The ink on the contract making John Wyer manager of Porsche racing for 1970 was barely dry when Wyer was stunned to find out his most significant opponent, in addition to the usual Italians, would be…Porsche. Austrian Porsche Konstruktionen, known familiarly as Porsche Salzburg, was the team of Louise Piëch, whose son Ferdinand (his grandfather’s namesake and Ferry Porsche’s nephew) headed the factory racing program. Despite Porsche Salzburg’s status as an independent, familial ties insured that Frau Piëch would receive new development pieces as soon as, and sometimes before, Wyer’s official factory team.
For most of 1970, this didn’t matter. Porsche Salzburg won Le Mans but Wyer’s Gulf Porsches dominated the season. The 917 won every major race entered save one: the Sebring 12 Hours during which a new and hastily developed larger front hub bearing failed on all cars entered. A Ferrari 512S, hastily developed to challenge Porsche in the 5-liter class, emerged victorious in Florida.
The display car was part of Porsche Salzburg in 1970. In 1971, 917-019 raced as a member of the Martini Racing Team, the new name Louise Piëch gave her organization following sponsorship from Martini & Rossi. Again, the Piëch team took Le Mans, the winning car driven by Helmut Marko and Gijs van Lennep and sporting numerous experimental features including a magnesium tube frame. And again, Wyer’s Gulf Porsche team dominated elsewhere and won the championship for the second consecutive year.
Marko and van Lennep raced 917-019 three times in 1971, although the results were not as fortuitous as they enjoyed at Le Mans. At Daytona’s 24 Hours, with Rudi Lins as third driver, a crash put the car out on the 462nd of 688 laps. At the Monza 100 Kilometers, a throttle linkage was the culprit shortly after mid-race. Engine failure put 917-019 out at Spa, its last race.
The car, displayed here in late 1971 configuration, is quite conservative given the raiment provided other 917s during the two championship years. A Martini car was modishly decorated in psychedelic colors. And for Le Mans, Porsche Styling painted an experimental 917/20 pink with dotted lines representing the various cuts of meat available from swine. It was named Big Bertha, the Truffle Pig of Zuffenhausen.
One can be cheeky when one’s a champion.
Photos – Peter Harholdt
Briggs Cunningham was one of the first to use two-way radios at Le Mans in 1950 by installing them in both the LeMonstre and the Petit Pataud. You can see both cars at Revs. Learn more