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Late afternoon, Sebring 1969: Jo Siffert, who had won overall in 1968 with Hans Herrmann, is settled into the car, working with his harness. Brian Redman stands by his side, trying to get the attention of a young mechanic. Rico Steinemann, the racing manager for Porsche, gives orders from the front of the car, while engineer Peter Falk strides toward the rear (holding, improbably, a Prestone antifreeze clipboard). A very young Ferdinand Piech is intently focused on something back there. Fuel is going in on the right side of the car, while oil is being poured in from an open can on the left.
The car itself is one of the five 908s brought by the Porsche factory to test their mettle against an international field. It is tired and damaged after a hard day’s work, having been the “rabbit,” setting the fastest race lap in the hands of Siffert. It led the entire field after the first hour, falling to sixth by the end of four hours, and then working back up to third before disappearing from the charts.
What pure, unmitigated good fortune to be living in these magical times for Porsche. We saw the last of the great Spyders and the first of the 904 series in 1964, and then the 904-8 in 1965 (along with the unlikely 356SC that finished well down in the overall ranking, but bested an E-Type and a couple of Ferraris!) The following year the 906 appeared with its spaceship looks and accounted for a goodly part of the top 10 finishers. The 910s showed up in 1967, doing incredibly well on the rough Sebring track, and 1968 was the year of the 907, which took home first and second overall.
The excitement, the pure exhilaration, of seeing all of these cars for the first time, was concentrated into a span of only six years. And, one year later, we would get the 917.
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