What is the Porsche Pink Pig?
The story of one of the most recognisable racing livery designs in history
Porsche 917/20 in Pink Pig livery at Le Mans
The Pink Pig racing livery started life as a bit of an in-joke, but the car itself was a serious competitor. Today it lives on in Le Mans-winning cars and even a kitesurf sail design
Porsche has a history of producing standout racecar liveries. Take the historic red and white Salzburger livery or, recently, the Provence livery of the race-winning Porsche 99X Electric at the 2024 Formula E Mexico City E-Prix. One of the most memorable is, perhaps, also one of the oddest that Porsche has raced in. When the race-ready Porsche 917/20 first rolled out on the tarmac at the 1971 24 Hours of Le Mans, it initially left the world’s press and race spectators scratching their heads.The 917/20 was a variant of one of the most acclaimed Porsche racecars in history, the 917, with a few differences. But what really turned heads was its livery. It was covered in the lines and names for meat cuts made by butchers, set on top of a racecar coloured with a vibrant flesh-like paint. Was this a bona fide racecar or some sort of elaborate joke? It wouldn’t take long for the answer to be revealed, as the so-called ‘Pink Pig’ soon started tearing up the track at the Circuit de la Sarthe. More than 50 years later, the Pink Pig continues to capture the imagination of motorsport fans, whether its with appearances at heritage motorsport events or via subsequent revivals of its unmistakable design, as we will discover.
917/20 in Pink Pig racing livery at 1971 Le Mans
Although the Porsche 917/20 Pink Pig failed to win the 1971 24 Hours of Le Mans, its memorable livery made it the centre of attention. Over five decades later, it still captures hearts
1971 • The Porsche 917/20 ‘Pink Pig’ racecarThe Porsche 917/20 was a one-off prototype created by Porsche in collaboration with French aerodynamics specialist SERA (Société d’Études et de Réalisations Automobiles). Designed by Robert Choulet and debuting at the 24 Hours of Le Mans test race in April 1971, the car was an anomaly from the start – although, at that point, it wasn’t even wearing the livery that would later make its name. As well as its wider track, the 917/20 was designed to combine the strengths of the 917K (short tail) and 917LH (long tail) models in order to reduce drag and improve aerodynamics. The result was a vehicle with an unusually wide and rounded body. The front lip was short and stubby and, simply put, reminded some of the snout of a pig.Legend has it that when the car ran its first test lap, one of the team sponsors – Count Rossi of the Martini & Rossi drinks company – was less than enamoured. The wider 917/20 was not what he had imagined and so he refused to let it race in the signature blue, red and white Martini colours. It meant that Porsche had to think fast and design a new racing livery quickly. In the end it was Porsche designer Anatole Lapine who stepped in to save the day with a now celebrated livery.On its competitive debut at the 1971 24 Hours of Le Mans, the tweaks by SERA to the overall car design initially paid off. The 917/20 #23 car, driven by Reinhold Joest and Willi Kauhsen, performed well in qualifying, finishing seventh fastest. When the race itself began, it proved to be highly competitive, and was running in third place by the halfway mark of the event. Sadly, it didn’t make it to the chequered flag, having been forced to retire before the end due to brake failure. It would prove to be the Pink Pig’s first and last competitive race.However, despite not winning at Le Mans, it had captured everyone’s attention. Such was the affection in which it was held that the 917/20 gained other nicknames apart from the Pink Pig – including ‘Big Berta’ and ‘The truffle sniffer from Zuffenhausen’. German-speakers know it as ‘Die Sau’, which means ‘The Sow’. Today, you can see for yourself what the fuss was all about if you head to the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart where the Pink Pig – one of the most famous of all Porsche racecars – now resides.
Porsche 911 RSR in Pink Pig livery at pit stop
The legendary Pink Pig livery turned up on a Porsche 911 RSR at the 2018 24h of Le Mans – which promptly won the GTE Pro category
2018 • The Porsche 911 RSR ‘Pink Pig’ wins at the 24 Hours of Le MansThe 917/20 Pink Pig may have been retired by Porsche after only once race but, such was its impact, its legend has lived on. However, it would be 47 years before the unique Pink Pig livery would once again be seen taking part at the world’s greatest endurance race. In 2018, it reappeared on a Porsche 911 RSR competing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.Raced by the Porsche GT team, and piloted by drivers Michael Christensen, Kévin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor, the #92 car would ultimately have a far more successful outing than the car from which it took inspiration. In an outstanding performance, car #92, the new Pink Pig, finished first in the GTE Pro category after a gruelling 344 laps. The Pink Pig had finally brought home the bacon.
Kitesurfer with kitesail on beach with Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
Kitesurfing champ Liam Whaley, with the Duotone Porsche Pink Pig sail and accompanying Taycan 4 Cross Turismo, at the kitesurfing mecca of Tarifa in Spain
2023 • The Pink Pig kitesurfing livery takes to the airMore recently the Pink Pig livery has been used to help prove that – despite what the old saying says – pigs really can fly. Anatole Lapine’s famous design was adapted to feature on a limited-edition kitesurfing sail produced by leading manufacturer Duotone in collaboration with Porsche. It was put through its paces by Liam Whaley – former kitesurfing world champion and a Porsche athlete – in the sea off of his hometown of Tarifa, southern Spain.The Pink Pig sail was limited to just 360 units in a nod to the top speed, in kilometres per hour, of the 1971 Le Mans car. The famous livery design even made it onto a Porsche Taycan 4 Cross Turismo that Liam drove. More than five decades on, it seems, the Pink Pig continues to cast its spell.
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