It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve raced or how long you have been in the front line of motor racing, there is still nothing you can do to prepare adequately for the experience of driving the Porsche 917/30. The reason is simple: with 1100bhp exploding out of the mighty twin-turbo, flat-12, air-cooled engine, it is the most powerful car that ever raced. By comparison, a Le Mans 917 is slow and today’s Formula One cars more than a little underpowered.
It is the car that, nearly 22 years ago, lapped the Talladega Super Speedway at an average of over 221mph, faster than any car had on any circuit in the world. Then it was driven by the brilliant Mark Donohue, who had driven it to victory in six of the eight rounds of the 1973 Can-Am championship.
There can be few competitive environments less suited to this car’s unique talents than the Goodwood hill. Driving it there is an exercise in infinite restraint as it will spin its rear tyres in any gear on any part of the hill if you’re even the least bit over-zealous with the accelerator. Even so, it’s not the uncontrollable beast you might imagine. Turbocharging was in its infancy when this 917 came along but even so, the twin KKK blowers don’t try to kick you off the road the moment they come up to speed. You can hear them winding up and the surge of torque they provide, while mighty, is progressive and gratifyingly easy to handle.
What’s best about driving the 917/30 today though is the knowledge that it has been looked after by Porsche. That means you don’t have to worry about its preparation. I can climb in and know that the brakes are going to work, the chassis is in perfect condition and that it’s not going to tear itself to pieces if I lean on the throttle a little.
When you see the 917/30 at Goodwood, listen to it as it goes past. Thanks to the turbos, it’s quite a quiet car but you’ll still be able to hear the engine racing up and down its rev-range with no commensurate increase in the car’s speed. Youll probably think the clutch is slipping but don’t worry: it’s much more likely to be good old-fashioned wheelspin.