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Is the Porsche Carrera GT Too Dangerous? 961

Posted by timothy
from the unqualified-normatives dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "CNN reports that the 600 horsepower Porsche Carrera GT is notoriously difficult to handle, even for professional drivers. Known as the car actor Paul Walker was riding in when he died, there is no suggestion anyone was to blame for Walker's crash but Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson says drivers are on a 'knife edge' handling the car and described it as 'brutal and savage". 'It is a phenomena — mind blowingly good. Make a mistake — it bites your head off.' Todd Trimble, an exotic car mechanic in Las Vegas, says the Carrera GT is a 'very hard car to drive.' It's (a) pure racer's car. You really need to know what you're doing when you drive them. And a lot of people are learning the hard way.' The sports car has a top speed of 208 mph, a very high-revving V10 engine and more than 600 horsepower says Eddie Alterman, editor-and-chief of Car and Driver magazine. 'This was not a car for novices,' says Alterman. Having the engine in the middle of the car means it's more agile and turns more quickly than a car with the engine in the front or in the rear so it is able to change direction 'very quickly, very much like a race car,' adds Alterman. The Carrera GT is also unusual because it has no electronic stability control which means that it's unforgiving with mistakes. 'Stability control is really good at correcting slides, keeping the car from getting out of shape,' says race car driver Randy Pobst. Alterman concludes that learning to drive a car like a Carrera GT can be extremely tricky. 'Every car is sort of different. And this one, especially since it had such a hair-trigger throttle, because it changed directions so quickly, there is a lot to learn.'"
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Is the Porsche Carrera GT Too Dangerous?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @09:48AM (#45582851)

    How safe is the car when you follow all driving laws like speed limits especially through turns?

  • No question? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rjstanford (69735) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @09:49AM (#45582867) Homepage Journal

    "...there is no suggestion anyone was to blame for Walker's crash..." unless you follow that link which says that the police suspect that speed was involved. No question that anyone not in the car was to blame is a different sentence indeed. Looking at the pictures of the scene its hard to imagine that they were driving anywhere close to the 45mph speed limit.

  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @09:51AM (#45582887) Journal

    ... even a tricycle can become deadly.

    Stop blaming the car.

    The problem is the driver.

    That Porsche may have 600 hp, but in the hand of an excellent driver, it would be still a very safe car.

  • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @09:52AM (#45582891)

    I would call this a case of driver error, not car. If you slap a bear, don't act all surprised if it mauls you.

  • Wrong subject (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @09:54AM (#45582917) Homepage

    Cars don't kill people. Stupid people driving cars kill people.

  • Re:No question? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dodgy G33za (1669772) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @09:58AM (#45582951)

    An actor that made his millions staring in films about illegal street racing dies in a high speed car crash. Poetic justice I suppose. I wonder how many impressionable youths or their innocent victims have died trying to emulate him.

  • by jythie (914043) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:01AM (#45582977)
    I think part of the point as described is that even in the hands of an excellent (professional) driver it is still a dangerous car to use. Also given its unforgiving behavior and steep learning curve, a good driver has an unusually difficult time gauging how well they are handling it and mistakes ballon. That is the problem with unstable equilibrium, one learns how to handle a vehicle by hitting edges of stability but still having enough margin to correct. It sounds like a recurring problem with this car is that band is thin enough that one goes from 'ok' to 'massive failure' with little room for learning. A highly skilled professional driver can feel the band sooner, but the implication is that even for them it is a bit too thin.
  • Re:Wrong subject (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JoeMerchant (803320) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:06AM (#45583041) Homepage

    I saw this on a gun control bumpersticker:

    Ban the Fools, Not the Tools.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:13AM (#45583121) Homepage Journal

    Weight.

    In a race car, every fraction of a gram counts. Hence the reason why real racing cars don't have things like stereos and air-con.

  • by somersault (912633) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:14AM (#45583135) Homepage Journal

    It sounds like this guy was actually a professional race driver, or at least part of an amateur racing team. He shouldn't have been trying to push the envelope on a public road though. It's horrible and sad news, but obviously the driver was being an idiot on public roads, and the type of car he was driving shouldn't really be relevant.

