Jo Siffert and Brian Redman win the 1969 Spa 1000kms in a Porsche 908.

Siffert / Redman take checkered flag in a Porsche 908 (908-025)

First Porsche race appearance of the Porsche 917 is no succes.

The Porsche works team brought 6 cars to the Belgian Ardennes for the 1969 Spa 1000kms. 4 of them were the Porsche 908LH, and 2 the brandnew homologated Porsche 917. Porsche wanted the get some race experience with the new Porsche 917, as 25 of them were waiting for customers to race them in Group 4.

Rico Steinemann, who was the successor of Huschke von Hanstein as the team leader had 4 of the most qualified teams at disposal. Vic Elford and Kurt Ahrens, Jo Siffert and Brian Redman, Rolf Stommelen and Hans Herrmann, Gerhard Mitter and Udo Schütz.

Jo Siffert leading the 1969 Spa 1000kms in Porsche 908 #25

Fastest practice time in Porsche 917

The 3 training days were characterized by intermittent rain showers. Jo Siffert had the fastest training time in a Porsche 917. However the duo Siffert / Redman preferred to start in a Porsche 908, because they believed the Porsche 917 was did not handle very well. This decision forced Siffert / Redman in the Porsche 908 #25 to start in 3rd position, after Paul Hawkins / David Prophet in a Lola T70, and Jacky Ickx / Jackie Oliver in a Mirage M2/300 BRM. One top one of the Porsche 917s suffered an oil-leak and was beyond repair. So, just Gerhard Mitter and Udo Schütz started the race in ne new homologated Group 4 Car, as their 908 suffered an engine failure in the final practice session.

The race

Hawkins led away in the Lola T70, chased by Siffert, Rodriguez and Jacky Ickx. He couldn’t hold the lead however and in the 3rd lap Jo Siffert took 1st position, with Rodriguez right behind him.  Even though Siffert knew the track very well, he couldn’t take a real advantage on Rodriguez.  There were lapping at an average speed of 230km/h, which was faster than the topspeed of other competitors. 

In the mean time had Gerhard Mitter blown the engine of the Porsche 917, by selecting 3rd gear in stead of 5th.  After 5 laps, Hans Herrmann drove in the pits with a punctured tyre. That meant a serious loss of time, and back in the race way back.

PORSCHE – 917-024 – n30 – 1000 km SPA 1969

 

The decisive moment

In the 8th lap, a decisive moment happened in the race. The 2 leading cars, Siffert in the 908 and Rodriguez in the Ferrari, were about to lap the Porsche 907 from Karl von Wendt as they headed to Eau Rouge. The latter was surprised to be lapped this early in the race.  Siffert could pass, Rodriguez failed to get through the closing gap, and collided with von Wendts Porsche 907 that rolled in a barrier. Rodriguez could get his car back on track, came in after 1 more lap.

Next to this minor accident, the Ferrari  had a far worse fuel economy. Rodriguez drove the maximum of the allowed time. David Piper, who replaced Chris Amon who didn’t feel well, took over the wheel of Rodriguez but he was about 5 seconds per lap slower than the Porsche 908 in which Brian Redman had taken over the wheel.

The 2 Porsches of Siffert and Vic Elford “leap-frogging” to improve Elford’s speed, hoping to catch up with Pedro Rodriguez.

In the closing laps, the Porsches of Siffert and Elford were in 1st and 3rd, even though Elford was lapped.  Rodriguez was about 20 seconds before them, in the same lap as Elford. The 2 Porsches “leap-frogged” to improve Elford’s speed and catch Rodriguez in the Ferrari. The gap went down to only 11 seconds when Elford got held up by some slower cars.  When he could get back behind Siffert, it was too late.

The race was thus decided to the disadvantage of Ferrari. At the finish line the gap to the winning Porsche was 3 minutes and 32 seconds. Siffert took checkered flag with about a lap advantage to Rodriguez / Piper. Vic Elford and Kurt Ahrens finished 3rd.

Pictures courtesy unknown and Ted Walker Collection