Goodwood Greats: Porsche 917K

19th May 2016
Henry Hope-Frost

“It looks like it’s doing 240mph whichever way you look at it, doesn’t it?” quips an onlooker as this magnificent and highly original Porsche 917K, the latest historic racing weapon to get the Goodwood Greats photographic treatment, is rolled out onto the start/finish straight on the eve of the 74th Members’ Meeting. And it’s impossible to disagree.


Resplendent in its original Gulf Oil livery, with those simple yet seductive powder-blue-and-orange colours, this 4.5-litre, flat-12 prototype, chassis 013/34, dates from 1970 – the first of two seasons in which the German machines dominated the Manufacturers’ Championship. 

Built by the factory, this 917 ‘Kurz’ (short-tail) was run by John Wyer’s JW Automotive team – the works-blessed, British-based squad – during 1970 and 1971.

Used in practice for the Daytona 24 Hours, its first race outing came at the Sebring 12 Hours. Pedro Rodriguez, Leo Kinnunen and Jo Siffert took fourth place on the bumpy Florida airfield circuit – on a day when Ferrari took what would be its only win of the season.


The car’s first claim to infamy came during the filming of Steve McQueen’s racing flick ‘Le Mans’. David Piper violently crashed the car during a high-speed sequence, the veteran British privateer racer losing a leg in the accident.

Lovingly rebuilt by Porsche in time for the 1971 season, and wearing chassis plate 034, the car made a successful return to action by winning the opening round of the World Championship, the Daytona 24 Hours. Pedro Rodriguez and Leo Kinnunen took victory in Florida, with a one-lap advantage over the Ferrari 512S of Ronnie Bucknum and Tony Adamowicz.


Throughout the rest of the 11-round series, this potent projectile won three of the great 1,000km races – at Monza and Spa (with Rodriguez and Brit Jackie Oliver) and at the Osterreichring with Rodriguez and Richard Attwood, the man who’d given Porsche its first Le Mans win a year earlier. That Austrian success would be the last at World Championship level for the 917, although 013/034 did win the non-championship Paris 1,000km at Montlhéry, courtesy of Englishman Derek Bell and Dutch ace Gijs van Lennep.

‘Our’ 917 then went into hibernation for a few years, thanks in no small part to the regulation change at the end of 1971. No longer eligible to race in the Manufacturers’ Championship, due to an engine-size cap of 3-litres, the Group 5 prototypes had nowhere to go, with many of them ending up with private collectors and racers. And that’s what happened to 013/034: Aubrey Finburgh took the car under his wing and it has remained in the family ever since. When not getting an enthusiastic airing at events, like it did at the 74th Members’ Meeting, it lives in a Belgian museum during the winter.

Proudly shown off at the Festival of Speed every year since the event began in 1993, 917K chassis 013/34 is surely one of the finest examples of one of the finest sports-prototypes that ever raced. If you’re old enough to have seen this fast and fabulous machine in period action, lucky you!

Photography by Tom Shaxson and Pete Summers

  • Porsche

  • 917

  • Flat-Out And Fearless

  • brian_redman_targa_florio_24051606.jpg


    Brian Redman Serialisation – Tackling The Targa

  • porsche_917_10_laguna_seca_helmet_cam_26102018.jpg


    Video: A Porsche 917 helmet-cam is real exhilaration

  • porsche-917-30-sunoco-77-members-meeting-main-goodwood-20122019.jpeg

    Andrew Frankel

    The Porsche 917/30 was the best car I drove in 2019 – Thank Frankel it’s Friday