  • In aviation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Deadstick (535032) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:14AM (#45583137)

    ...we have a fair number of accidents involving wealthy men in airplanes that exceed their training and skill level, which they bought on the assumption that "If I can buy it, I can fly it." This would seem to be similar.

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:17AM (#45583173) Journal

    ...so someone doesn't accidentally buy a $335,000 600hp sports car without realizing IT MIGHT BE DANGEROUS.

    In other news: the government has banned running with scissors.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:18AM (#45583177) Journal

    And they would have gotten out alive, or at least not burned to a crisp. Tesla's don't burn their occupants in a massive fireball when they hit a street sign (and a tree, and a light pole).

    And 600HP is nothing. I've got a good friend from college who gets almost 1200HP in his GTR (1192 WHP / 1402 crank, actually). I don't see him wrapping it around vertical objects.

  • oblig: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lq_x_pl (822011) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:19AM (#45583201)
  • by d3m0nCr4t (869332) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:29AM (#45583311)

    And blaming the driver. A little background. While not professional drivers Walker and the driver were on a race team together and did plenty of circuit races. The guy driving has a GT3 so is more than familiar with the class of cars in question. Each had many more hours logged racing than any pilot would have flying before being able to get his flight license. It's easy to blame the driver, and it could rightly end up that way. However, the question of whether the car malfunctioned or should not be considered street legal should also be asked. Point being, if you believe these guys had no business driving this car then nobody shy of an F1 driver should be able to by them, hence they are too dangerous to sell to the general public.

    They had no business racing that car on a public road. If you want to race, do it on a race track.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:32AM (#45583333)

    I'm sorry, but not they don't!

    I as an enthusiast car driver wish I could buy cars with less safety equipment. There is actually a demand for that sort of thing because they're faster, better handling and yes, more fun. The drawback is, you must know what you're doing. And if you say there's no need for something like that, remember, I like to take cars to track days at race tracks where it's perfectly legal to do all that. And it is nice to be able to drive there in a car, race it, and then drive it home.

    Somebody buys a car like this, they should already know what it can do. It's not like they went out and bought a $20,000 family sedan. This car is famous for being hard to handle. The buyer must be aware at some level what they're purchasing. Christ, the thing costs what half a million dollars? You'd think buying a sports car like that you'd have the sense to learn how to use it as it might be able to get you into trouble. I can't afford cars like that, but I do ride motorcycles. I ride a 750cc Suzuki GSX-R, it's a damn fast bike. It will do 80 MPH in first gear and gets there in about 3.5 seconds. You screw up, and you're dead. Period. It's unforgiving with no safety equipment. Should that stop being sold because it's unsafe as well? Hell no, the purchaser should be responsible and know what the hell they're buying. It's not like it was labeled in such a way to make it appear safer than it actually was, it was put out as a hardcore race car, and it behaved exactly like you'd expect a hard core race car to do. Yes, there should be something done if it was being sold as something it wasn't, but if your upfront that something is dangerous, then what's the problem?

  • by js3 (319268) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:33AM (#45583347)

    If you operate a vehicle in an unsafe way (including speeding) then it's your own damn fault. If you want Top Gear Jeremy Clarkson is a master of exaggeration. He called the 19'inch wheels on a mercedes AMG "the size of neptune".

  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:37AM (#45583395)

    Don't forget, we're dealing with wholesale ignorance on the part of the media.

    Having recalled stories from back when the Carrera GT was introduced there weren't many reports that the car was particularly dangerous. This is a track-oriented high end sports car. Most cars in that performance category are challenging to drive near the limits. I do have to admit a caveat; most in the automotive press gush over every new model that comes along, saving criticisms for when the car is well past it's prime. But the fact remains that there are a multitude of performance cars out there that are notorious for being difficult to drive.

    Just because a car handles well doesn't mean it does the driving for you. Unfortunately, this is where the vast majority of people display massive ignorance, because they do believe that a car will save you from mistakes and incompetence. And they're convinced that the better it performs the better it will do the job.

