Although the British team gave up on the famed motor two seasons earlier and Porsche retired from the championship, Mezger envisioned that he could turn the illustrious engine into an equally successful, naturally aspirated variant to help the manufacturer return to the competition.
Along with his team, the engineer designed and built a new V12 by fusing two V6 units. Of course, they didn’t just weld two blocks together; the process was far more complex, but, in a nutshell, the new engine was heavily based on the blueprints of the old six-cylinder.
After a few disastrous races, Arrows ended up going back to Ford-Cosworth DFR and eventually terminated its collaboration with Porsche.
For the next season, a lighter, more powerful V10 version was developed but none of the competing teams were interested, so the manufacturer was forced to retire from Formula 1 once again. The engine was shelved and forgotten until motorsport chief Herbert Ampferer, another of the German carmaker’s most influential engineers, decided to revive it.
The 9R3 prototype (also known as LMP 2000) was also heavily modified to accommodate the new engine, and once everything was completed Allan McNish and Bob Wollek took it to the track for a two-day test. Both drives raved about the car’s performance, but by that time Porsche was allegedly pressured to halt the project by VW’s higher-ups. Some speculate that chairman Ferdinand Piëch didn’t want Porsche to compete against Audi’s R8 prototype at the 2000 Le Mans race, while others argue that manpower from the 9R3 team was diverted to the Cayenne SUV project. Regardless of what really happened, the V10 was destined to gather dust on a shelf once more, but, as it turns out, its story has a happy ending.
The ten-cylinder was upgraded once again, growing to 5.7 liters, and becoming the biggest engine ever fitted into a series-production Porsche. It maintained the 68-degree V angle and all-aluminum construction, gaining a slightly modified, chain-driven DOHC valvetrain with four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing on the intake camshafts, and sodium-cooled exhaust valves.
The revamped V10 could rev up to 8,400 rpm, about 2,600 rpm less than what it could reach in motorsport guise, but, as you can hear in the video below posted on YouTube by Gumbal, it didn’t lose its goosebumps-inducing, race-bred sound. It could spit out 603 hp in the 3,042-pound (1,380 kg) Carrera GT, close to what it could produce in the 2,050-pound (930 kg) Le Mans prototype.
Now considered one of the best supercars of the 2000s and the last great analog sportscar build by the German carmaker, the Carrera GT helped a seemingly cursed engine thrive and earn its place in the history books.
It started life as an epic failure, then shed two cylinders, becoming a Formula 1 engine that nobody wanted. After that, it spent several years gathering dust until it was converted into a promising Le Mans-spec unit, fitted in a car that was never allowed to race. In the end, it found its way into the Carrera GT, becoming one of the best production V10s ever conceived.