We were thrilled to present at Salon Privé 2011 the most comprehensive and finest collection of surviving Group C Porsches.
The collection tells the story of what many people consider to be the greatest and most important ‘Le Mans’ car of all time – certainly the most important car in Porsche’s fantastic competition history. The story starts at the very beginning, with the first 956 ever produced, chassis 956 – 001, which started from pole position and won Group C in the hands of Derek Bell and Jackie Ickx at the models debut race at the Silverstone 6 hrs in 1982. It carried out much of the development that resulted in a clean sweep of the top three places on the Podium a few weeks later at the famous Le Mans 24 hr race and then went on to win the Norisring Gold race in the hands of Jochen Mass.This set the foundation for Porsche to also take the world driver’s championship that year, at a thrilling final round, despite not competing in all the races of the season.
The next car in the display is chassis 956 – 008, which was a newly built car as part of the works entry for the 1983 Le Mans 24 hr race. It led Le Mans for the first 4 hrs, driven by Stefan Bellof and Jochen Mass and also went on to win the famed Norisring Gold race, in front of over 100,000 spectators, in the hands of legendary driver Stefan Bellof.
For the start of the 1983 season, the Porsche factory built 7 new 956’s for the top privateer teams of Richard Lloyd, John Fitzpatrick (2 cars), Joest (2 cars), Kremer and Obermaier.
In the collection and on display are the very successful Brands Hatch 1,000 km winning cars of John Fitzpatrick (J David livery – 1983) and Richard Lloyd (Canon livery – 1984) teams. The Fitzpatrick car (956 – 110) had already tasted victory and is the only 956 to win on American soil, with a Can Am victory at Road America to its name. The Richard Lloyd car was a leading front running car for the '83 and '84 seasons, and was then sold to Walter Brun in 1985, to be campaigned by them for a further two seasons. This car went on to secure Brun the Teams World Championship title, ahead of the Rothmans Porsche and Silk Cut Jaguar factory teams in 1986 – a fitting end to its career, as this was the last year the 956 was eligible for the world championship.
For the 1984 world championship, the factory built a total of four new 956B's which were all to an identical spec as the 1983 works Rothmans cars. They were supplied to the Kremer, Fitzpatrick, Joest and the Walter Brun teams. Of these cars, the Joest car went on to achieve back to back victories at Le Mans in 1984 and 1985. The Brun car was tragically written off in 1985, however, the two remaining cars are both displayed – the Fitzpatrick car is in its 1984 Le Mans podium winning Skoal Bandit livery and the Kremer car in its 1984 Norisring Gold race winning Liqui Moly livery.
For 1985, a rule change in America resulted in the longer wheelbase 962 being introduced. A total of 3 Rothmans backed works cars were built, and on display is chassis 962 - 004, the number 1 car, driven by 6 times Le Mans winner Jackie Ickx, in his final year before retirement, and 1989 Le Mans winner Jochen Mass. This is car that went on to achieve Pole position for the works Rothmans team at the 1986 Le Mans 24 hr race, driven by Jochen Mass and Bob Wollek.
Two new updated and lightweight Rothmans works cars were built for the 1987 season. Chassis 962-007 was the Number 18 car, driven by Jochen Mass and Bob Wollek at the first four rounds of the world championship, after which the factory team withdrew. It was rebuilt as works Shell Dunlop car number 18 for Le Mans in 1988 - leading the race for nearly six hours - and has just been added to the collection, to make up the complete set of the 1988 works Porsche Le Mans team - their final appearance as a factory team at Le Mans in Group C.
Chassis 962 – 008 – the last Rothmans Porsche built, was the car sitting on Pole position for the 1987 Le Mans race, sporting number 18 Rothmans livery and driven again by Mass and Wollek. For all the other races, it ran as the number 17 car, driven to podium finishes in every race entered by Derek Bell and Hans Stuck. It was the last ever works Porsche entry in the World championship, at the final round of the 1988 season and today wears its 1988 livery as Shell Dunlop # 19, driven by the Andretti trio to 6th place at Le Mans, with chassis 962 – 004 finishing one spot ahead in 5th for its 3rd Le Mans visit.