    The two guys in that Carrera GT were supposed to be more competent than most given that they have race cars. But given that they weren't career racers doesn't mean they were actually competitive, let alone any good at it. There are gentleman races all over the country where rich men bring high priced toys to the track and many show an embarrassing lack of skill.

    But let's assume these guys were decent. That still doesn't change the fact that they were on an unpredictable public road, engaged in a dangerous activity. These guys crash all the time at tracks, even when they're good; they aren't pushing hard enough to win if they aren't risking a crash. So take that mentality to the open road and problems ensue. There's a reason why car insurance rates are higher for race car drivers.

    All this doesn't consider the possibility that the Carrera GT might have been modified by Paul Walker's shop. I don't think that's particularly relevant, because the stock car was fast enough. But if it were the car would likely have been even more difficult to control.

    Unfortunately, we've got all this ridiculous analysis when the reality is actually quite simple. A couple of guys went out for a joyride, wrecked and died. It's no different than when some kid does the same in a Honda Civic.

  • by multisync (218450) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:43AM (#45583493) Journal

    Stop blaming the car.

    The problem is the driver

    No, the problem is the only qualification needed to drive one is having the money to afford it.

  • by OldeTimeGeek (725417) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:46AM (#45583521)
    They're sold for street use because they have to be. The FIA requires manufacturers in the GT classes to produce 25 cars for the car to be homolagated (allowed to race).

    Not to mention that they make very nice rich boy toys, just like all of the other super cars.

  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:46AM (#45583529)

    Stability control aka anti-lock brakes is not a "bull shit electronic nanny".

    Stability control and anti-lock brakes are two very different things.

  • by Michael Casavant (2876793) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:49AM (#45583563)
    I clock a lot of time on track in my basic mid-80's RWD sports car and I'll tell you what, I'll take electronic driver aides on the road. I bought a new car a few years ago with stability control and thought "why do all new cars have this?" All it took was one night when I was driving and the water on the road froze into black ice WHILE I was driving. I was in a warm driver seat and had left my house a few hours earlier in 50 degree weather. Stability control reacts much faster than a human can and do many things a human can't do (like braking individual wheels).

    That being said, the Carrera GT was manufactured in 2004, when car electronics where simply not that good. I completely understand why it wasn't included. On new cars, it should really only be an option. But if it was an option, I would select it every time on a road car. You simply cannot predict what will happen when you're driving home on a cold night and maybe a little tired.
  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmhNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:49AM (#45583573) Journal

    Stability control is an umbrella term for many different systems which may include anti-lock brakes. All are electronic nannies and arguably bullshit.

    Man I really braced up when I saw this thread, whenever automotive matters are discussed on Slashdot there's a torrent of Reddit-level stupidity.

  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:50AM (#45583577)

    No. You wheels would've stopped turning sooner, but your car wouldn't have stopped. If you'd stood on the brake pedal with no ABS, you would've skidded further than it took you to stop with ABS. That's why ABS is there. The simple fact is, you were driving too fast for the conditions, and, on that slick snowy road, no braking system on earth could've gotten you to stop in less than 100 yards. You can't cheat physics.

  • by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:56AM (#45583649) Journal

    It doesn't matter if the car is "unstable" or not, if the driver can't control himself and his right foot.

    Anecdotally, I've driven my share of twitchy, torquey, mid-engined, high gear-ratio, non-traction-control-assisted cars on snow and ice: The speeds are lower than a Carrera GT in warm weather, but the dynamics are the same.

    It becomes an interesting exercise in self-preservation, and isn't always immediately intuitive: For instance, sometimes the most stable way 'round a banked turn is to be going faster instead of slower.

    If way too fast, the car will drift up the banking and into the ditch. If way too slow, the car will drift down the banking and into the other ditch. If at the correct speed, the banking of the road combines with the centripetal force of the turn, and results in neutral handling.

    This can mean driving at a reasonably slow speed on the Interstate (to avoid being blown off the road by wind), and accelerating before a curve (to achieve neutral balance), and then gently reducing speed again once the road straightens out (because cross-wind).

    Yeah, it's touchy and it's delicate. With a ridiculous amount of torque and a limited-slip diff, it'll get away from you if you're not paying attention.

