Rare Porsche 917, Last to Race at Le Mans, Poised for $5.4 Million Auction

Rare Porsche 917

Porsche’s iconic 917 holds an esteemed place in motorsport history, its presence in a collector’s lineup akin to a prized fossil in a museum. Just as the Tyrannosaurus rex reigns in the annals of natural history, the 917 commanded the racetracks with unparalleled power and performance.

A remarkable Porsche treasure is set to grace the stage at the upcoming RM Sotheby’s Monaco auction, hosted at the prestigious Grimaldi Forum on May 10 and 11. Emerging for the first time in over a decade, this particular 917K, possibly the ultimate iteration of the model, presents a rare opportunity for serious collectors or institutions to acquire a profoundly significant piece of Porsche’s racing legacy. With the potential to continue its illustrious career, chassis No. 917-K81 could prove a formidable contender in various historic race series under new ownership.

In 1969, Porsche unleashed the 917 with ambitions aimed at conquering the World Sportscar Championship, crafting 25 examples initially for homologation. Harnessing the 5.0-liter regulations, Porsche engineered a potent 4.5-liter flat-12 engine, evolving through the 1971 season to the 917K (Kurzheck, German for “short tail”), boasting up to 630 hp. Subsequent 917 models, tailored for the Can-Am series, emerged as entirely different beasts, exemplified by the 917/30’s staggering 1,100 hp output.

Chassis No. 917-K81 distinguishes itself not only through its illustrious pedigree and pristine condition but also as the final 917 series contender to grace the revered 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit. Reappearing on the scene after a decade-long hiatus from endurance racing, the 917 seized the opportunity to compete in the 1981 event, capitalizing on a brief window of eligibility before the advent of Group C regulations in 1982.

Constructed by Cologne-based Kremer Racing under Porsche’s auspices and factory backing, this vehicle benefited from state-of-the-art chassis schematics and a duo of Type 912 flat-12 engines specifically developed for the 917. The decade gap between chassis No. 917-K81 and its predecessors endowed it with unparalleled competitiveness, leveraging cutting-edge tire technology and aerodynamic advancements.

During the 1981 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, drivers Bob Wollek, Xavier Lapeyre, and Guy Chasseuil piloted the car to a commendable ninth position before an unfortunate collision with a back marker caused an oil leak, leading to their retirement after seven hours. Subsequently, the car participated in the 1981 Brands Hatch 1000 Kilometers with Bob Wollek and Henri Pescarolo behind the wheel. Despite leading the race midway, Wollek retired the car nine laps later. While the 917’s official racing career drew to a close, it etched thrilling chapters in motorsport history. With an estimated auction value of approximately $5.4 million, the fate of this legendary 917 awaits the decisive strike of the auctioneer’s gavel.