DARIO’S VERDICT ON THE PORSCHE 917K
“I guess this is the daddy of them all, the car. It has such a fearsome reputation, but then you get in and… look how reclined I am! Then you realise the back of the front wheels are right here [points at thighs] and my legs are a good bit that way, so they – well, my feet – are actually the first bit of crash structure, which is a little disconcerting.
“Then you look up and see this supposed roll cage – my bicycle has bigger tubes! And it’s a 250mph car – it’s terrifying. Then you start it with a key – no buttons, no histrionics, no fuel pumps to switch on – and the start key is drilled to save weight, which seems typically Porsche.
“The engine pulls like a locomotive, all the way up from zero revs, although there is a red line at 7000rpm. It pulls continuously and is just so tractable. And then you have this lovely gearbox, with the wooden gearknob – again to save weight. The car is dominated by its driving position – you are so reclined and really guide it with your wrists – you feel the movement when you accelerate and the car goes up like a speedboat, then you brake and it drops down and dives. You can control the pitch and how you enter the corner by how hard you brake, how late you brake and how long you stay on the brakes.
“You look in the mirror and remember the moment from Le Mans when Steve McQueen did that and you realise again what a special car this is. To be allowed to drive it today… it’s pretty cool.
“The brake travel was quite long, perhaps the system needed bleeding a little, and the same is true of the throttle. I think that was effectively a form of traction control in 1971 – it gave you more time to think about it!
“Steering weight wasn’t too bad – I think the diameter is about twice that of the 512S, so I guess Porsche was thinking more about driver comfort. It makes it easier to feed in those inputs and to get some feeling from the front tyres. It brakes very well – long travel, but the 917 stops on its nose. And it’s so settled in the fast corners, certainly compared with the shorter-wheelbase 512S. This car really loves those fast sweeps and you can see it being at home at Le Mans, though it’s probably a challenge through somewhere like the Mulsanne Corner. Down at Redgate you really have to wait for the car, with that big lump of an engine behind. Driving this thing in a 24-hour race? I’d have had a wee spin at it, although I’m not sure I’d have been brave enough to keep my foot down in some of the conditions. There’s no aero on it really, no drag, so it just keeps pulling and I think that’s why it was such a mighty weapon on the Mulsanne.
“I was fortunate enough to drive a 917 a few years ago – and getting back into one today is just as intimidating, just as much fun and just as much of a privilege.”
One of history’s most celebrated racing cars, from any domain
Engine: 5.0-litre flat-12
1969 Zeltweg 1000Kms Jo Siffert/Kurt Ahrens
1969 Kyalami 9 Hours Richard Attwood/David Piper
1970 Daytona 24 Hours Pedro Rodríguez/Brian Redman/Leo Kinnunen
1970 Brands Hatch 1000Kms Pedro Rodríguez/Leo Kinnunen
1970 Monza 1000Kms Pedro Rodríguez/Leo Kinnunen
1970 Spa 1000Kms Jo Siffert/Brian Redman
1970 Le Mans 24 Hours Richard Attwood/Hans Herrmann
1970 Watkins Glen 6 Hours Pedro Rodríguez/Leo Kinnunen
1970 Dunes Trophy, Zandvoort Gijs van Lennep
1970 Zeltweg 1000Kms Jo Siffert/Brian Redman
1971 Buenos Aires 1000Kms Jo Siffert/Derek Bell
1971 Daytona 24 Hours Pedro Rodríguez/Jackie Oliver
1971 Sebring 12 Hours Vic Elford/Gérard Larrousse
1971 Monza 1000Kms Pedro Rodríguez/Jackie Oliver
1971 Spa 1000Kms Pedro Rodríguez/Jackie Oliver
1971 Le Mans 24 Hours Helmut Marko/Gijs van Lennep
1971 Zeltweg 1000Kms Pedro Rodríguez/Richard Attwood
1971 Paris 1000Kms, Montlhéry Gijs van Lennep/Derek Bell
1972 Copa Brasil, Interlagos Wilson Fittipaldi