Once again, the Porsche Carrera GT is coming under fire because of a lawsuit filed by the late Paul Walker's daughter, which alleges that the car's lack of stability control was a defect that contributed to her father's death.
And while we'll never know if electronics could have saved walker and his loss is still tragic, the Carrera GT didn't lack stability control because of a defect. The lack of stability control was a feature. Here's why.
The Carrera GT had an unlikely rise. It was born out of a Le Mans program that was abandoned so the company could focus on its Cayenne SUV. Porsche had a V10 engine with nowhere to put it, but then the lightbulb went off that it should be a limited production supercar.
What Porsche built was an uncompromising race car for the road. It had carbon brakes, a manual gearbox, a carbon clutch that was notoriously hard to use, no electronic aids, and a V10 engine that was meant for a race car.
When it was released, its main competitors were the Enzo Ferrari and the Mercedes SLR McLaren. They all have similar power and specs, but the way they got there was through very different methods. The Enzo had advanced stability and traction control systems along with an automated gearbox, more F1 car for the street. The SLR had a honking supercharged V8 and an automatic gearbox, more high speed grand tourer than outright track car.
The Carrera GT was the extreme choice of the three. It appealed to people that wanted to take it on tracks, that understood that driving one left little room for error, that it was a car that demanded respect when you drove it. It wasn't for fast backroad runs or drag racing, it was a race car on the road and it needed to be treated as such.
That was the allure of the car. It wasn't a car that would flatter you through electronic aids. It took the utmost concentration to get the most out of it with little room for error. It appealed to people that thought that cars had too many electronic aids as well as racers (like Paul Walker and Roger Rodas) that were tired of the electronic intervention that was proliferating in supercars in the early 2000s.
You needed to be driving it to fit the conditions, and if something wasn't right, the car wouldn't react well. where he suddenly turned and upset the car. There was also , though there were a number of contributing factors to that crash beyond the Carrera GT.
When Porsche built the Carrera GT, they created a car that wasn't for the mass market, it was going to a very particular, select audience. Porsche includes stability control on their regular model line because those cars are going to have a wide array of uses and drivers with varying experience levels. Some might go to a track and turn everything off, others might never touch the traction control buttons whether they're on a track or not.
The price for the Carrera GT immediately limited the customer base, and the lack of electronic aids and creature comforts limited it further. It was known that this was a car that wouldn't flatter or coddle you, it was a reason why owners bought them. If Porsche equipped the CGT with stability control, it's the sort of car where people taking it to a track would turn it all off. Immediately.
As racers, Rodas and Walker certainly knew how to treat the Carrera GT, and it probably excited them to drive such an analog supercar when everything was becoming so digital. It's the sort of car where you need to be on a track to exercise it, not on a road around an industrial park where conditions are unknown and unsafe.