Porsche - 7:34.30 min.

7:34.30 min.

Nothing beats being perfectly prepared. That’s the thought going through Emerson Fittipaldi’s mind as he rides through the “Green Hell” at the wheel of his Can-Am Porsche. In 1974, the Formula One star wants to train for the German Grand Prix. The second round of the European Interseries, which takes place just a few weeks earlier, presents the ideal opportunity to do so.

At 27 years old, the Brazilian is already a big name in the Grand Prix circus: in 1970, at the age of 23, he becomes the youngest-ever Grand Prix winner; two years later, he is the youngest world champion in Formula One history. He will hold this record for 33 years, until Fernando Alonso of Spain finally breaks it in 2005. Nicknamed “Emmo,” the São Paulo native follows a traditional path toward his goal: kart racing and Formula Vee, followed by Formula Three and Formula Two in Europe. And he is very successful: Fittipaldi is an exceptional talent. Halfway through the season, he is moved up to the Lotus Formula One team. But he is looking to gain further experience. He’s not about to leave anything to chance.

Domingos Piedade, from Portugal, is one of his managers. Piedade works out an astute plan: “Why not put Emmo behind the wheel of a Porsche 917/10?” Willi Kauhsen, a racing team owner from Aachen, thinks this idea is great for the twelve-cylinder Spyder, which was developed in 1971/72 for the North American Can-Am Series. Kauhsen owns two of these 1,000-hp fireballs. He places one of them at Fittipaldi’s disposal.

Fittipaldi is familiar with the route. He has started there before, in the Formula One races of 1971, 1972, and 1973. “But I wanted to get to know the route even better,” the driver says. “If you think you know the Nürburgring, you’d better think twice. The North Loop demands practice, practice, practice.” The training session on June 16, 1974, reveals that Fittipaldi is in a class of his own. He takes a car he’s never driven straight to the pole position. The clocks stop at 7:34.30. His nearest rival is nearly 10 seconds behind him. It could have been more. “I never had the feeling that I’d reached the limit with the 917/10. I drove that lap rather conservatively.”

It rains on June 17, the day of the race, washing away dreams of victory. During the warm-up, the Porsche is running on only ten cylinders. Fittipaldi has to contend with both loss of traction and fishtailing. He prudently steers the 917/10 to fourth place. Even today, he says, “It was still a lot of fun.”

By Gregor Messer

Goodyear Cup, 300-kilometer race
Nürburgring, Germany
22,834-kilometer track
Porsche 917/10