Porsche 917/30 Can-Am
Premiere: 1973 June 6 at Can-Am Mosport
1973 Can-Am winner
1975 world speed record on closed course
1973 racing engine: 5.4F12 twin-turbo without intercoolers 809 kW
1975 top speed engine: 5.0F12 twin-turbo with intercoolers 904 kW
The final evolution of the 917 was created after Ferdinand Piëch had left the Porsche company in 1972. Two complete 917/30 Can-Am cars with 2500 mm (98.4") wheelbase were made for Roger Penske Enterprises racing team. They were chassis 917/30-002 and 003. The 001 car was not a real 917/30 and was raced in Europe at the Interserie. The Can-Am 917/30 had a 5.4-litre flat 12-cylinder twin-turbo engine which produced so much power that nobody really knew how much. Mark Donohue has said: “It’s the only car I’ve ever driven that can spin the tires at 200 mph.” Comments are excessive.
Driver Mark Donohue, who was also the advisor for the 917/30, drove both the chassis 002 and 003 in the 1973 Can-Am races. The cars had the same livery and wore the same racing number.
The 917/30 was the most powerful racing sports car ever created and so unbeatable, it is known for having its share in killing the Canadian-American Challenge Cup's popularity. In 1973 Porsche won all the Can-Am races and 6 out of 8 with the 917/30. In October 1973 the oil crisis started resulting in fuel prices going up four times in half a year. Porsche had already created three more chassis for the 1974 season, but the cars were not completed as Porsche didn't participate in the new season. The 1974 Can-Am championship was terminated before the last race of the season.
1975: intercoolers and closed-course speed record
In 1975 the 917/30 was assigned its final task - to brake the closed-course world speed record. When Mark Donohue took the 5.4-litre 917/30 for a series of test drives on the oval at Daytona Beach in January, it became apparent that the engine was not stable enough for flat-out driving. Following discussions with Porsche technicians around engineer Helmut Flegl, the decision was taken to use the more reliable 5.0-litre engine. Despite the smaller engine capacity, thanks to charge-air intercoolers the power was bumped to 1230 hp. Porsche performed 120 second full-throttle test bench inspections before agreeing with Donohue that the company would pay for any material damage that might occur during the record attempt.
In addition to the engine and small aerodynamic modifications, the springs were replaced and the chassis was altered to ensure that the car pulled to the left when driving on the straights. This adjustment done to any oval-circuit racer makes the car more stable at the corners. The record braking car was sponsored by CAM2 motor oils and was painted red instead of earlier Sunoco-blue.
On August 9, 1975, on the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama Mark Donohue managed to lap the track in 43.3 seconds with average speed of 221 mph/356 km/h. During the attempt, the absolute maximum speed reached was 237 mph/382 km/h.
It should be mentioned here that in 1975 Donohue was doing his first full season in Formula 1 and died in Austria into head injuries (in addition to killing a marshal) 10 days after he had set the speed record at Talladega.
The top speed record car was later painted back to its dark blue and yellow Can-Am livery.
Article © James Herne / Stuttcars.com
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