First Porsche victory in Sarthe
The 38th edition of the 24 Hours marks the start of a long series of successes for the Stuttgart brand in the most prestigious endurance race.
After four consecutive victories since 1966, the manufacturer Ford has withdrawn from endurance racing. In anticipation of Ferrari's great comeback, which had already won this race nine times between 1949 and 1965, it was finally Porsche who wins the event, as well as the fastest lap of the race. As a sign of fate, Ferry Porsche himself gives the start that year.
Porsche's twentieth participation in the classic endurance race of Le Mans brought the German manufacturer a victory that escaped from him by a small margin the year before, when the factory car 908 driven by Hans Herrmann (already!) and Gérard Larrousse finished second, barely a hundred meters from the victorious Ford GT40 ... For 1970, the starting grid included 51 competitors and was largely dominated by Porsche with 24 cars, Ferrari only entered half of it. The big clash between these two favorites turned, even before the halfway point, to the advantage of the German brand, which had already won the International Brands Championship.
The No. 23 917 LH from the Porsche factory team driven by Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood crosses the finish line victoriously. © IXO Collections SAS - All rights reserved. Photo credits © Archives & Collections
The forces at work
Of the 56 cars that were present at the weigh-in and technical scrutineering, only 51 were admitted to the start after the two practice sessions that took place on the previous Wednesday and Thursday. Porsche came out in force, with a multitude of cars entered by private individuals (mainly 911s and 908s), while the official cars, all 917s, lined up in two factory teams: Porsche Konstruktionen KG based in Salzburg, Austria, which is led by Louise Piëch and the English team John Wyer Automotive Engineering which won the two previous editions of the 24 Hours with Ford. Porsche Salzburg is lining up two cars: a 917 KH (n ° 23) short tail version (Kurz Heck) and a 917 LH (n ° 25) long tail (Lang Heck) which is preferred by engineer Ferdinand Piëch (the son of Louise) for its top speed. A second 917 LH (No.3) is also entrusted by Porsche KG to the International Martini Racing Team. Team Wyer only lined up 917 KHs (nos. 20, 21 and 22) considered to be more stable than the long versions. At Ferrari, all cars are 512 S, mainly aligned by the official Scuderia Ferrari (Sefac) (nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8), the North American Racing Team (nos. 10 and 11) and the Scuderia Filipinetti (nos. 14, 15 and 16), as well as by two other private teams (Escuderia Montjuich and Écuries Francorchamps).
Eleven Porsche 911s are entered in the GTS category race, including the one driven by Swietlik and Lagniez (not classified). © IXO Collections SAS - All rights reserved. Photo credits © Archives & Collections
The rain at the rendezvous
At the end of the tests, the Porsche 917 LH n ° 25 driven by Vic Elford and Kurt Ahrens took the pole position with an achieved lap time of 3'19 "80 at an average of 242.685 km / h. They are followed very closely by the Ferrari 512 S n ° 6 of Nino Vaccarella and Ignizio Giunti in 3'20 "00, as expected the duel at the top promises to be very close! For the 1970 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, that took place on June 13 and 14, the start was given in an unusual way. The cars are in fact now lined up along the pits with the engine off. The drivers are already installed at the wheel, whereas previously they had to join their racing car by running across the track. With the flag down, Elford is taking the lead, followed by Team Wyer Porsches, while at Ferrari, the n ° 6 gave up with a broken engine on lap 7! The Porsches will quickly gain the upper hand over their rivals, because at Ferrari it is devastating, with a series of accidents that put four cars (nos. 7, 8, 14 and 15) out of the race at the 4th hour. The rain indeed invited itself into the race and only the No.5 Ferrari of Ickx and Shetty managed to follow the No.20 Porsche of the Siffert-Redman team in the lead.
The 908/02 Lins - Marko crew finished 3rd overall and won the Performance Index as well as the Sport-Prototype class. © IXO Collections SAS - All rights reserved. Photo credits © Archives & Collections
Porsche über alles !
The latter led the race until the 12th hour, then abandoned on engine failure, just like their pursuer Jacky Ickx half an hour earlier. It was then up to Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood's # 23 Porsche to take over the lead. They didn’t leave this position until the finish line, in 2nd position was the # 25 Porsche from Elford-Ahrens until the 18th hour, followed by the # 3 from Larrousse-Kauhsen. For Porsche it is a total triumph with the three divers on the podium as well as twelve cars (including five classified) among the sixteen at the finish. Herrmann and Attwood covered 4,607.810 km at an average speed of 191.992 km / h and won the general classification, that of the Sport Group and the 30001 Class at 5,000 cm3. The Porsche finishing 2nd won the Energy Efficiency Index and the one that finished 3rd won the Performance Index, as well as the Sport-Prototype category and the 2,501 class in 3000cc. Moreover, before their retirement, Vic Elford and Kurt Ahrens had set the fastest lap in the race with a time of 3'21 "00 (241.235 km / h average).
1- Hans Herrmann - Richard Attwood (Porsche 917 LH / Porsche Konstruktionen K.G.)
2- Gérard Larrousse - Willi Kauhsen (Porsche 917 LH / International Martini Racing Team)
3- Rudi Lins - Helmut Marko (Porsche 908/02 / International Martini Racing Team)
4- Sam Posey - Ronnie Bucknum (Ferrari 512 S / North American Racing Team)
5- Hughes de Fierlandt - Alistair Walker (Ferrari 512 S / Écurie Francorchamps)
6- Guy Chasseuil - Claude Ballot-Léna (Porsche 914 / 6 / Ets Sonauto)
7- Nicolas Koob - Erwin Kremer (Porsche 911 S / Écurie Luxembourg)
The victorious crew
The two drivers who take the Porsche 917 to victory are experienced competitors. For the German Hans Herrmann (born in 1928), it was his 14th participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the last race of his career that began in 1952. At the time, he was the first driver to win all three major international endurance events: Le Mans (1970), Sebring and Daytona (1968). He was one of the pillars of the Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 team "Silver Arrows" from 1954 to 1955 alongside Juan-Manuel Fangio, Karl Kling and Hermann Lang. His teammate, the Briton Richard Attwood (born in 1940) lined up for the 7th time at Le Mans that year and he would participate also in 1971 (2nd) and in 1984. He also raced in Formula 1 from 1965 to 1969 on Lotus, Cooper and BRM.