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[Car home race] Porsche is the most successful manufacturer in Le Mans history. They have won 16 championships (13 times as a manufacturer and 3 times as an engine manufacturer). From the first aspiration in 1970, to sweeping the field and setting a 7-game winning streak in the 1980s, to the 911 GT1 in 1998, after winning the 16th championship, Porsche resolutely withdrew from the major endurance races. Porsche has gone through a legendary road to Le Mans and stayed behind. A lot of timeless classic racing cars are off. Next, let us return to Porsche's prosperous years in Le Mans.


Entry background

In the early 1970s, Porsche relied on Group5 (GT) racing cars to get the first win in Le Mans. In the mid and late 1970s, Porsche dominated the Group5 (GT group) and Group6 (prototype car group) events. In the 1980s, more powerful and more expensive Group C cars replaced the status of GT cars, and Porsche’s Group C cars were undoubtedly the overlord of that era.

The economic crisis in the early 1990s caused major automakers to withdraw from the expensive Group C. To this end, Le Mans adopted low-cost prototype cars (LMP) and at the same time reintroduced GT racing cars based on mass-produced sports cars, and Porsche also performed well in different categories.

Although Porsche chose to withdraw from Le Mans in the late 1990s, after entering the new century, Porsche still achieved outstanding results in the LMP2 category. There are reports that Porsche will return to the Le Mans LMP1 group as a manufacturer team in 2014. Under the promotion of the new regulations, future Porsche Le Mans racing cars may use hybrid technology.


First taste of victory-the legendary Porsche 917

In the late 1960s, in order to limit the power and speed of the car's unlimited climb, the CSI (International Racing Committee) restricted the displacement of the Group6 (prototype car group) to less than 3.0 liters. But almost no team can accept this challenge. CSI therefore allows Group 4 (GT) cars with a displacement of 5.0 liters or less to participate, but the premise is that at least 50 cars are mass-produced. However, the teams still did not buy it, and CSI eventually reduced the minimum mass production number to 25 units.

At that time, the Porsche 908 car with a 3.0-liter displacement could not compete with the rival's large-displacement car (such as the 4.7-liter Ford GT40 Mk.I). In order to win the race, Porsche decided to build a new 4.5-liter displacement car based on the new rules. After 10 months of hard work, the Porsche 917 was finally born.

The Porsche 917 is a racing car built on the basis of the 908. The initial appearance of the two cars is very similar, but the 917 is equipped with a more powerful 4.5-liter 12-cylinder horizontally opposed engine, as well as more lightweight components, and the 917's chassis Very light at only 42 kg. At the Geneva Motor Show that year, the official price of the Porsche 917 was as high as 140,000 marks, which is equivalent to the price of 10 Porsche 911s.

However, production is still a problem. When Porsche was first audited by CSI, only three cars were assembled. Porsche explained that they had enough spare parts for 25 cars, but they didn't assemble them because they needed to be supplied for the competition. CSI does not recognize the reasons given by Porsche and requires them to meet the standard of 25 cars before they can participate. Before the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1969, Porsche finally hurried out 25 917s.

However, aerodynamic design flaws made this car a “widowmaker.” Although the 917's speed is 30 km/h faster than the previous Le Mans car, it is very difficult to maneuver at high speeds. In the Le Mans race that year, 917 successfully won pole position, but a tragedy was staged in the race. British driver John Woolfe crashed on the first lap of the race and was killed on the spot.

The problem of the 917 car comes from the tail. The “long tail” shape of the body design makes it produce a strong upward force on the straight. After finding the crux of the problem, Porsche decided to increase downforce at the expense of increased drag. The new car with a “short tail” has significantly improved stability. The new 917 is named 917K (Kurzheck), and some cars are also equipped with a 4.9L engine.

At the same time, another version of 917LH (Langheck) was born. This car has a unique “long tail” body, the rear wheel of the car is partially covered by the car shell, which can ensure very little resistance, but also has better handling than the 1969 version. The 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1970 ended in downpour, and only 7 of the 51 cars finished the race. The 917K changed to Group5 (GT group) won the first Le Mans championship for Porsche, and the runner-up was the Porsche 917LH.

In 1971, Porsche upgraded the chassis and aerodynamics of the 917 racing car. This year, the 917K successfully defended its title in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and set a total mileage record of 5,35.212 kilometers at an average speed of 220.1 km/h. This record was not broken by the Audi R15 until 2010.

In 1972, cars in the 5.0-liter displacement group were banned in Le Mans, so the Porsche 917 could no longer compete. However, as a legend, the Porsche 917 will always be at the peak of the history of motorsports. In addition, the movie star Steve McQueen (Steve McQueen) appeared in the movie “Le Mans” (also known as “The Speed”) in a Porsche 917. In 1997, the Porsche 917 was voted by fans all over the world as the greatest racing car of all time.

More champions-Porsche 936 and Porsche 935

In 1976, the grouping rules changed again. The new GT Group 5 car is derived from a production car, but it needs to be heavily modified and equipped with a high-horsepower engine; compared to the madness of the GT group, the new prototype Group 6 car is slightly mediocre and the power level is not outstanding. .

