Behind the Colors of Porsche’s Special Le Mans Livery
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Behind the Colors of Porsche’s Special Le Mans Livery

May 15, 2023

Color stripes on factory Porsche 963s pay tribute to legendary liveries of Porsche race cars…


Photo: Drew Gibson/Porsche

Seven distinctive stripes in yellow, red, dark blue, light blue, green, pink and orange adorn the three Porsche 963s entered in the Hypercar class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the colors paying tribute to legendary race liveries from Porsche's history.

With 19 overall victories and 110 class wins, Porsche is the most successful manufacturer at Le Mans, which celebrates its centenary this year.

Photo: Porsche

Orange: The Gulf 917 as a Movie Star and Podium Visitor at Le MansThe orange stripes on the Porsche 963 are a nod to the legendary Gulf design of the Porsche 917. As the previous year's winners, the British squad John Wyer Automotive Engineering switched to the swift prototypes from Zuffenhausen in 1970, and brought the mineral oil company along as a sponsor.

Although the three vehicles fielded by the team retired early that year, everyone was talking about the Gulf Porsche: The American Hollywood star Steve McQueen, who plays the character Michael Delaney, drove the blue and orange racer in the film Le Mans, which is still popular today and considered one of the finest motor racing depictions in history.

Before the spectacularly staged duel between Porsche and Ferrari hit the screens in October 1971, the Gulf Porsche clinched a podium spot at Le Mans. Richard Attwood from the UK and Herbert Müller from Switzerland finished second overall in the 917 KH powered by the 4.9-litre twelve-cylinder engine.

Almost 50 years later, the Gulf design adorned a Porsche 911 RSR in the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC and several Porsche 911 GT3 R at the 24-hour race in Spa-Francorchamps.

Photo: Porsche

Pink: The Legendary "Pig" Unlucky in the RaceIn 1971, the Porsche 917/20 delighted fans, drivers and officials at Le Mans. Porsche's designer Anatole Lapine sketched the butchers’ cuts of pork on a basecoat of pink and labelled them accordingly: snout, ham, pork knuckle and brain. Endearing nicknames were quick to appear.

The car driven by Willi Kauhsen and Reinhold Joest was dubbed, among other things, the "truffle sniffer from Zuffenhausen." Ultimately, the term "Sau" prevailed in German-speaking countries, while in English, the vehicle got the name "Pink Pig".

In 1971, the meaty vehicle failed to perform in sporting terms: while running in fifth place, Kauhsen/Joest retired shortly before the end of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

At the revival of the livery, the situation improved: the Porsche 911 RSR decked out in the "Pink Pig" design scored the GTE class win at the Sarthe in 2018 with works drivers Kévin Estre, Michael Christensen and Laurens Vanthoor.

Photo: Porsche

Green: Porsche's New Chief Designer Given Complete Freedom with the "Hippie"

In April 1969, Anatole Lapine was hired as the new chief designer at Porsche. Just one year later, the native-born Latvian made his first artistic mark in motorsport with the long-tail Porsche 917 driven by Gérard Larrousse and Willi Kauhsen: the green and purple waves painted on the "hippie" car with around 1,500 spray cans created a psychedelic effect.

While the paintwork caused some consternation in parts of the executive floor, racing team owner Hans-Dieter Dechent and those responsible for his sponsor Martini & Rossi were thrilled.

The fast "hippie" also made waves in the motor racing scene: while Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood achieved the first overall victory for Porsche at Le Mans in 1970, Larrousse/Kauhsen secured second place.

Photo: Porsche

Light Blue: The Martini-Porsche and the Record Run for Almost an EternityIn 1970, Hans-Dieter Dechent deployed his team for the first time at Le Mans with the Italian spirits brand Martini. Porsche locked out the podium, with the "hippie" 917 of Larrousse/Kauhsen and the 908 driven by Lins/Marko finishing second and third behind the winning vehicle from Porsche Salzburg.

