It’s not just the same blood that flows through Dario and Marino Franchitti’s veins, it’s the same passions too. The pair share a lifelong love of motor racing, and of Porsche. Who better then, to be let loose in two of our own track-honed siblings? And where better than on their local race track?
Knockhill, Scotland. Marino Franchitti bends down and places his hands on the smooth, cool tarmac. “I’ve got a deep connection with Knockhill,” the 41-year-old Scot explains. “I drove a racing car for the first time here.” The brothers were born close by, in Bathgate, some five years apart, and the twists and turns of Knockhill are now a sort of home from home.
“And I hurtled into the gravel for the first time here,” Dario chips in with a smile. He can laugh about this minor off now — perhaps because he has since put a far more serious accident behind him. In 2013, with four Indycar titles and three Indianapolis 500s under his belt, a collision at the penultimate round of the season catapulted him into the catch fencing. Dario spent several weeks in hospital, and due to the severity of the injuries, his doctors recommended that he give up racing.
“That was doubly frustrating,” he recalls today. “In the spring of 2013, I had met Porsche in Weissach and we spoke about my future driving the 919 in the LMP class. It was really tough after my accident not to be able to deal with Porsche. Driving for Porsche’s works team, winning Le Mans ... Don’t all racing drivers dream of that?”
Marino, who has enjoyed just as much success in motor racing with a range of championship titles to his name, is still active in the sport. He claps Dario on the shoulder by way of distraction and points towards the 911 that brought the pair to Knockhill Circuit.
“You found that one, for Dad,” he says, putting his arm around his brother. It’s a Guards Red G-Series that belonged to their father when Dario was seven and his brother Marino was just two. "It's the first car that I can remember, it's where my love of Porsche started."
“Our mum tells the story of the hospital phoning to tell Dad that she was in labour and being able to hear him screaming along the road in the Porsche", explains Marino. The brothers laugh. “However, dad sold the Porsche in 1982 to support me with my driving career. I will be forever grateful to him for that,” says Dario proudly.
Their dad’s injection of funds paid off. In 1984, his first year of racing, Dario won the Scottish Junior karting Championships and then went on to win the British Championships. “And then in 2009, we actually managed to find the Porsche again,” explains Dario.
“I just happened to spot it on the front page of a car magazine and from then on, it never left my sights. When it finally came up in an auction, I pounced. We then did a full restoration and gave it back to Dad. He was very surprised to see his old car again! I have so many links to this 911. As a young boy, I would often sit behind the wheel and dream of becoming a racing driver.”
With this deep-seated addiction to both racing and Porsche, today is something of a dream come true for the Franchitti brothers. Before them sit the new 718 Spyder and Cayman GT4, their high output naturally aspirated engines idling on the start line, fresh rubber warmed through. A mercifully dry Knockhill is theirs and theirs alone for the next few hours.
Two laps later, the brothers are already beaming like kids at Christmas: “Driving these cars with my brother, here at Knockhill, is pretty amazing,” says an excited Dario, who went straight for the Cayman GT4. Marino, who has a penchant for drop tops, has stayed hot on his heels in the Spyder.
The pair get noticeably quicker lap after lap, carrying greater speeds as they grow familiar with the car’s torque delivery, handling and brakes. “This isn’t just down to horsepower,” Dario remarks during another stop. “Most sports cars are too powerful for the road. But the driving physics of the GT4 are extremely well balanced. It has been so finely tuned; it’s just great. I am impressed. Any room left on the waiting list?”
Marino is just as enthusiastic: “There’s not a single line on the Spyder that I don’t like. The feeling of pure power — completely unfiltered thanks to the open top — is huge. And when you want, the roof is back up again in no time at all. Not the worst option, particularly here in Scotland,” he concedes with a look to the looming grey clouds overhead.
The track time is followed by a long blast across some of their favourite Scottish roads, swapping seats, comparing notes and exploring the breadth of abilities on offer in Weissach’s latest wunderkinder. When it’s time to hand back the keys, the Franchitti brothers seem genuinely reluctant to do so. Happily, the air-cooled 911 that started it all is waiting patiently for them in the car park. Now all they have to do is decide who’s driving home.
718 Cayman GT4: fuel consumption combined 10.9 l/100 km; CO2 emissions combined 249 g/km
718 Spyder: 11.0 l/100 km (combined); emissions combined 249 g/km CO2