The final factory team car in the collection is the very last works team car, which was built specifically to win Le Mans in 1988. This is chassis 962 – 010, still in it's # 17 Shell Dunlop livery, as driven by Derek Bell, Hans Stuck and Klaus Ludwig. Starting from Pole position, the car led the race, achieved the fastest lap and stormed back through the field from an early set back in a truly thrilling race and finally finishing within less than a minute of the winning Jaguar, after 24 hours of battle.
After the factory team fully withdrew from the world championship, it chose to support the Joest team, and built a considerably developed new works chassis numbered car for the team to contest the 1989 season. This car – chassis 962 – 011 went on to record the final 962 world championship win and was subsequently further developed to represent the final factory evolution of the 962 - still proving competitive and displayed here in its race winning 1993 FATurbo bi plane rear wing US IMSA spec.
Meanwhile, ex works driver and 1983 Le Mans winner Vern Schuppan had persuaded the factory to build a customer spec of its 1988 Le Mans works car, which proved to be very competitive and came so close to winning the 1988 Le Mans race. The first example was debuted in 1989 by Team Schuppan and the factory built a total of 7 new works chassis 962's to this spec for the 1990 World Championship. 3 of these examples went to the very successful Brun team, who had fielded a total of five 962's for the 1989 Le Mans.
They famously wore the REPSOL livery and were very competitive, one car coming within 15 minutes of finishing second overall at the very hotly contested 1990 Le Mans, where Jaguar and Nissan looked to be totally dominant. The car on display is chassis 962 – 163, the last car of the three to be built, and the last factory 962 built for the1990 championship; the final season of this great era, as from 1991 the rules changed to running much lighter 3.5 litre non turbo specification cars, effectively ruling out the 962 from the world championship arena - although they were given a year's grace, as a run out year of the model – spelling the end of Group C.
Brun also went their own way and commissioned John Thompson to construct them a bespoke aluminium honeycomb and part carbon chassis. On display is their lead car for the 1989 season, sporting original Hydro Aluminium livery, which it also wore for its return to Le Mans in 1990; the spec it is currently displayed in. This is the last 962 to achieve a second place in a world championship round, at the season finale race of 1989 - in Mexico.
Meanwhile, Richard Lloyd and his team were the first to realise that to beat the fantastic factory team, you would need to go in a different direction. In 1984, he commissioned Nigel Stroud to design a new honeycomb chassis for the 956 and the new car debuted later that year and this car went on to finish second at the 1985 Le Mans race, ahead of the third placed Rothmans 962.
By 1987, the new Lloyd 962 was nicknamed the British 962, and looked more like a Jaguar, with a distinctive nose, short tail and separate rear wing. These were extremely competitive and proved to be race winners. The car on display is the absolute final evolution of the RLR team cars, and the last of three to be campaigned by the team. Its debut was at the 1989 Le Mans 24 hrs, driven by David Hobbs and Damon Hill and it was the sole and lead team car for 1990, during which it achieved the best result for a 962 that year which was, in fact, the final podium result for a 962 in a world championship round. It still wears its original pink livery and Japanese script of Italya sports, despite several years competing in historic Group C, where it achieved overall endurance champion for 2008, driven by Henry Pearman and Mike Wilds.
In America, Jim Busby also recognised he would need something very special to take on the dominant IMSA spec Nissans and the new TWR Castrol V12 Jaguars. He too commissioned his own chassis, built by Chapman and featuring a billet front bulkhead. The car on display is unique in its body design, which is very similar to the IMSA Nissan. This car, The Miller Car, chassis 962 – 108 CO2 is considered the fastest 962 of all, backed up by Derek Bell's historic final 24 hr race win - at Daytona in 1989. It also won the Porsche Cup that year and was on Pole position, finishing second to the new TWR Jaguar at the 1988 Daytona 24 hrs – the race that all the drivers will tell you is much more difficult to win than Le Mans!