This story first appeared in the Dec. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The 2005 Carrera GT that Paul Walker and Roger Rodas were killed in on Nov. 30 was a limited-edition, high-performance sports car produced by Porsche between 2004 and 2007 that sold new for about $450,000. In stock form, its V10 engine puts out 612 horsepower, though the engine in the GT that Rodas was driving might have been modified to produce even more power.
The Carrera GT quickly developed a reputation as a car for skilled drivers only, Patrick George, of the auto enthusiast website Jalopnik, tells THR. Jeremy Clarkson, the host of BBC’s Top Gear, once described its handling as “knife edge” and that if the driver makes a mistake, “It bites your head off.” Jay Leno, a collector of high-performance sports cars, famously spun out in a Carrera GT at high speed in 2005 while attempting to set a speed record at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.
During the Carrera GT’s development, Porsche test driver Walter Rohrl told the Australian website Drive that the GT was “the first car in my life that I drive and I feel scared.” The car was so powerful that Rohrl insisted Porsche install traction control to keep the rear wheels from spinning during heavy acceleration. A case over a fatal Carrera GT crash during a club race at the California Speedway was settled for $4.5 million in 2007.
“It’s a batshit crazy car and as close to an analog Formula One car as you can get,” says an automotive journalist who has driven the GT. “It really demands your attention — it’ll bite back if you don’t give it the proper input.”
Adds Loren Beggs, owner of 911 Design in Montclair, Calif., which restores and tunes Porsches: “The Carrera GT is an unbelievably high-performance car. They are very fast and have an incredible sound to them.”
What makes the car so fast, points out Beggs, is not just the 612 horsepower V10 engine but “that it’s a relatively light car for the size. The carbon-fiber chassis and power make it go — a lot of acceleration is just power-to-weight [ratio]. It’s not all about the horsepower.”
IndyCar racer Graham Rahal told Jalopnik: “It’s a race car for the street. Simple as that. It asks for and needs respect at all times. It’s not a car for people who don’t have experience driving high-end vehicles or race cars really, for that matter.”
Rodas was, in fact, a seasoned racer who competed in events such as the Pirelli World Challenge Series and hardly could be considered a novice.
“I know Roger, and I raced against him a few times,” says Beggs. “Roger has a current race license, which means he was medically certified to race under high heat and at high G-loads. You need to be in top condition if you have a current race license.”