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Mister 1,000 hp and his Porsche 917

Racing drivers can be good lerned in PR-speak, even consultant commentators. But they frequency come conflicting as smart storytellers. One of a few exceptions is Willi Kauhsen. The 79-year-old is full of anecdotes from a time when sex was still protected and engine racing was dangerous. At times, a Aachen local has had whole parties in stitches with his anecdotes – peppered with a Aachen chapter “Öcher Platt”. Kauhsen not usually has a good feel for punchlines, though he can also make fun of himself. In short, they pennyless a cover when they done this former Porsche bureau driver.

Here is a story that is standard of Kauhsen. And of his clarity of irony and self-criticism. Between 1969 and 1973, Kauhsen was constantly contrast Porsche racing models, including, of course, a 917 Spyder, that constructed over 1,100 hp and after dominated a American CanAm array with Mark Donohue during a wheel. Kauhsen in his possess words: “Donohue was due to revisit Porsche for a initial time. we collected him from Stuttgart airfield and said: “You’ve been on your feet for 20 hours. You contingency wish to get to your hotel.” He looked during me indirect and said: “No. we wish to drive. Right now.” So we headed to Weissach. Mark put on his racing boots, his helmet – he didn’t even have any overalls! And – what can we say: He crushed my record after a few laps! I’d driven hundreds of laps and thought: “Nobody can go faster here!” we pronounced to a Porsche people: “If that’s a case, afterwards we give adult racing.” Well, he didn’t in a end.

Willi Kauhsen, 917 LH, 2018, Porsche AG

Willi Kauhsen is a smart storyteller

But we don’t wish to etch Willi Kauhsen as a small after-dinner speaker, though as a racing driver, exam driver, and group boss. The publisher Rainer Braun once dubbed him “Mister 1,000 hp”. And it is positively good since Willi Kauhsen cemented his repute in a Interseries and a CanAm array in cars with that turn of power. And he is closely related to one of a many impassioned racing cars of a 20th century – a Porsche 917. It is a ultimate automobile of his lifetime. So it is wise that Kauhsen has only built one of these mythological 917 types. Getting it prepared to foe has taken 6 years. And this heavyweight is now set to contest in a Le Mans Classic in early July.

Ralf Kelleners has subjected this princely racing car, that dates from 1969, to endless exam drives in Valencia and Barcelona. The verdict: a automobile runs fantastically. So there now exists – during slightest judging by a framework array (005) – a 917 with a flattering hideous history. The “005” was a Porsche in that a Briton John Woolfe was killed during a 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1969.

A tragedy

The tragedy occurred when Woolfe crashed into a barriers on a initial lap. The 917 afterwards rolled and held fire. Woolfe was killed instantly. He wasn’t wearing a chair belt. As a result, a “Le Mans Start” (the scurry from a conflicting side of a highway to a car) was abolished from 1970 onwards. Too many drivers set off though fixture their chair belts to equivocate losing too many time during a start of a race. This was finish recklessness, though also justification of a miss of reserve recognition on a partial of a sporting authorities. It is no consternation that engine racing was a diversion of life and genocide between a 1960s and a 1980s. In all categories of motorsport.

What was a Porsche conditions during a finish of a 1960s? Ferdinand Piëch, during that time a commander of a fearsome Porsche armada in Stuttgart, had focused all his efforts on transforming a code from category winners to altogether winners. Against Ferrari, Ford, Alfa Romeo, and General Motors. The clearly settled design was to win a Brand World Championship (a attainment achieved in 1969). But above all, a aim was to win a ultimate classical – a 24 Hours of Le Mans. Success came during final in 1970, with a one-two finish for Herrmann/Attwood and Kauhsen/Larrousse. But in 1969, a year of a Woolfe tragedy, a dual works 917s forsaken out while leading.

Willi Kauhsen, 2018, Porsche AG

Success came during final in 1970

The Porsche 917, designed by Ferdinand Piëch (“the biggest risk of my life”), contingency be deliberate as one of a biggest cars of a century. To start with, a racing coupés with 4.5-litre twelve-cylinder engines and over 600 hp fended off all rivals to win a universe championship titles in 1970 and 1971. Then a FIA altered a rules. The 917 could no longer keep up. However, Porsche continued to rise a 917. They came adult with a Spyder, with adult to 1,100 hp turbocharged engines. The foe didn’t mount a possibility opposite these cars either. Neither in a European Interserie or in a North American CanAm series.

