Early in the day of turbocharged racing Porsches, we began to see a lot more exhaust flames. We called them turbo fire, found them to be most dramatic during night races and much loved by photographers. Being at the right place on the track at the right time, knowing which of the cars was putting on the best show, and timing the shot to catch that brief gout of flames became important parts of the photographic craft. At times, with a little luck (we called it skill), you could even image the nose of a closely following racer by the light of the flaming car.
My personal experience with this phenomenon came not on a race track, not for the same technical reasons, and without photo documentation. I was testing a considerably modified 1974 911 with dual ignition that had just been converted to a breakerless setup. The two ignition systems had originally been configured with dash switches in the tradition of Porsche’s four-cam engines so that either system could be selected to run independently, but the function of those two switches was reassigned with the recent upgrade. No one had told me this.
My rate of progress down the twisty test road did not impress the small Japanese car that carved its way up behind me, found my speed unacceptable for his needs, and planted his nose firmly near my rear bumper to express his distain. At about this moment, I pulled the switch that had always before left me with a single functioning ignition system. But what happened this time was that the engine completely shut down, although fuel continued to pump. My Porsche slowed abruptly, no brake lights showing, of course. It must have been tough on my self-assigned wingman.
My frantic reactivation of the wayward switch only made things worse for my visitor; there was a bang that would have done an artillery piece proud, associated with a dragon’s burp of flame. And smoke—enough smoke to hide a retreating army. Engine restarted and forward progress resumed, I had time to check my rear view mirror. As the smoke cleared, my unintended victim was far back and small in the mirror, where he remained until I turned off the road. I’ve always felt reasonably certain that he thought the entire episode intentional, but I couldn’t have planned it that well.
As for the better managed GT1 in the 1996 image above, it was on its way to overall victory at the glorious Spa-Francorchamps circuit. No chance to illuminate a following car here; almost embarrassingly far ahead of its competition, nothing got close to this Porsche.