The 917 was developed by chief engineer Hans Mezger, but it was Ferdinand Piëch who pushed for a "powerful engine", and although pressed for time, Mezger did not disappoint. The car was fast. Faster than anything Porsche had ever tested on the race track. The 4.5 flat-12 engine - based on two flat-6 2.25 Porsche engines - was a monster with blistering acceleration and capable of top speeds well north of 300 km/h (186 mph). Unfortunately, the chassis and aerodynamics were not up to par and the car was still - to put it mildly - far from competitive, according to reports of drivers, keeping the 917 on the tarmac was a task similar to trying to steer a wild boar through an ice rink.
After a rough season of trial and error, they eventually did get it right. The 917K's change to a short-tail bodywork elevated the handling from blunt object to laser-guided missile, and at the 1970s 24 Hours of Le Mans, Team Salzburg's red and white trim #23 car, driven through the pouring rain by Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood, finally scored the first overall win. Porsche repeated the Le Mans victory in 1971, setting a total distance record only broken in 2010. Over the next years, many iterations of the 917 continued to race successfully and laid the groundwork for a series of endurance racers that would dominate the sport for decades. Here are four of its most notorious liveries.
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