Porsche 917 Turns Forty; no Mid-life Crisis
It was the reason which technically forced Enzo Ferrari to sell most of his stock in Fiat in order to build a good-enough competitor in the form of the somewhat-similar 512 racing car. Manufactured in more than one body version in the course of the years, the 917 was transformed from a 520 horsepower track killer to a 1400+ horsepower madness-mobile.
Beside its unusual number of body versions, it also had an odd type on powerplant, especially for a Porsche. Its original 520 horsepower mill was an air-cooled, twelve-cylinder flat engine. It was Porsche's first ever twelve cylinder engine, configured in the trademarked Boxer style, with the crankshaft designating a 180-degree V engine.
The engine first had 4.5-liter cubic capacity which grew over the years. The car had a tubular frame built from aluminium, while the body was made from glass fiber reinforced synthetics. To be better suited for the demands of each different track on which it was about to race, the 917 had different body styles available. There was a so-called "short-tail" version for heavily-twisted racing tracks so that the car would have a high contact pressure to help it corner faster.
The "long-tail" version was obviously better suited for very fast circuits so that the model could reach higher final speeds. Also, for the CanAm and Interseries races, an open-air 917 Spyder version was developed.
Porsche 917 best ever racing season took place in 1970, when it won the Racing Series World Championship (or Markenweltmeisterschaft; try spelling that) taking nine out of the ten possible victories. In that same year, one of the most important motorsport victories was achieved on June 14, with the clinching of the Le Mans 24 Hours win. Happy birthday Porsche 917, here's to the next forty years of Porsche racing!
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