1970… the first overall victory for Porsche at the Le Mans 24 Hours

Hans Herrmann takes checkered flag at the 1970 Le Mans 24H, the first overall victory for Porsche at Le Mans

Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood win the 1970 Le Mans 24 hours in a Porsche 917

1969 had been a little disappointing for Porsche at the Le Mans 24 hours.  The closest finish ever of the 24 hours endurance race at the Circuit de La Sarthe. After spending the final hour-and-a-half swapping the lead,  it was Jacky Ickx who took checkered fag  in the Gulf Wyer Ford GT40. There was only a minor difference of a few seconds to Hans Herrmann‘s Porsche 908. That was the closest finish ever at the Le Mans 24H race. Porsche did everything to make 1970 the year of the revenge, and take home victory of the Le Mans 24 hour race.

The Porsche 917 #23 (Hans Herrmann / Richard Attwood)

A strong Porsche armada at the start

For the 1970 season, it was the John Wyer Automotive that ran the Porsche works car. Chief engineer John Horsman had  turned the unhandable Porsche 917 into a car with much more downforce. That made the car extremely fast too. No less than 7 Porsche 917s were at the start of the 1970 Le Mans 24 hours. 3 of them in the well known Gulf Livery, 2 of the Porsche Salzburg Team, owned by Ferdinand Piech The Martini Racing team entered another Porsche 917. The last Porsche 917 was a private entry by David Piper. Obviously Ferry Porsche wanted one of his cars to win the race. Not only because he was allowed to wave the starting flag in recognition of 20 consecutive years of participating at the race. He just wanted to wipe away the disappointment of 1969.

Vic Elford in the Porsche 917 #25 leads Jo Siffert in the Gulf Porsche 917 #20

The race

Vic Elford started the race in pole position in the Porsche 917LH #25, followed by the Ferrari 512S of Nino Vaccarell.   Jo Siffert started in 3rd position in the Gulf Porsche 917 #20. After a few laps, 3 Ferraris and 4 Porsches were leading the race.  But soon 2 of the Ferraris fell back. Vaccarella had engine problems, and Arturo Merzario had troubles with vibrating wheels.  From then on it was a continuous swapping of the lead by Jo Siffert and Vic Elford in their respective Porsche 917KH and Porsche 917LH.

Both the race and the rain that continued to fall down  took its toll on the competitors. Nothing else for the Porsche armada. with all three Porsche 917s of the Gulf team gradually dropping out. Vic Elford recalled how it was sometimes impossible to overtake, even on the long straights. Kurt Ahrens described it as being like sitting in a boat. Hans Herrmann / Richard Attwood climbed up in the ranking as the race continued, after starting in 9th position. Under the most difficult weather conditions, he gradually moved his way up the field. Herrmann guided the Porsche Salzburg 917 confidently to the first ever overall victory for Porsche at Le Mans. Gerard Larousse / Willi Kauhsen finished second in the hippie-livery Porsche 917LH of the Martini Racing Team.

Celebrating victory after the race in a parade lap

Last race before retirement

Before the race, the wife of Hans Herrmann had asked when he would retire. His answer was : “when I win”.
Herrmann kept promise and retired racing. Back home in Stuttgart, his victory was celebrated with a parade. He drove his winning car through the city to the market square. Thousands of people turned out to congratulate Hans Herrmann, ex-racing driver.

Picture gallery of the 1970 Le Mans 24 hours victory of Porsche

Pictures courtesy Porsche AG and unknown