In the first round of the Canadian-American Championship series the all-conquering McLaren-Chevrolet team were stirred up a bit by Donohue driving a turbo-charged 917 Porsche Snyder, and this was not an overnight, hastily prepared affair, but a serious project emanating from Germany and the Porsche factory. Since 1962 Porsche have been quietly, but steadily, building up a private research centre some miles west of Stuttgart near the small village of Weissach, beginning with a circular skid pan on which they could do tests in secret, and gradually enlarging the place with roads and test surfaces until they now have a large and complete circuit to test all manner of cars, even the Can-Am car, with a lap speed on the road course of 118 m.p.h. At the same time as they built up the test track they began to build laboratory testing equipment, and in the last three and a half years this Research and Development Centre has been completed and is now in full working order, employing 500 workers and 80 engineers.
When old Doctor Porsche started his design studio in Stuttgart at the end of 1931 it was with the express purpose of being a design consultancy for the German industry, and work came from Zundapp, Wanderer, NSU and eventually from the Industry Association for the Volkswagen, while the Auto-Union racing cars figure largely in the work of Dr. Porsche. His son Ferry grew up with him, working alongside and carrying on all the engineering principles of the old Professor, and when the Porsche sports car was begun in 1950, the firm did not turn its back on consultancy work. During the growth of the Porsche car factory contract design work went on behind the scenes, and a remarkable integrity developed in the Porsche staff, so that anyone submitting secret work to the Porsche Design Office could be certain that it would remain secret. As the Porsche empire expanded, the factories and design offices had to expand and ultimately the necessity for a separate Research and Development Centre became obvious and the seeds of the PORSCHE-ENTWICKLUNGSZENTRAM were sown.
It has taken 10 years, three and a half of them very concentrated, and something like the investment of £8,000,000 in order to complete this very thorough and all-embracing Research and Development Centre, which can tackle the design, building, developing and testing of anything to do with engineering, not only automobile engineering, and can do research on anything from fibre-glass processes, to special space-race metals and from complete cars to tyres. The growth of the Weissach centre was concurrent with the all-out onslaught that Porsche made on sports-car racing, culminating in the World Manufacturers’ Championship for the legendary 917 Porsches, and the growth of the testing facilities was speeded up by the racing programme.
When the official Porsche team was withdrawn from racing, and direct factory assistance was given to the JW Gulf team, the Porsche Salzburg team and the Martini Racing Team, the development work on the 917 went on at Weissach unabated, and it is still going on, which is why the first outing of the turbo-charged 917 Porsche gave the McLaren team something to think about. The engineers at Weissach cannot divorce their technical thoughts from racing, for it represents the practical application of pure research and development, which is the only possible reason for motor racing to continue. If you view motor racing as nothing more than a public entertainment and a way of making money, as the Formula One teams of today do, then it is doomed to die when the public get tired of being entertained by the same old clowns and performing seals. The people at Porsche think differently, they are basic engineers, in whose curriculum of research and development is a place for all aspects of the internal combustion engine and the automobile, and there is an activity for experimenting with the ultimate as well as the practical, and certain parts of the ultimate are let out on to the racing circuits when deemed desirable, while the results of the practical are fed into the world of production cars.
Side by side at Weissach work is going ahead on dealing with noise pollution, and safety in one direction, and the ultimate in engine power, road-holding, streamlining and racing in the other direction, for it is all basic research and development and this is the whole reason for the building up of the Weissach centre, where only 30% of the activity is Porsche’s own work, the rest being involved in outside contract work. Of immediate interest is the fact that the turbo-charged 917 engine will be developing about 800 b.h.p. in racing form, and that the engine has withstood flash readings of 1,000 b.h.p. on the dynamometer without flying apart. The 5-litre flat-12-cylinder engine was developing in the region of 600 b.h.p. in its ultimate long-distance racing form, and the addition of exhaust turbo-chargers has meant quite a bit of redesigning in the valve gear, the camshafts, the oil-cooling system and the fan-cooling system, in order to deal with the extra heat developed by the addition of a super-charge of 14 lb/sq. in. above atmospheric. The rev.-limit is retained at 8,200 r.p.m. for this remarkable horizontally-opposed 12-cylinder engine and from the look of the layout of the turbo-charger installation on the 917/10 car you would think it was all part of the original design. It certainly did not happen overnight. Each bank of cylinders exhausts underneath into a tail-pipe which curls up alongside the gearbox and into the small turbine which is mounted above and to one side of the gearbox. From the turbine the exhaust curves inwards and then rearwards above the gearbox, the short exhaust pipe lying alongside its fellow from the opposite bank. Above the pipes is a third central exhaust coming from the adjustable pressure valve which takes gases from each of the primary exhaust pipes before they enter the turbines, and adjustment of this valve determines the ultimate exhaust gas pressure that is released to the turbines. Each turbine is connected to its own compressor which draws air from a duct in the top of the tail and the compressed air passes along a tubular manifold that runs forward along the engine above the inlet ports, the air being fed down vertical inlet pipes each With its own fuel injection nozzle and butterfly throttle valve. The two sides of the engine are completely independent of each other, except for the by-pass feeds going into the central pressure regulating valve. In theory one could shut this valve right off and all the exhaust gases would have to go through the turbines and the inlet manifold pressure would go up and up until the whole thing blew to pieces.
