leading Mirage with Ickx/Oliver were secuerly leading the Matra of Perdo Rodriguez/Johnny Servoz-Gavin. But then, well into the second 500 km the Mirage of Ickx came swerving into the pits with a brocken steering column. Only four laps later, Johnny Servoz-Gavin accidently switched off his Matra instead of changing gears and crashed out.

Start:  Jo Siffert 

P4 to P2

Lap  4: P1

Lap 24: P2

Lap 38: Jo to Kurt

P2 to P7

Lap 78: Kurt to Jo

P4 to P5

Now, the good work of Kurt an Jo payed out as they found themselves leading the race in front of the Lola T70 driven by Jo Bonnier/Herbert Müller. The only remaining challenge was the question whether the engine would fire up at the pit?

And yet again, the engine trouble caused loosing the lead. However, Kurt was fast enough to regain P1 a few laps later. However, Porsche knew well that while the Lola could stay out without refuling, the 917 still had to stop one last time.

Kurt maintained a good lead of almost a lap when he brought in the 917 with just 13 laps to go. All eyes and ears where on Seppi's when he pressed the ignition button. To everybody's surprise the engine fired up instantly this time and Siffert was back on track.

After 5 Hours 23 Minutes and 36.98 seconds the very first 917 victory was reality when Jo Siffert happily crossed the finishing line.

Lap 109: P1

Lap 119: Jo to Kurt

P1 to P2

Lap 123: P1

Lap 157: Kurt to Jo

P1

Lap 170: Victory!

training Report

Source: Walter Näher: Porsche 917

As the new fast circuit was an excellent opportunity for the 917, Porsche brought two 917 Kurzheck along with three 908/2:

  • #010 works 

  • #009 entered by privateer Karl Freiherr von Wendt

8. August 1969, Friday training

#009 - Kurt Ahrens Jr.        23 laps

         - Richard Attwood      9 laps

         - Jo Siffert                   6 laps

#010 - Jo Siffert                 28 laps

9. August 1969, Saturday training

#009 - Kurt Ahrens Jr.        6 laps

#010 - Brian Redman         6 laps

         - Jo Siffert                22 laps

As usual Porsche negotiated with the still rather untamed 917 to get a stable drivers handling.

Jo Siffert was the most diligent driver during the training days. In order to compare the handling he had driven not only the two 917 but also all tree 908/02 (#002, #004 and #016) . With each of them he realised the fastest time.

 

The 917 #009 time was good for P2 on the grid. However, all his times were deleted after lengthy discussions with the race directors finding some paragraphs in the rules book.

 

Seppi didn't bother as he felt comfortable in a 917 for the first time and decided to give it a try. So he paired with Kurt Ahrens instead of Brian Redman to start from P4 in von Wendt's 917 #009.

917 Development milestones

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December 1968 - Zuffenhausen

19.02.1969 - Zuffenhausen

10.03.1969 - Zuffenhausen

12.03.1969 - Geneva

20.03.1969 - Zuffenhausen, 
                     Weissach

25.03.1969 - Zuffenhausen

29./30.03.1969 - Le Mans

Pre-Tests

19.04.1969 - Zuffenhausen

21.04.1969 - Zuffenhausen

08.05.1969 - Spa

09.05.1969 - Spa

10.05.1969 - Spa

11.05.1969 - Spa

1000 km Race

14.-17.05.1969 - Nürburgring
                            Südschleife

29/30.05.1969 - Nürburgring

1.6.1969 - Nürburgring

1000 km Race

09.06.1969 - Hockenheim

May/June 1969

11.06.1969 - Le Mans

12.06.1969 - Le Mans

13/14.06.1969 - Le Mans

24 Hours Race

30.6.-3.7.1969 - Nürburgring
                          Südschleife

Begin of the production

Porsche officially requests the homologation 

Porsche finishes the very first 917 #001

The first time ever that the 917 is revealed to the public at the International Geneva Motor Show

Porsche finishes the second 917 #002 and performs the very first function test.

It is assumed that Hubert Mimler, Head of the race workshop was sitting at the wheel that day and the followings to do initial test runs to prepare for the Le Mans pre-tests

Porsche finishes the third 917 #004

The first appearance on a race track under public eyes during the official Le Mans pre-tests. The appeared with a white Langheck body.

#002 (45) - Rolf Stommelen, 26 laps (350 km)

                 - Kurt Ahrens Jr, 4 laps (54 km)

#003 (46) - Hans Herrmann, 22 laps (296 km)

                 - Rolf Stommelen, 4 laps (54 km)

Rolf Stommelen realised the fastest lap time (3:30.700) overall. With a private Ford GT40 and a Lola T70 Mk.3B GT Chevrolet only four where entered in the P5 class. 

The engineers compiled a long list of findings to improve the cars.

Porsche officially finishes the production of the 25th Porsche 917 as requested by the CSI homologation 

All 25 Porsche 917 are presented to the FIA/CSI representatives (Delamont and Schmidt) by Dr. Ferdinand Piëch and the Porsche team

First rollout of a 917 at an official race during Thursday's training to the 1000km of Spa

#002 (31) - Jo Siffert, 8 laps (112.8 km)

Friday Training

#002 (31) - Jo Siffert, 9 laps (126.9 km)

                 - Brian Redman, 4 laps (54.6 km)

#003 (30)  - Vic Elford, 4 laps (54.6 km)

                  - Gerhard Mitter, 1 lap (14.1 km)

Saturday Training

#002 (31) - Jo Siffert, 7 laps (98.7 km)

                  - Brian Redman, 3 laps (42.3 km)

#003 (30)  - Kurt Ahrens Jr, 4 laps (54.6 km)

                  - Rolf Stommelen, 3 lap (42.3 km)

                  - Vic Elford, 4 laps (54.6 km)

                  - Gerhard Mitter, 3 laps (42.3 km)

Even though Jo Siffert was fastest overall with the #002 he gladly declined to start from pole position in the 917. Rico Steinemann gave Seppi the option to start with the 917.

