As most people know by now, actor and car nut Paul Walker died in a crash on Saturday, November 30 in California. Friend and racing driver Roger Rodas was at the wheel of the Porsche Carrera GT which hit a tree and lamppost before bursting into flames. Walker was not only a film star, but also a dedicated philanthropist and gentleman racer whose partnership with Always Evolving, Rodas’s tuning garage, meant that he was often around cars.
I write this thousands of miles away from the crash site. I’ve never once met the man and, other than the Fast and Furious films and the occasional Davidoff Cool Water advert, I’m not too familiar with his filmography. Despite all this, I awoke on Sunday morning with a peculiar sense of dread upon reading the news articles.
What really grated, however, was the media’s witch-hunt over the ‘dangerous’ Carrera GT the men were in. As any supercar fan knows, the GT is Porsche’s ultimate attempt at LMP technology for the road. The naturally-aspirated, 5.7 litre V10 is mated to a carbon-fibre monocoque. With magnesium alloy wheels and use of aluminium engine parts, everything about the car screams lightness. Car enthusiasts the world over have seen multiple magazine reviews praising the car’s directness and manual gearbox, with evo rating it as one of the winners of the ‘Analogue Supercars’ shootout earlier this summer. This sense of being ‘connected’ to the drive, however, does come at a price, as the carbon-ceramic clutch makes the car infamously easy to stall and snappy on the limit. evo, however, found that using different tyres from the standard configuration made the Carrera GT much more malleable and predictable.
No-one knows yet what tyres Rodas’s GT was on. Similarly, I find it hard to believe that an experienced racing driver would find a car he had driven many times before so unpredictable that he would crash it. Rumours have circulated as to their being a steering fluid leak on this particular model, but I guess that only time will tell if these rumours are ill-founded. The fact remains that despite the uncompromising nature of this road car, the GT is still one of the strongest and safest supercars around thanks to the extensive use of carbonfibre in its construction. Autopsy results have shown that Walker survived the impact, but succumbed to the fire that ensued.
Cars are dangerous things; that’s why we need to hold a licence to operate them. However, a racing driver is more likely to be able to control such a focused vehicle than either you or I, which leads me to believe that something was faulty on this GT.
Regardless of how it happened, Walker’s passing should affect anyone who calls themself a motoring enthusiast. I was 9 when The Fast and the Furious was released, and the green Eclipse and orange Supra were my first loves in the modified car world. The franchise is a guilty pleasure for most motoring fans (only in movies would an upshift suddenly afford a car so much power), but it is no coincidence that my love of R34 Skyline GT-Rs was ignited by a certain silver example at the start of 2 Fast 2 Furious. Walker’s untimely and ultimately, ironic, death should be mourned not only as the passing of a charitable person, but also the passing of a true car guy whose only difference from you or I was that he had the money to act out his motoring dreams.