PORSCHE: THE 917 DELIVERS
Should we be surprised or even
concerned that Porsche didn’t win
either of the 2017 FIA World Endurance
Championship’s opening races with a
fourth-year iteration of its 919 Hybrid?
Neither of the above – but
definitely intrigued by its tactics.
The 2017 WEC regulations allow an
LMP1 manufacturer to homologate
just two aero kits – as in, a low-downforce, low-drag kit for high-speed
Le Mans and a higher-downforce
version for the six-hour “sprints”
making up the rest of the calendar.
Porsche has chosen to delay
homologation of the latter until after
Le Mans, meaning it raced at Silvertone
and Spa with its low-downforce aero kit
– the aero equivalent of at least a finger,
if not a full hand tied behind its back.
So, it won’t be until the Le Mans test
day that we’ll see the 919s in a spec
optimized for the track they’re on.
Will the 2015- and ’16-winning
machine be a match for Toyota’s
TS050? Car vs. car, perhaps not, based
on the maturity of the 919 package and
the diminishing returns that Porsche is
seeing from its ongoing hybrid-system
development. But team vs. team –
that’s another matter entirely.
Porsche knows how to win Le Mans
– 18 times and counting – and how to
react in any given situation. Despite
having only two cars to Toyota’s three,
and despite the possibility they’ll be
starting the race from fourth and fifth,
don’t rule the Stuttgart marque out.
It will be in the frame as the clock
approaches 3pm on Sunday, June 18.
But whether that’s nipping at the
heels of a TS050, or serenely ticking
off the miles to win number 19, that
perhaps depends more on Toyota.
Porsche’s 919 is into season four of its
competition life. It ran in Le Mans spec
(ABOVE) in the opening two WEC races.
PROS & CONS
Wyer’s team had been contracted
to run a trio of factory 917Ks (two with
larger, 4.9-liter engines), having been
instrumental in its development, but
Porsche hedged its bets with a K going
to the factory-blessed Porsche Salzburg
team. In hindsight, a wise move...
JWA’s 4.9-liter cars qualified third and
fifth and Porsche Salzburg’s 4.5-liter K
was down in 15th, with Attwood and
Hans Herrmann sharing driving duties.
With a 917L on the pole and Ferrari in the
mix, too, it was shaping up to be a classic.
But heavy rain and heavy attrition took
care of most of the favorites before the
night was over, including every factory
Ferrari and all three JWA 917Ks.
As dawn broke, the Porsche Salzburg
917K was leading, followed by two – soon
to be one – of the L versions. With only
the weather to contend with, Attwood
and Herrmann cruised to the finish and
Porsche’s first outright Le Mans win.
So far, 17 more have followed...
Steve McQueen’s labor of love was filmed at the
’ 70 race – and several months after. McQueen’s
Michael Delaney drove the No. 20 JWA 917K.
“LE MANS,” THE MOVIE