Porsche’s second Le Mans championship car was the Group6’s 936, which won three Le Mans championships in 1976, 1977 and 1981. Its design is derived from the Porsche 908/3 and is equipped with a 2.1-liter horizontally opposed 6-cylinder turbocharged engine with a power output of 540 horsepower. In the 1981 Le Mans 24 Hours, the 936 was replaced with a 2.6-liter engine with a power output of 635 horsepower. This car also uses many Porsche 917 parts, especially the chassis, suspension and brakes.

Porsche’s third Le Mans championship car is the Group5’s 935. The car uses a 911 (930) TURBO chassis and is equipped with a 3.0-liter horizontally opposed 6-cylinder turbocharged engine with a power output of 590 horsepower. The 935 K3 modified by the private team KREMER defeated all prototypes and won the 1979 Le Mans Championship.

Cartoon Wonders——Porsche 956 and Porsche 962

In 1982, the grouping rules underwent major changes, and the C group was a new prototype car group. The car in this category strictly limits the body size, and there is also a limit on the total amount of fuel used by each car in each race. In order to increase speed and save fuel, the design of Group C cars is mainly streamlined and adopts a new fuel injection system. On the basis of basically maintaining the original power output, fuel economy is greatly improved.

In response to the new rules, Porsche began to develop a new racing car 956. Except for the engine, the new car is completely different from the 936 that used many prototype car parts from the late 60s. The 956 abandoned the triangular frame structure that had been used, and instead applied a new monocoque design. In addition, the Porsche 956 also makes good use of the ground effect (the downforce generated is 3 times that of the 917).

The Porsche 956 has become the overlord on the field since its inception. Between 1982 and 1985, 956 won four consecutive Le Mans victories. In 1985, new safety guidelines (the pedal must be behind the front axle) caused Porsche to bring the longer wheelbase 962 to Le Mans. The front face of the 962 is slightly different from that of the 956. At the same time, the weight has increased from 840 kg to 900 kg due to the longer wheelbase.

The Porsche 962C lived up to expectations and successfully won the Le Mans championships in 1986 and 1987. In 1994, the Group C racing rules were cancelled. The 962 modified by the private team DAUER joined the GT1 group and won the Le Mans championship again. The Porsche 956/962 is definitely one of the most successful models in the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The dark horse of Le Mans-TWR Porsche WSC-95

In the mid-1990s when the GT1 racing car was in full swing, this kind of sports car with the performance of the C group prototype car once suppressed the LMP group prototype car. However, the WSC-95 developed by Porsche in cooperation with the private team JOEST and TWR is a dark horse. Without strong support from the manufacturer, it overpowered the GT1 car to win the Le Mans championship for two consecutive years.

TWR started the development of WSC-95 based on the 1992 Jaguar XJR14 race car, but the overall design of the new car needs to be revised significantly. In terms of power, WSC-95 is equipped with a 935 horizontally opposed 6-cylinder turbocharged engine used in the Porsche 956 racing car. This tried-and-tested engine is still up to the prototype of the 90s.

In a completely unremarkable situation, WSC-95 won the 1996 Le Mans Championship with its stable performance, leading an incredible lap ahead of the Porsche factory team's 911 GT1. In the second year, although Porsche stopped providing technical support to the Joest team, the two 911 GT1 Evos of the Porsche factory team were in good conditions and gave up the championship to WSC-95.

Unfortunate gift-Porsche 911 GT1

After the Group C cars withdrew from the stage of history, the 1995 Le Mans car was re-divided into four groups: LMP1, LMP2, GT1 and GT2. The first two are prototype cars, and the latter two are racing cars modified from mass-produced sports cars, and this grouping form is basically still in use today. Le Mans hosted the GT event originally to create a low-cost endurance race. But the Porsche 911 GT1 is a prototype racing car that complies with GT1 rules.

In 1996, the Porsche 911 GT1 was officially launched. It caused the GT1 race car to change from a low-cost race to a race for money among manufacturers. Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Toyota followed suit and launched prototype race cars with GT1 shells. After three years of battle, the Porsche 911 GT1 finally won the Le Mans championship in 1998, but at this time the GT1 has completely become a prototype car race. Following this was the modification of the competition rules, the GT1 prototype quickly disappeared, and Porsche also chose to bid farewell to the highest class of Le Mans.

Summary: Porsche has a very long history in Le Mans. In 1951, it first joined the Le Mans Series and won the championship. Porsche chose to withdraw from Le Mans in 1999, largely to shift its focus to the development of production cars. However, the spirit of racing represents the essence of the Porsche brand, and they will definitely return to this classic event. In 2008 and 2009, Porsche provided RS Spyder cars to customer teams and won the championship in the LMP2 race in the lower Le Mans category. Such positive signals give us reason to believe that it is only a matter of time before Porsche returns to the highest level of Le Mans as a manufacturer team.

In 2014, the Le Mans race rules will change again, and hybrid technology is likely to be added to it. We guess that Porsche will not miss this opportunity to develop the latest technology. And Porsche's new car may adopt green technologies such as the flywheel KERS system used on the 911 GT3 R Hybrid. However, Porsche's return to Le Mans may have some impact on Audi, which is also part of the Volkswagen Group, which has been dominating the LMP1 group for more than ten years. In the future, we may be able to see one of these two brands enter Le Mans LMP1 and the other enter F1.