The case of the supercar Porsche Carrera GT exploding into flames–like happened to 40-year-old Fast and Furious star Paul Walker tragically on Saturday November 30, 2013–was not a new story to racing enthusiasts.
Over the years, sports car and street racing enthusiasts like myself joined up to race side-by-side the real Fast and Furious cast, and others, who shared the motorsports ‘adrenalin kick’ for years in events called ‘track days’ and ‘rallies.’ And this Porsche supercar was known out on the track as not any old Porsche parked on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Surely, it was a powerful beast of a supercar that was well respected–with some healthy fear–among drivers on California race tracks where I, and others, drove on the same turns at racetracks were Porsche GT drivers were killed before. We just have to believe that Paul, with all of his experience, knew he was stepping into a car with a reputation for being an “evil beast”.
Walker, best known for his role as Brian O’Connor in the Fast and Furious franchise, met his demise in an odd twist of irony for a man who made his career doing street racing on the big screen. The actor had attended a charity event at a nearby business he co-owned in Valencia, Always Evolving Performance. One worthy note about the actor’s departure from us–his last hours were filled with him helping to collect toys for Reach Out Worldwide, his foundation which was directing aid to the victims of the tsunami in the Philippines.
Friends said Walker, a racing enthusiast, decided to go for a ride in the 2005 fire red Porsche Carrera GT with Roger Rodas, a businessman and professional race car driver. Rodas was believed to be driving the car. Both men died in the crash, their bodies burnt beyond recognition. The two men met at a racetrack years before after Walker noticed that Rodas had bought his Porsche GT3 and quickly became friends, even forming their own racing team.
Many of us who attended track days held at California’s racetracks knew of several cases where, including in California, Porsche even had to pay out after the same beefy sports car Walker was riding in, slid off the road. It’s a sexy sports car but with a legendary “tail” that slides out and from under you; performing strange “phenomenon” at high rates of speed. Some drivers were even advocating that special classes be given by Porsche Racing before taking off in this car. Experienced drivers at tracks, including this writer, know, “Don’t dare get in that car unless the driver is a pro who knows how to drive it.”
Paul Walker trained with some of the same careful but daring pro drivers I drove with, so I am betting and hoping he trusted his driver before he hopped in for his last drive. Apparently Rodas was a professional driver racing for Porsche. But still, professionals have accidents, too. Speed, according to investigators seems to be a factor. And now the question many on the track asked for years will likely come out…..Is this car too dangerous for anyone other than a professional driver on a race track0? I am betting this will surface in this tragedy because it’s not a new story to those who love to race. With a car that does more than 208 miles and hour and has 3 times the horsepower of most cars on the road, apparently when one of the 1500 only built wreck, there is not much left to them.
Walker was not the only Hollywood star to die in a Porsche sports car crash — James Dean met the same fate.
The Hollywood icon’s Porsche 550 Spyder was a limited edition race car. Dean, in his own right, was himself a bona-fide race car driver. Like Walker, Dean also was serious about racing both off and on-screen. In 1955, Dean finished second in the Palm Springs Road Races and in May of that year, he placed third at Bakersfield. Later that month, Dean was running fourth at the Santa Monica Road Races, until he was sidelined with engine failure.
Dean was killed in his Porsche on September 30, 1955. His brand new Porsche car was also referred to as “evil” for years after due to the bad luck that it seemed to bring to the young legend.
Walker’s untimely death struck home for me how lucky I am to be alive after doing some hell-raising driving out there with the real cast of the Fast and Furious and others with an addiction to the sport of street racing, speed and race cars.
Heartbreakingly, Walker left behind a 15-year-old daughter.
Yesterday, fellow Fast & Furious co-star Vin Diesel visited the makeshift grave for Walker.