Porsche 911 – the unlikely comeback of the ’72 Le Mans class winner
Unparalleled Racing Heritage
If there is one manufacturer that requires very little introduction in motorsport terms, it has to be Porsche. The German marque has an overall competition record that is nigh-on unparalleled, with race wins and championship titles in practically every major category and event that one could care to mention.
However, one competition that has been especially graced by the Stuttgart manufacturer’s presence down the years is the incomparable 24 Hours of Le Mans. Porsche cars have claimed overall victory at the Circuit de la Sarthe’s most prestigious event no fewer than 18 times, well ahead of any other marque.
After a long absence from the top of the Le Mans 24 Hours winner’s rostrum, Porsche once again claimed overall victory in 2015 with the 919 Hybrid of Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb, with the same crew repeating the feat at this year’s event. But Porsche also enjoys a distinguished record in various other motorsport disciplines, ranging from the World Rally Championship to Formula One.
The largely untold story of a Le Mans legend
1972 may not strike many enthusiasts as the most obvious year to choose in any discussion of Porsche’s storied Le Mans past. After all, the discontinuation in Europe of the 5-litre prototype class had ended the brief reign of the marque’s all-conquering 917s that had claimed the top two positions in the previous year’s 24 Hours. It was instead left to the 908/01 LH-68 of Siffert ATE Racing Team – piloted by Reinhold Joest, Michel Weber and Mario Casoni – to claim the honour of the highest-placed Porsche in third, behind the two leading Matra-Simca MS670s.
But what of the second-highest placed Porsche in the event? That was the 911 2.5 S/T of Sylvain Garant, Jürgen Barth and Michael Keyser. An extremely rare factory racing version of the 2.4S, one of only 24 ever produced, the car had disappeared into obscurity for decades until earlier this year, when it was revealed that it had been extensively restored by Porsche Classic and put on display at the Essen Techno Classica show in Germany.
The yellow-liveried 911 was purchased by Keyser in November 1971 and saw service in the endurance world championship, including its victorious run at Le Mans that saw it placed in an impressive 13th overall. It much more recently came into the possession of an American collector who had it restored over a two-year period by Porsche Classic – and it’s fair to say on the basis of the vehicle’s pre-restoration condition that it has been on quite the journey over the last few decades.
From dilapidation to as-new condition once more
According to news reports, Porsche’s team quickly discovered a litany of problems with the old 2.5 S/T, not least a frame that had been subject to a serious impact and “unprofessionally” bent back into shape, as well as significant metalwork corrosion issues and even a battered roof due to children jumping up and down on it.
Alongside the fitting of a new roof, Porsche Classic’s experts rebuilt the old girl’s unique flared wheelarches by hand and had the body repainted in its original code 117 shade, as part of what we can only describe as one of the most spectacular restorations of a long-forgotten competition car that we have ever seen. Even its old livery has been fastidiously recreated, right down to the front-hood arrow decals, No. 41 decal and its other branded lettering from back in the day.
This ’72 Le Mans class winner could have been so easily lost to history. Instead, thanks to the care of its new owner and the sterling work of Porsche Classic’s restoration maestros, it will live on to be admired for what we all hope will be many more decades to come.
Sample the 911’s incredible racing heritage for yourself!
While we, alas, cannot offer to put you behind the wheel of this actual restored car – in any case, we suspect that its current owner who has ploughed so much money into it won’t want to take many risks – we can certainly give you an equivalent experience with our faithful replica of a ’72-spec Porsche 911.
The early ’70s was one of the most legendary eras for the 911, thanks to competition successes like the aforementioned, and when you take advantage of our Classic Porsche 911 Driving Experience here at U Drive Cars, you can enjoy six laps of our Heyford Park Circuit or Bicester Heritage circuit.
We really can’t think of many more exciting or better-value ways to sample the impressive specifications of a vehicle harnessing 230bhp and 209 lb ft of torque from a flat-6, 3200cc, 24v transverse engine.
Also boasting a formidable power-to-weight ratio of 190bhp/ton, a maximum speed of 153mph and a 0-60mph time of 5.6 seconds, this Porsche 911 lives up to the model’s hard-earned reputation as one of the all-time greatest driver’s cars.