At present this turbo-charged Can-Am project is being restricted to the 4 1/2-litre version of the 917 engine, while normally-aspirated engines for Can-Am or Inter-serie races have been enlarged to 5.4-litre, but knowing Porsche Engineering the turbo-charging must eventually be applied to the larger engine. In addition to the engine development, work is still going on with aerodynamics on the Spyder bodywork, brake calipers and discs, chassis frames and suspension. Porsche may have given up racing but they have not stopped work.
In the management of the Porsche empire there have been some changes made, and Dr. Ferry Porsche and his sister Louis Piëch and their families still own Porsche, but their sole interest now is in long-term business planning and adjustment of their investments. Since March 1972 all control of the engineering has been taken over by Dr. Ing. Ernst Fuhrmann Mann and the business and finance administration has been taken over by Dipl. Kfm. Heinz Branitzki, these two men now being fully responsible for the future of Porsche. Fuhrmann worked at Porsche as a designer from 1947-1956 and then went to the Goetze Werke engineering firm until he returned to Porsche in 1971, and Branitzki was at Carl Zeiss before joining Porsche in 1905. As far as automobiles are concerned Fuhrmann has the same outlook as Uhlenhaut of Daimler-Benz, which is to make a car safe under all condition’s so that it is capable of avoiding an accident if at all possible. If an accident happens, they design safety into your car to deal with the accident. This is in direct contrast to the American way of thinking where designing a car to withstand an accident is more important than designing one that can avoid an accident, and these opposing views can be applied to road, traffic control, racing circuits, racing cars and many other things. It all boils down to the sound engineer versus the politician and business man, and to me the sound engineers like those at Porsche or Daimler-Benz make sense.
Dr. Fuhrmann is also looking ahead and can foresee the end of the automobile as we know it today, especially the sports-car type of vehicle and the small-production quality cat like the Porsche. He sees the future of Porsche in engineering, which is where it all Started in 1931, and to this end Porsche have invested large sums in the Weissach Research and Development Centre, for when the motor car has been replaced as a means of primary movement and the road has been replaced by something else, then engineering research and development will still be needed and Porsche Engineering obviously intend to remain in the forefront.
Grand Prix Racing
In this issue of Motor Sport you can read about the death of the Belgian Grand Prix, and you should have been able to read about the continuance of the Dutch Grand Prix, but for different reasons it too died in 1972. The CSI circuit safety sub-committee, comprising Messrs. Binford (USA), Bacciagaluppi (Italy), Corsmit (Holland), Delamont (Britain), Rosinski (France), Schmitz (Germany), Sven (Belgium) and the late Joakim Bonnier (GPDA) inspected the Zandvoort circuit and decreed that it was not safe for Formula One cars and the Dutch Grand Prix could not be held there. They recommended that it was only suitable for less powerful cars, such as saloons or Formula Three. As Mr. Bacciagaluppi is the big noise at Monza, Mr. Schmitz is very tied-up with Nurburgring and Hockenheim, Mr. Sven is the big noise at Spa-Francorchamps, and Mr. Delamont is closely associated with Brands Hatch, they must know what they are talking about. The fact that John Hugenholtz, the big noise at Zandvoort, has said many times over, and with complete justification, that double-Armco barriers round both sides of a circuit does not necessarily ensure safety, and that he refused to replace his wire catch-nets with Armco barrier, cannot possibly have had any bearing on the decision. Or could it ? — D. S. J.