He is cited with "No thanks"

 

"Siffert was frightening to watch in the 12-cylinder car. He needed the full-width of the Masta straight to keep the 350 kilometer-per-hour beast under some semblance of control. Yet the Swiss star turned in the fastest time of the eight hours practive session." 

Jo Siffert preferred to start only from 3rd position but with the proven 908 Coupe (#025). He and Brian Redman will go on to win the race anyways.

The #002 received starting number 30 over night with Vic Elford's time good for grid position P8. 
 

Finally, Gerhard Mitter was the very first driver to start a 917 in a race. However, he was back to the pits after just the first lap with a valve spring fracture

Porsche performs private tests (Versuchsfahrten) on the Südschleife to identify the cause of the instability

14.5.1969: #001 Kurzheck - Rolf Stommelen, 5 laps (38 km)

16.5.1969: #003 Kurzheck - Hans Herrmann, unknown laps

17.5.1969: #004 Kurzheck - Rolf Stommelen, 57 laps (439km)

Thursday and Friday training with BMW work drivers on loan

29.5.1969: #005 (63) - Dieter Quester, 5 laps (114 km)

30.5.1969: #005 (63) - Hubert Hahne, 7 laps (160 km)

                                    - Dieter Quester, 57 laps (439km)

                #004 (61) - Hubert Hahne, unknown laps 

A call from Munich ended the BMW driver's stints and Porsche had to fly in works drivers David Piper and Frank Gardner on Saturday

Although completely unprepared Frank Gardner and David Piper become the first driver to complete the first race of a 917. They finished 4 laps behind the winner on P8.

#004 61 - David Piper, 20 laps (457 km)

               - Frank Gardner, 20 laps (457 km)

The race was won by Jo Siffert/Brian Redman on Porsche 908/02 K #017

Porsche performs private tests (Versuchsfahrten)

#004 - Herbert Linge, unkown laps

The first 917 has been sold to a private team. The English amateur and British club racer John Woolfe proudly bought #005, the first 917 to be sold on the market

Wednesday training to the 24 Hours du Mans

#007 (14) - Rolf Stommelen, unkown laps

#008 (12) - Vic Elford, unkown laps

#006 (15T) - Hubert Linge, Briand Redman, Rudi Lins, unkown laps

#005 (10) - Kurt Ahrens, unknown laps, setting qualifying time 3:35.800 (P9) [Source: Kurt Ahrens]

                 - John Woolfe, unknown laps

                 - Digby Martland, 1 lap (13.5 km)

John Woolfe's usual Chevron co-driver, Digby Martland was too unnerved by the car's instability and stepped down in favor of Porsche engineer Herbert Linge.

Thursday training to the 24 Hours du Mans

#007 (14) - Rolf Stommelen, unknown laps

                 - Kurt Ahrens, unknown laps

#008 (12) - Vic Elford, unknown laps

                 - Richard Attwood, 3 laps (40.4 km)

#005 (10) - Herbert Linge, unknown laps

#006 (15T) - Hubert Linge, Briand Redman, Rudi Lins, unknown laps

None of the three entered 917 finished the race.

#005 (10) - John Woolfe, 1 lap (13.5 km)

#007 (14) - Rolf Stommelen/Kurt Ahrens, 148 laps (1993.4 km)

#008 (12- Vic Elford/Richard Attwood, 327 laps (4404.4 km)

Sadly, John Woolfe becomes the first ever victim in a 917 after he crashed heavily approaching Mason Blanche during lap one. The car was completely destroyed and John Woolfe, who never bothered to belt himself, was thrown out of the car and died in the helicopter en route to the hospital.

#007 was plagued with several problems. Changing the clutch kept the car a full 3 hours at the pits. Finally, after 14 hours it had to retire due to persistent clutch problems.

#008 was performing without major problems and even became the very first 917 to lead a race. It finally had to retire after 21 hours with a broken gear housing still in the lead by a margin of 6 laps to the later winner.

Porsche performs private tests (Versuchsfahrten) on the Südschleife to further improve the cars unstable handling. 

 

It has to be noted that Ferdinand Piëch personally invited the fresh Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx to evaluate the cars handling.

#006 - Hans Herrmann, Rolf Stommelen, Jacky Ickx, 1200 km

Source: FIA/CSI Homologation Appendix J

FIA/CSI Homologation Appendix J

Walter Näher, Porsche 917

Walter Näher, Porsche 917. page 186

Walter Näher, Porsche 917

Walter Näher, Porsche 917

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Pics © Gerard Rouxel

Walter Näher, Porsche 917

Walter Näher, Porsche 917

Walter Näher, Porsche 917

Peter Morgan: Porsche 917, The winning formula, page 10

János Wimpffen: Time and Two Seats, Book I, page 771

Walter Näher, Porsche 917

Walter Näher, Porsche 917

Walter Näher, Porsche 917

Walter Näher, Porsche 917

Walter Näher, Porsche 917

Walter Näher, Porsche 917

János Wimpffen: Time and Two Seats, Book I, page 782

Walter Näher, Porsche 917

10.8.1969 - Zeltweg
                   1000 km Race

First Porsche 917 Win!

See Race and Training Report above