    The answer, then, is to pay attention. It doesn't matter what kind of car it is, or what the speeds or conditions are: If operating the vehicle at the edge of grip, and you lose concentration, Bad Stuff is likely to be in your future.

  • by c (8461) <beauregardcp@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:57AM (#45583659)

    And blaming the driver.

    Actually, I think most people are looking at a picture of a lump of scorched metal that used to be a car which was going fast enough to be completely wrapped around a small tree, and blaming the driver.

    You don't need to know the technical specs on the engine or the portfolio of the driver to spend a whole lot of time coming to that conclusion.

  • by bickerdyke (670000) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:59AM (#45583675)

    I have cars that are performance cars and they can handle this easily. I've driven them all my life, I know HOW to handle them too.

    Well, just say you've never been in a situation where you couldn't handle them yet.

    Call it survivor bias or Dunning–Kruger.

  • by caveat (26803) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @11:04AM (#45583729)

    I, along with most other "enthusiasts", wholeheartedly appreciate all the electronic gear and realize that a lot of it does make for outright faster lap times - but at the same time, I'd like to be able to switch it off should I choose. There's something to be said for hanging the ass out with a healthy jab at the throttle and shrieking around a parking lot trailing smoke, or slip-sliding around a corner on an empty gravel road in the boonies. OTOH, with extensive winter driving experience, there's also something to be said for having every driver aid known to man spinning a set of Blizzaks in the middle of a wicked nor'easter - all that skulduggery has gotten me home with far less stress than my reflexes and skills alone. There's a time and a place for everything, but a lot of manufacturers these days are eliminating the choice.

  • by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @11:05AM (#45583743)

    Stability control and ABS are two totally different systems. Although some modern cars use the brake system to aid in stability control (also in place of proper differential, the cheap mans diff) where the vehicle will selectively apply braking to 1 or more wheels. They are not the same.

    Stability control monitors wheel slip and in some cases lateral gravitational movement and adjusts power/braking/gearing to compensate for when the vehicle breaks loose. It is a pain in the ass, and can in many cases put you in danger in the event that you are in a situation where you may have to accelerate quickly to get out of a situation, say turning left and someone in oncoming traffic is not paying attention to the red light since you have a green left arrow and almost tbones you, if traction control kicked in, which I generally turn off, or atleast put into sport mode) I would have been in the intersection instead of 2 feet further and would probably have been killed.

  • by twdorris (29395) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @11:08AM (#45583789) Homepage

    why should the other people on the roads have to put up with the unnecessarily increased risk that you'll crash into them?

    Are you really suggesting that every safety feature available on the market should be pushed on every driver on the road for the sake of keeping everyone else safer? If so, then enjoy that big bubble you wrap yourself up in every day.

    Personally, I'll gladly trade a little of my own safety (and, yes, that of my family as well) to keep us all a little freer in the choices we have available to us. How god damn brain dead do you have to be to want to force everyone else to walk to work because it's safer for you? "But, but, it's SAFER!"

    What exactly is living if not taking and enjoying a few risks? Holy crap this kind of talk pisses me off.

  • by caveat (26803) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @11:28AM (#45584039)

    Looking at the pictures, it's pretty freakin' obvious the driver went "Lemme show you what the car can do - I got skillz yo, no worries!" and pegged it on a public street. Regardless of any risk to others, it's insanely moronic to drive like that off-track simply because there's zero margin. You fuck up, you die. No nice kerbs or runoff or gravel pits or SAFER walls to hit...just trees and lightposts. At 45mph, that car was perfectly safe, probably safer than anything else on the road that day because it's designed to go, and crash, much faster.

    But it wasn't exactly going 45 now, was it? Even IF something in the car broke, and that was why there was a loss of control - there was a loss of control at MASSIVELY EXCESSIVE SPEED. The gearhead-hooligan in me is sad, but the Responsible Adult is pleased these idiots sanitized the gene pool.

  • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @11:47AM (#45584263)

    There's a distinction here that you're missing. We're blaming the driver, not because he was lacking for skill or training, but rather because he was lacking for the common sense that says you shouldn't drive a car dangerously on public roads.

