Driving a 1,100 Horsepower Twin-Turbo Porsche 917/10 Looks Honestly Terrifying

A Porsche photo of a different 917/10 chassis.
A Porsche photo of a different 917/10 chassis.
Photo: Porsche

One thing to know about the Porsche 917, the top-rung prototype that went from beating Ferrari at Le Mans to beating McLaren at CanAm: The pedal box sat ahead of the front wheels. That is to say, if you crashed, your feet were your crumple zone.

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Screenshot: Racer
Screenshot: Racer

Keep that in mind as you watch Porsche super-restorer Bruce Canepa wheel a 917/10 CanAm car around Laguna Seca during Rennsport last weekend.

A Porsche photo of a different 917/10 chassis.
A Porsche photo of a different 917/10 chassis.

CanAm was close to an unlimited series, so teams could run basically whatever the hell they wanted. Most people stuck American big block V8s into skinny tube frame cars with big wings and called it a day. Porsche spent more and twin-turbocharged their existing 917 and its flat-12, after a brief but intriguing tryout of a flat-16.

In any case, Porsche clobbered the series to the point that it pretty much killed off CanAm, a program so successful it won itself out of a series.

See below:

What’s funny watching the video is how, I don’t know, calm it all sounds.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

DISCUSSION

8695Beaterz
8695Beaters

Your feet as the crumple zones are the LEAST of your worries driving this thing. Other safety concerns that one should consider before driving a 917:

-FIA fuel cell standards did not yet exist in 1973 (remember that Niki Lauda’s Nurburgring accident wouldn’t happen for another 3 years). The fuel cell standards that did exist were pretty woeful. That fuel tank held some sort of gasoline blend which is actually fairly hard to put out (if you’ve ever wondered why most racing series moved to an alcohol or ethanol blend of fuel, it’s because it can be put out with water. Much easier to deal with).

-Zero head and neck protection. A HANS device makes up for the neck protection today, but in 1973, basal skull fractures were not a thing.

-Magnesium everywhere. If splitting your gas tank wasn’t enough, most of the frame was magnesium, which of course burns like crazy and can only be put out with specialized fire fighting equipment.

-Tube frame chassis: pure tube frame chassis can be safe if designed well and there is plenty of crush room built around the driver. Also it helps if that tube frame is made of steel, not aluminum, like the 917/10 was made from.

-The aero sucks. Yeah, there’s a giant wing, but that’s about it. Ground effects didn’t exist and that fat front splitter helps, but combined these are only producing a few hundred pounds of downforce each. It’s basically the aero of a NASCAR Cup car but with way more power and half the weight.

-Tracks. Track safety standards in 1973 were Armco at best, a dirt embankment at worst. No paved runoffs either. If you missed the corner, you flew through the grass and then into whatever form of barrier was beyond (which was usually only a few feet away from the racing surface). Of course soft walls didn’t exist.

If you’re wondering why these cars were open topped instead of coupes in Europe, it’s because having no roof was the only for drivers to fit their gigantic testes into the cockpit before setting off.  This is a car that could literally only be built in the early 1970s.  And thank God it got made because it is the type of bonkers we will never see again.