Total 911’s top six Porsche Le Mans victories
For Porsche this is undoubtedly the biggest week of the year, not because of a new model release or change in management but because of one motor race: the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Since its first participation in 1951 (just three years after 356 production began), Porsche has had continuous representation at the famous French endurance race making the Sarthe region the company’s second home.
To start the countdown to race day on Saturday, we’ve decided to pick our six favourite Weissach victories and, with Porsche enjoying a record-setting 17 triumphs at Le Mans we were spoilt for choice:
1970 – Porsche 917K (Attwood/Hermann)
“We weren’t meant to win Le Mans.” Those were the words of Richard Attwood when we spoke to the man who helped Porsche take its first overall triumph at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Faced with the new (and faster) 5.1-litre Porsche 917s of the Gulf-backed JWA squad, Attwood and Hans Hermann in their 4.9-litre Porsche Salzburg were at a significant disadvantage. However, the duo never put a foot wrong in difficult conditions to secure a dominant maiden victory.
1979 – Porsche 935 K3 (Ludwig/B. Whittington/D. Whittington)
Against the lighter, faster prototypes, the 930-based Porsche 935 struggled to be an overall contender, even in the hands of the factory. However, that all changed in 1979 with the Kremer Racing developed K3 version (featured in Total 911 issue 105).
Klaus Ludwig drove the no. 41 entry almost single-handedly through the pouring rain, putting the 935 out of reach, even when it suffered mechanical troubles on the Sunday morning.
1982 – Porsche 956 (Ickx/Bell)
After 1981, Porsche was already second on the all-time win list at Le Mans, sitting on six victories (three behind Ferrari). Despite its now-proven track record, no one was expecting the sort of dominance displayed in 1982.
Built for the new Group C regulations, the Porsche 956 missed the opening race of 1982 and didn’t win on its debut at Silverstone. However, at Le Mans, no one could get close to the factory Rothmans cars as they locked out the podium, Derek Bell and Jacky Icxk securing victory.
1985 – Porsche 956B (Ludwig/Barilla/Krages)
In 1984, the factory Porsche squad didn’t compete at Le Mans after a falling out with race organiser, the ACO. In its absence, a Porsche 956B still won in the hands of Joest Racing’s Henri Pescarolo and Klaus Ludwig.
The next year, the Rothmans squad was back with the new 962C however, incredibly, Joest Racing doubled up using the same 956B as 1984 (chassis no. 117). Ludwig, Paolo Barilla and Louis Krages won by three laps from another privateer Porsche 956.
1998 – Porsche 911 GT1-98 (McNish/Ortelli/Aïello)
The Porsche 911 GT1 project started in 1996 after the 993 GT2 proved unable to challenge for overall victory. The original GT1 came close to triumphing at Le Mans ultimately missing out to a Porsche-engined prototype.
After more disappointment in 1997, Porsche revised the 911 GT1 with a carbon fibre chassis and a new aerodynamic package. In the hands of Allan McNish, Stéphane Ortelli and Laurent Aïello the new 911 GT1-98 was the class of the field, leading home the sister car for a Porsche one-two.
2015 – Porsche 919 Hybrid (Tandy/Bamber/Hülkenberg)
After taking victory in 1998, the Porsche factory pulled out of frontline sports car racing until its return to the LMP1 class in 2014. While its Le Mans return two seasons ago ultimately ended in failure, last year the 919 Hybrid came good adding a historic 17th victory to Porsche’s Le Mans tally.
Entering three cars to increase its chances, it was the third entry of Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and F1 star, Nico Hülkenberg that took the chequered flag on Sunday afternoon, falling just a few laps short of setting a new distance record.