50 years ago, Porsche won Le Mans for the first time
The beginning of an enduring love story
Motorsport is ready to get back to business after a long hiatus and as we look forward to the start of the 2020 F1 season and the (re)start of the 2020 Formula E season, I thought it would be nice to take a moment to celebrate a very special occasion.
Almost exactly 50 years ago (on June 14), Porsche won Le Mans for the first time, something it would then proceed to do again and again for the the next fifty years. The love story between Porsche and endurance racing has produced 19 overall victories and 108 class wins, thus making Porsche the most successful manufacturer in the history of Le Mans.
The journey was long and gradual. Porsche entered and won its first ever endurance classic race in 1951, with a 356 SL but for several years, until the late 1960s, the German brand kept its focus on smaller displacement classes. In 1969, they finished in second place, literally 75 metres away from first place in what remains, to this day, the closest Le Mans finish in history.
Finally, on 14 June 1970, they won. And they did big time, by grabbing first, second and third place with Richard Attwood and Hans Herrmann, at the wheel of a 580-hp Porsche 917K, Gerard Larrousse and Willy Kauhsen in the Martini Porsche 917 LH and Rudi Lins and Helmut Marko in the Porsche 908/02.
That was just the beginning. One year later, 33 out of 49 cars in the race were Porsches. In 1974, Porsche introduced the first turbo racer at Le Mans, the 911 Carrera RSR 2.1 Turbo and in 1976, the 936 Spyder recorded the first turbo victory in the history of the race. They kept on winning in the following years, including seven consecutive wins between 1981 and 1987.
In 1998, the Porsche 911 GT1 `98 was the first Le Mans racer built with a carbon fibre monocoque and carbon fibre brakes and in 2014, they introduced the Porsche 919 Hybrid, winning Le Mans in 2015, 2016 and 2017.