Porsche 917/30 Talladega record car – Spark

1975 Porsche 917/30 Talladega record car
Pilot: M. Donohue
Team: Penske Racing
Race: 1975 land speed record attempt 
Spark - MAP02043819 (resin) 

Published 12/06/19

The Can-Am Championship of 1973 consisted of nine races. Mark Donohue, piloting the 917/30 #6, came in first place in five of them. On October 28, 1973, at Riverside International Raceway, he won for the sixth time and claimed the championship. However, right on victory lane, to the bewilderment of everyone, Mark Donohue announced his retirement from motorsports. After wrapping up the Can-Am Championship and IROC he would become President and General Manager of Penske Racing. At Penske he would oversee the development and building of the team’s race cars.

Mark Donohue, at Riverside, 1973:
“I always have said that I was a better engineer than I was a driver. Now, I’ll have a chance to prove my theory!”

Almost the same car that Donohue piloted in the 1973 season.

Nevertheless, Donohue’s retirement was short lived. Just seven months after retiring, Roger Penske managed to get him back into a cockpit. After a successful racing program in Indy and Can-Am racing, Penske started to look into Formula 1. So the idea was that the development of an F1 car would be easier if the lead engineer designed and raced it. Somehow Donohue agreed to this, and by mid-1974 he was managing Penske’s racing department and racing F1 cars. But in the following year Penske accepted the challenge of bringing the retired 917/30 to Alabama to try a closed course speed record. And who would pilot the Turbopanzer? None other than Mark Donohue.

Even aero hubcaps were used to aid in aerodynamics.

The Talladega Superspeedway is a 4.27 km oval track located in Alabama. And the car would be Donohue’s old Can-Am ride, chassis #917/30-003. Penske got the car out of storage and didn’t do much else other than give it a coat of paint, a new nose and a few aero accessories. For the record attempt Penske painted it in a red and white CAM 2 Motor Oil scheme, and it became known as the Talladega 917/30 (or CAM2 917/30). 

An impossible shot.

The team had a hard time to set the car up as Donohue wanted it. In fact, after one run when he braked from maximum speed to a dead stop, the back of the car caught fire. But finally, after a few runs, he took the 917/30 up to an average speed of 355.923 km/h (221.160 mph). That was a new speed record (3m47s video) for a closed circuit lap, and the record stood for 11 years. 

Sadly, just 10 days later Mark Donohue fatally crashed his March 751 in practice for the Austrian Grand Prix. He was 38 years old. So even though in racing terms the Sunoco 917/30 was more important, the Talladega 917/30 left its mark. And specially for the Mark Donohue or 917 fan like me, it’s definitively an important model. Compared to my 917/30 from Minichamps, this Spark is better, but honestly not by much. More expensive than the Sunoco 917/30, yet at least in my eyes, just as valuable.

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