1970 Porsche 917K Le Mans star to be offered in RM Sotheby’s Auction

1970 Porsche 917K Le Mans star to be offered in RM Sotheby’s Auction

To any automotive or motorsport enthusiast, the 917 needs no introduction, though it’s the car’s short-tail coupe form that truly ignites the passions of Porsche enthusiasts most strongly. Commonly regarded as the world’s greatest sports car, boasting a near-perfect twelve-cylinder, air-cooled boxer engine capable of propelling the host Porsche to speeds in excess of 230mph, the 917 set a standard for design, engineering and sheer performance that took endurance sports car design to new levels and proved dominant over three incredible seasons of World Championship racing.

Chassis 026 was constructed as one of the three 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans race entries for the JW Automotive Engineering team and was distinctive for having a different version of the now iconic Gulf Racing sponsor livery — the car’s entire roof was sprayed orange, all the way down to the beltline, contrasting with the orange centreline stripe of its sister cars. Carrying race number 22, its driver pairing was David Hobbs and multiple World Champion motorcycle star, Mike Hailwood. In difficult, wet conditions, the car completed forty-nine laps, running as high as third overall at one point, but on the fiftieth lap, Hailwood regrettably aquaplaned and crashed, forcing retirement.

Following the event, 026’s chassis was repaired by the factory and subsequently renumbered 031, being re-bodied as a 917 Spyder with lightweight open bodywork intended to contest the 1972 European InterSerie Championship for Group 7 sports racing cars. In this form, the car contested the European race series by privateer, Ernst Kraus, making its debut on April 3rd that year in the 300km Goodyear PokalRennen at the Nürburgring in Germany.

Kraus raced the car extensively throughout 1972, before it was acquired by Georg Loos and his Gelo Racing Team. During the 1973 InterSerie Championship, the powerful Porsche continued to perform well against strong competition, achieving several notable results.

Following its eventual retirement from competitive racing in 1974, the open-top track attacker joined the prestigious Chandon Collection, where it remained until 1988. The car was then acquired by noted enthusiast and collector, Mike Amalfitano, with whom it remained until passing into the current owner’s care a decade ago.

Still in Spyder form, the car was promptly subjected to full restoration to original coupe specification, including a return of the famous John Wyer Automotive Le Mans Gulf livery. The restoration was executed without regard to cost and the results are impressive in every sensory regard, from the stunning design and paintwork to the unmistakable symphony of the flat-twelve at full chat, a sound unlike any other.

Now ready to go racing in historic championships, this historically significant Porsche is also recognisable for its appearances in the Steve McQueen motorsport movie, Le Mans, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year (read all about the cars, the stars and the making of the film in the current issue of our sister title, Classic Porsche, which you can order online by visiting bit.ly/CP20210607).

It isn’t often a Porsche with such exceptional provenance comes to market, especially one manufactured in such low-volume production as a 917, which is why the availability of this gorgeous Gulf-dressed short-tail is set to cause a stir when the car is presented for auction at RM Sotheby’s 2021 Monterey Sale, scheduled for 13th-14th August. For further information, and to register for bidding, visit rmsothebys.com today.

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