Porsche and Le Mans
Some things go together rather well. Porsche and 'The 24 Hours of Le Mans' happens to be one of these instances, thanks to the Stuttgart manufacturer winning the prestigious endurance motor race an unbelievable 19 times, between 1970 and 2017, making them the most successful team ever.
Undoubtedly one of the most iconic car makers ever, Porsche know a thing or two about creating some of the most desirable road cars on the planet, and the legendary manufacturer also happens to be pretty handy on the race track too, which is evident in their racing achievements.
The image above shows six legendary cars that have all won The 24 Hours of Le Mans for Porsche, spanning many different generations. But how many of them made our list below?
Read on below to discover our 'Top 5 Porsche Le Mans Cars'.
5. Porsche 917/20 ‘Pink Pig’
In 1971, a year after the incredible Porsche '917 K' won The 24 Hours of Le Mans, Porsche caused quite a stir by entering the 917/20 a.k.a 'Pink Pig'. There are many variants of the 917, usually accompanied by a letter, such as the 917 K. The K was short for Kurzheck, which is German for 'short tail'. There was also the 917 L, meaning 'long tail'.
The 1971 917/20 combined high downforce and low drag to create a different looking 917. It appeared different to the 917 K of 1970 due to a wider chassis and a lower nose - thus reducing front end lift. Martini and Porsche have a history of creating iconic liveries sporting the classic Martini colours. The 1971 team was of course Martini racing, however, rumour has it that due to the car having porcine looks, Martini didn't want their iconic livery on the car.
Instead, in a strong and humorous nod to the pig-like design, the livery resembled a pig butcher chart, even being finished in the pink pig colour, helping it stand out even more. Unfortunately, whilst taking part in the legendary endurance race, 'Pink Pig' crashed out of fifth place after twelve hours. Despite its shortcomings, it is still one of the most iconic racing Porsches ever.
4. Porsche 911 GT1-98
Often recognised as the greatest road-going sports car available, the Porsche 911 has enjoyed a legendary history, so it was always going to make a great racing car.
The GT1 raced between 1996 and 1998. For the 1998 era, the GT1 was made from carbon fibre, to make it lighter than the predecessors which were made of steel. It also looks slightly different to previous interations.
The Porsche 911 GT1 may be a 911 by name, but its similarities to the standard 996 generation of 911 are few and far between.
It was 1998 when the GT1 first saw Le Mans success, winning thanks to superb reliability and a revamp of the car. Unlike the other 911 GT1 road cars (approximately 25) that were made for homologation purposes, a single Porsche 911 GT1-98 Straßenversion was created (road car). This is still owned by Porsche themselves.
3. Porsche 919 Hybrid
The Porsche 919 Hybrid has become a legendary racing car thanks to its dominance in the Le Mans 24 Hours, winning in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The 919 nomenclature is a nod to the legendary 917, which won Le Mans in 1970, and the Porsche 918 road car launched in 2013, meaning the 919 joins some impeccable Porsche creations.
This state-of-the-art racer is amazing in every detail. Despite being able to top 210mph along the famous Le Mans Mulsanne Straight, the 919's engine is pretty humble. There is no huge power unit here, amazingly the 919 uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, enhanced by a battery hybrid system to generate a total output of over 900bhp. The 919 is also wonderfully light, tipping the scales at 875kg (pre-driver and fuel load). This is thanks to the chassis and body being made with carbon fibre and aluminium ensuring strength and lightness.
With Porsche concentrating on Formula E from the 2018 season, technology changes and the absence of Porsche from the the LMP1 class since 2018, the Porsche 919 has established itself as a racing car legend.
2. Porsche 956
The Porsche 956 of 1982 became an iconic racing car after legendary racing drivers Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell took the famous Rothmans-liveried example to Le Mans victory in the same year. The Ickx and Bell pairing has become legendary, with the 956 and 962 cars following suit. After 1982, the Porsche 956 went on to win Le Mans in '83, '84 and '85 before the 962 (twin of the 956) won in '86 and '87, heralding a massive Le Mans 24 Hour dominance for Porsche.
The Rothmans livery became an iconic racing car livery, thanks to the dominating success, and of course the banning of cigarette sponsorship in motorsport, meaning the 'old school' sponsorships on racing cars are now seen as rebellious as they promoted 'unhealthy' lifestyles, which of course back in the day, were seen as cool.
Another reason the 956 was so cool was the legacy which it sparked. British racing driver Derek Bell is one of the most successful Le Mans drivers ever, taking top spot in '75, '81, '82, '86 and '87. All '80s victories were at the wheel of a Porsche and today you can buy a 911 GTS road car British Legends Edition signed by the man himself. The 956 then, started an important partnership with Porsche and one of Le Mans' greatest ever drivers.
1. Porsche 917 K
Taking victory for Porsche for the very first time at Le Mans in 1970, the legendary Porsche 917 had to take top spot in our list. The 917 came in many different versions. We have already mentioned the 917/20 'Pink Pig', but the 917 K was the spark for Porsche Le Mans dominance.
In the now famous red livery with white detailing, the 917 K was driven to victory by German racing driver Hans Hermann and British Racing driver Richard Attwood. It's worth noting that in the now legendary Steve McQueen film 'Le Mans', McQueen's character also drove a Porsche 917, in the signature Gulf livery.
Back to the Le Mans winner, the 917 K used a 4.5-litre Flat-12. A larger engined 4.9-litre 917 L had problems during the battle of Le Mans in 1970, leaving only 4.5-litre 917s in the race. Of the field of 51 Le Mans cars, only 16 were still running after 24 hours. Incidentally 12 of them were Porsches, including a camera car - this was the 70s after all.
Just like the 956 tribute 911 GTS, another British Legends Edition is available to commemorate Richard Attwood's success in the 917. Whereas the Derek Bell version is blue, to match the 956's blue Rothmans livery, Attwood's is red, to match the iconic 917 K 1970 Le Mans winner.
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