    While his inability to control the car under extreme conditions certainly had a role in all of this, the fact is that he never should have had those skills tested in the first place on a typical street. The only reason he did is because he chose to drive it dangerously, contrary to the posted speed limit and other rules of the road. Go look at the photos of the crash. Read the reports. It's apparent he wasn't following safe driving practices. This isn't about a driver losing control of a temperamental car under normal driving conditions. This is about a driver pushing things to the edge when he had no business doing so, and getting himself killed as a result.

    Put differently, the problem isn't that the car is too dangerous: it's that the car attracts dangerous buyers.

  • by digitalchinky (650880) <dtchky@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @11:59AM (#45584403)

    Any accident that has enough force to utterly destroy the driver / passenger safety cell of an exceptionally well built sports car was, by definition, being driven inappropriately on public roads.

  • by Quila (201335) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:18PM (#45584653)

    Other drivers are putting my life at risk because they simply can't drive and are inattentive. No amount of gadgetry makes up for that.

    I'd rather have a competent driver in a bare-bones sports car on the road with me than a clueless housewife in an Escalade with all the "safety" gadgets, putting on makeup and reading her texts while trying to keep the kids quiet.

  • by Bert64 (520050) <bert@slash d o t . f i renzee.com> on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:23PM (#45584721) Homepage

    Many older vehicles don't have ESP or ABS at all... Should these vehicles be made illegal?
    Lower end vehicles often don't have such features either, should these also be illegal?

    Such features are never even used except under exceptional circumstances, and those circumstances usually mean the road conditions are dangerous (eg ice, snow) or you are doing something illegal like speeding or tailgating.

    Chances are that even without ABS, the Porsche can stop quicker than most vehicles due to larger brakes and better grip from the wheels etc.

  • by ericloewe (2129490) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:25PM (#45584755)

    You seem to be one of *those* people who really need laws designed to protect stupid people.

    Trading safety enforced by law for the freedom of choosing not to be safe? Are you fucking serious? Do you also not wear a seatbelt because that would go against your freedom not to wear one?

    Guess what, no freedom is absolute. And considering many safety features in cars help prevent accidents involving people who had nothing to do with the accident, other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, you're effectively saying "My freedom to be stupid is worth more than the safety of others!".

    If you want to risk your life for your "freedom", do so, but don't endanger the rest of us with your imaginary freedom to be unsafe. I just hope nobody else ends up having to pay for your mistakes. It's about time you realize no freedom is absolute. You don't have the freedom to fire a loaded assault rifle in a crowded street, so why should you have the freedom to drive around in a way that endangers others?

    There's a difference between bubble wrap and caring for safety. Clearly, safety is not high on your list of priorities. Again, fine, but don't make anyone else pay (literally or figuratively) for your freedom to be unsafe.

    tl;dr - You are an idiot whose stupidity I hope to never have to finance.

  • by immaterial (1520413) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:42PM (#45588107)
    Yes, it's just idiots. If everyone were awesome "skilled drivers" we'd all be able to safely go 100 MPH through town. NO.

    City roads are not a fucking race course. There are thousands of places where your car interfaces with other vehicles, pedestrians, and stationary objects and these interfaces are not blessed with unlimited sight distance. In places where your vehicle and others potentially intersect, it may be simple to visualize and ensure clear right-of-way at 35 MPH, but utterly impossible at 100 MPH (say, for example, crossing at a 2-way stop sign where the driver can only see a few hundred feet down the road due to curves or curb-parked vehicles). It doesn't matter if you're the most incredibly skilled driver on the planet, you can't predict the future and you can't go from 100 MPH to 0 in the space of a few tens of feet.

    The kind of logic you and the GP are spouting is the kind of logic used by douchebags who use public roads as raceways - "hey, *I'M* a great driver, this is perfectly safe! If I ever get into an accident it's some other idiot's fault!" That's obviously fucking wrong on so many levels when you put even the tiniest bit of thought into it, to the point that anyone who spouts false logic like that is clearly the idiot and should have their license revoked for lack of ability to understand the physics and geometry of public roadways.

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