50th anniversary of first overall Le Mans win: Porsche celebrates in big – and small – way

The 24h of Le Mans is the world’s greatest and most celebrated motorsports event – and for Porsche, certainly one of the most emotional. On the 50th anniversary of our first overall victory, we take a special look back at the historic race.
Text Natalie Diedrichs
Photo Christian Blanck

1970: Torrential conditions at Le Mans. The rain comes down harder and harder as night falls. Spinouts, mechanical failures, crashes – many of the competitors and teams never even finish the race. Despite the difficult circumstances, racing driver Hans Herrmann fights his way into the lead in his 580 hp Porsche 917 KH. After 18 strenuous hours, Herrmann and teammate Richard Attwood finally cross the finish line to win the race and secure the first overall victory for Porsche on the Circuit de la Sarthe. They are followed by Gérard Larrousse and Willy Kauhsen in their Martini Porsche 917 LH and Rudi Lins and Helmut Marko in a Porsche 908/02. Porsche in first, second and third place – a perfect triumph, with many more to come.

To date, Porsche has taken a total of 19 overall victories in the famous endurance race, along with countless class wins. But the first big victory in 1970 remains unforgotten. Reason enough to celebrate this groundbreaking achievement half a century later and hopefully build on it not once, but twice, this year: At the 88th edition of the legendary race, which has been postponed until September due to the coronavirus crisis. And at the world’s first virtual 24h of Le Mans, which was held on June 13 and 14. Here the inaugural race was won by none other than the newly founded Porsche Esports Team with works drivers Nick Tandy and Ayhancan Güven as well as professional sim racers Josh Rogers and Tommy Östgaard.

And while the drivers are giving it their all to repeat the events of 50 years ago in the digital world, Stuttgart native Christian Blanck, with the help of his two sons aged seven and nine, is recreating the spectacular 1970 race in a completely analog form using true-to-original 1:43 scale models. The artist and brand expert already achieved a certain level of fame with his book series Childhood Heroes, featuring several of his somewhat discolored, much played-with and slightly worse-for-wear toy cars – for him, and many others, the foundation for a lasting automotive passion.

In a making-of interview, Blanck explains how exactly his two sons have helped him with his projects, what he finds so fascinating about motorsports, and which memories he has personally of the legend that is Le Mans.

Mr. Blanck, what do you need for a perfect photo shoot with toy cars?
All I really need is good weather, meaning blue skies and sunshine. The best time of day is between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. That’s actually the kind of sunlight that most photographers try to avoid.

So why exactly then?
Because that’s when you get the best shadows: razor sharp with fantastic outlines. Of course, I could just replicate those conditions using Photoshop. But why do that if I can photograph it to begin with? Depending on what I want to do, I also need some helping hands – six of them if I’m trying to recreate a crash scene, for example.

»Für Le Mans 1970 habe ich mir zum Beispiel im Vorhinein viele Filmsequenzen und Fotos angesehen. Dann überlege ich mir, mit welchem Motiv und mit welchen Autos ich fokussiert arbeiten will.«

How much planning and time go into one of your scenes?
Before I get started, I usually have a relatively clear picture of what I want. For the 1970 Le Mans, I looked at lots of film sequences and photos in advance. Then I think about what I want to show and which cars I want to use. Though things tend to turn out quite differently anyway when you’re working with seven-year-old and nine-year-old boys. They make umpteen other suggestions as to what else you could do. And sometimes you end up with something that couldn’t have been there 50 years ago photobombing the shot. Like Lightning McQueen from the animated Disney film Cars, for example. In the end, however, all I cared about was that the message stays the same: Porsche wins.

The interview is available in full length at the Porsche Motorsport Hub.

Porsche Motorsport Hub

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