Ed Fahey

Adventures – Saloon,Sportscar/GT racing

Porsche 956/962

The first of a new series on here – car features, detailed photos of a particular car and reasons why I like them
Porsche 956/962

Manufacturer: Porsche AG (and others)

Years Produced: 1982-1994

Years Raced: 1982-1994

Race Victories (in period): 129

World Sportscar Championship Titles: 4

Le Mans Victories: 7

Number Built (approx): 140

Your heroes can leave a long lasting impression on you, they still instil the excitement that they once did when you first saw them and you will never, ever tire of seeing them – in my case its definatley this car! Loved them since I was small, but only saw one with my own eyes for the first time when I was 11 and had to wait another few years until I saw one race (albeit in historic racing), a long time to wait, but well worth it.

For me its this car – The Porsche 956 and 962 series, to me the ultimate racing car. For kids these days its diesel LMP1 cars being promoted to them as the best and the fastest, to those a generation before me it was a Gulf liveried Porsche 917, for me it was a Rothmans liveried 962. In the 80’s it was generally becoming known that smoking was bad for your health,TV advertising for cigarettes had been banned, so the tobacco companies poured advertising money into motorsport as it was high profile advertising and the cars were as well known for their liveries as anything else, and were usually refered to by them also, it was not the works Porsche it was the Rothmans Porsche, it was not the Richard Lloyd (RIP) Porsche it was the Canon Porsche etc.

The 956 was introduced in 1982 and was one of the first cars to be built to the then new Group C rules, the other cars being the Ford C100 and the Lancia LC2, and was then developed into the 962, mainly to comply with IMSA regulations, where the drivers feet had to be behind the front axle, but then after some serious injuries and deaths occured the 962 was adapted as the ‘standard’ car and the 956 was phased out at the end of 1985. From 1983 onwards 956’s were available to privateer teams also and were able to compete with and occasionally beat the works, or Rothmans cars, a trait which continued with the 962.

Under the engine cover, it was all tried and tested equipment – Porsches 2.8 litre flat 6 with 2 turbos, or just 1 for the IMSA spec cars, an engine originally developed for the Porsche 936 racer, but which had its roots in Porsches roadcars, later 3 and 3.2 litre engines were available, generally with 6-700 bhp available, speeds of well over 200mph were possible. The IMSA spec cars were aircooled, as opposed to water cooled with the rest, as per IMSA rules. The chassis was also tried and tested technology, so even wealthy amatuers (aka gentleman drivers) could drive and be competitive as unlike some racing cars, someone over 6ft (1.8m) tall could easily fit inside!

Given the amount of privateer teams running these cars many started to modify their cars, mainly aerodynamic changes and rebuilds after accidents, some rebuilds were so extensive that they were considered to be new cars. Also to cope with demand privateer teams such as Kremer Brun and Fabcar started making their own versions. This coupled with the amount of cars rebuilt and modified makes identifying how many cars were built difficult.

From 1982 to 1987 the 956 and 962 were the cars to beat ontrack, other cars might have been faster, or had stronger driver lineups, but the Porsches’s reliability and speed helped it to claim 6 Le Mans victories in a row (1982-7) and countless other wins, both sprint and endurance. By 1987 however cars such as the Jaguar XJR-9 and Sauber C9 had surpassed the 962 ontrack, given that 1987 was the last year of a full works 962 team and 1988 was Le Mans only for the works team, although there was support for the leading privateer teams still.

The late 80’s/early 90’s also saw further modifications to the 962, now with separate rear wings, and other aerodynamic improvements, such as some cars running with rear wheel covers, perhaps inspired by the TWR Jaguars, not to mention dozens of colourful and memorable liveries.

There was still 1 Le Mans victory left – a loophole in the 1994 rulebook allowed a ‘roadcar’ to be entered in the GT class rather than the prototype class, Jochen Dauer had been converting 962’s into road legal supercars, so he was more than happy to help the Porsche factory chalk up 1 more victory, with the Kremer K8 Spyder – a 962 with a removed roof winning at Daytona in 1995.

Into the 21st century and historic racing now beckoned for the 956 and 962 and for many including myself it was the first time to see them racing, for others it was as if time stood still, Group C racing was an unforgettable period and many still believe nothing will ever reach the same levels ever again.

Gallery – photos taken at Silverstone, Le Mans and the Le Mans museum

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