The breakthrough came the following year: Austrian Helmut Marko and Dutchman Gijs van Lennep won in the Porsche 917 KH fielded by the Martini Racing team. The duo set a distance record that seemed inconceivable at the time: the 5,335 kilometers they covered were considered a record for eternity – one that was only broken 39 years later.

The livery of the white Porsche with the eye-catching light blue, red and dark blue stripes still enjoys cult status today.

For example, it also adorned the Porsche 936 of Jacky Ickx and Gijs van Lennep, which netted overall victory at Le Mans in 1976. The third triumph followed a year later: Jürgen Barth, Hurley Haywood and Jacky Ickx won at the wheel of a Porsche 936/77 flying Martini colors.

Photo: Porsche

Dark Blue: The Porsche 956 and 962 in Rothmans Design Influence an EraThe Rothmans design with its dark blue and white with red and gold accents is associated with a winning streak for Porsche. The first outing of the works team in partnership with the Canadian tobacco group caused a sensation: the three Porsche 956 that contested the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1982 swept the pool with first, second and third place.

The closest pursuer in this group was 30 laps behind. The following year they notched up a one-two victory. In the sports car world championship at that time, the Rothmans Porsche proved unbeatable.

In 1986 and 1987, the Porsche 962C featuring this livery crossed the finish line first in the world's most famous long-distance classic. About 30 years later, Porsche revived the legendary paint job at Le Mans. In 2018, the Porsche 911 RSR sporting the Rothmans look set a new qualifying record for GTE cars. The vehicle finished the race in second place in its class behind its sister car in the "Pink Pig" livery.

Photo: Porsche

Red: Porsche Salzburg Calls the Tune as the Second Works TeamAfter narrowly missing out on clinching the first overall victory for Porsche with a 908 LH by only about 120 meters at the debut of the 917 at Le Mans the previous year, the sports car manufacturer from Zuffenhausen doubled down in the 1970 season: the name of the game was full attack with three cars from John Wyer's new works team, plus others registered under Porsche Salzburg.

These vehicles flew the red and white national colours of Austria. While Ferry Porsche waved the green flag and sent the field on its way on Saturday, June 13, 1970, his sister Louise Piëch handled the business side of the Salzburg team.

The race at that time, which discarded the classic Le Mans start for the first time, was contested under the most difficult conditions. Torrential rain caused countless accidents, spins and slides. In the end, only seven of the 57 vehicles entered were classified.

At the head of the field: Richard "Dick" Attwood from the UK and the extremely careful and level-headed Hans Herrmann from Germany sharing the cockpit of the No. 23 Porsche 917 KH. The pair secured Porsche's first Le Mans overall victory with a commanding five-lap lead.

Photo: Porsche

Yellow: Memories of Porsche and Penske's Glory Days TogetherThe centrally-positioned yellow stripe with a red border was inspired by the victorious past of the Porsche and Penske combination. The collaboration between the U.S. team and the sports car manufacturer from Stuttgart bore fruit in the early 1970s: two titles in the CanAm series. Even more impressive were the performances of the Porsche RS Spyder decked out in the yellow and red livery of the main sponsor DHL in the American Le Mans Series.

The LMP2 prototype swept the title pool between 2006 and 2008 and achieved 24 victories. The unforgettable high point: overall victory at the Sebring 12 Hours in 2008. Germany's Timo Bernhard and his French teammates Romain Dumas and Emmanuel Collard even beat the more powerful LMP1 vehicles.

At Le Mans, the RS Spyder won the LMP2 class twice, in 2008 and 2009. In these cases, however, without Penske.

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Orange: The Gulf 917 as a Movie Star and Podium Visitor at Le Mans Pink: The Legendary "Pig" Unlucky in the Race Green: Porsche's New Chief Designer Given Complete Freedom with the "Hippie" Light Blue: The Martini-Porsche and the Record Run for Almost an Eternity Dark Blue: The Porsche 956 and 962 in Rothmans Design Influence an Era Red: Porsche Salzburg Calls the Tune as the Second Works Team Yellow: Memories of Porsche and Penske's Glory Days Together