Today, a “917s” (whether as coupés or Spyders) are rarities for that collectors are prepared to partial with millions of dollars. Willi Kauhsen, who himself competed in these 917 thunderbolts from 1970 to 1974, had kept reason of a ex-Jo Siffert 917 Spyder from his racing days. He easy a tip racing automobile and auctioned it in Pebble Beach in 2000. Now he has finished a second 917 of his lifetime.

How did it come about? 

Kauhsen: “I bought dual accident-damaged Rothmans 956s from a bureau during a finish of a 1980s, when Dr Ulrich Bez was on Porsche’s growth residence and a Group C epoch was ending. And there were heaps of gangling tools in storage in Zuffenhausen. They enclosed lots of tools for a Porsche 917.” That was a good starting indicate for building a new 917. Kauhsen acquired a form picture with a framework array “005” from a Woolfe family in England. Be that as it may: There is no doubt that a now finished 917 has a hold of authenticity.

Kauhsen himself started his career in an Abarth 1000 TC Corsa, with that he won a 1967 European Cup.  Then came a Porsche era. In 1968, with Glemser and Linge, he won a Marathon de la Route, an 84-hour foe during a Nürburgring, in a bureau Porsche 911. In a same year he and Helmut Kelleners also won a 24 Hours of Spa (again in a 911). In 1969 Kauhsen competed in a Porsche 908, infrequently in a cockpit of works cars. These were piloted by megastars. Full-throttle pros including Siffert, Rodríguez, Bell, Elford, Stommelen, Hermann, Ahrens, Mitter, and Attwood. Willi Kauhsen endured a severe float during that time, though his other qualities shone through: He didn’t pile-up and he valid to be a committed exam motorist able of providing useful feedback to a engineering staff.

917/10 Spyder, 1972, Porsche AG

Kauhsen and a 917 in 1972

Kauhsen is still remembered by his fans for his drives in a brightly embellished Hippie 917 (second during Le Mans), and being during a front and mostly winning in a splendid yellow Bosch 917 Spyder. But in 1974, aged only 35, he finished his racing career. He became a trainer of a “Willi Kauhsen Racing Team” (WKRT). And things got off to a good start. Kauhsen was authorised to use a works Alfa Romeo Tipo 33. With drivers like Ickx, Bell, Stommelen, Merzario, and other luminaries. WKRT won 7 of 8 World Championship races. What a entrance as a racing manager.

But things didn’t continue in a same vein. The Aachen male was tempted by Formula 2 and Formula 1. He even dared to erect his possess cars for a Grand Prix races. But to put it bluntly: it all went wrong. Willi Kauhsen afterwards clinging himself to building ancestral racing cars. That was his “thing”, and stays so today. His dilettante believe of a Porsche epoch is second to none. No consternation his garage is packaged with jewels. In serve to a 917 are a famous 907 Longtail Porsche from 1967, a Porsche Carrera RSR from 1974, and a Porsche 934 Turbo.

Willi Kauhsen got to know all a aces from a racing universe privately during a ups and downs of his charming automotive life. The list is long. Very long. Emerson Fittipaldi (who once raced one of his Porsche 917s on a Nürburgring), Ickx, Mass, Stuck, Andretti and copiousness some-more besides. He was friends with many of them – such as Rolf Stommelen. “He was intensely fit and speedy me to sight according to a Cooper Test for astronauts. And it was many needed. In a rocket like a 917. The loads were 4 or 5 g.” Who was fastest in a 917? Kauhsen: “Jo Siffert and Pedro Rodríguez. They were greats, though they paid with their lives.” Who does he admire most? “Ferdinand Piëch of course. What he started with Porsche racing is unique. And he’s a really special male in other ways too.” Why? Kauhsen: “He’s a male of few words.” And afterwards comes another Kauhsen anecdote. “I was during his residence once. He showed me a swimming pool and said: “Bring your swimming trunks a subsequent time we come.” So we did. And afterwards a dual of us swam around in a pool, substantially for half an hour.  Without observant a word to any other.”

Text initial published in a repository Porsche Klassik “Special Edition – 70 years of Porsche foe cars”.

Text by Eckhard Schimpf // Photos by Theodor Barth

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