009 - Licensed to Win

Overview of Porsche 956-009 Works by John S Allen

Sometimes, a car’s history is so good that it is never lost track of.  Such a vehicle’s every move is recorded, documented, and laid out for the world to see.  It is never crashed, it has only a small number of owners, and its provenance is so well recorded that when, at last, it eventually comes on the market, it is held up to be one of the most desirable racing cars ever. When it comes to sports-racing cars, it’s as likely as not that such a car is a Porsche.

When, in 1982, Porsche introduced their 956, nobody could have predicted the effect it would have on sports-car racing.  The first few photos of the original unkempt 956, tested at Weissach with Derek Bell at its controls, showed a scruffy prototype, its bodywork sporting assorted shades of grey-white primer, gelcoat and grime.  It was an unprepossessing vehicle - but it was the first example of a whole new dynasty, a type of car which would become, unquestionably, the most successful sports-racing car the world has ever seen.

As with all other 956s, the history of 009, the subject of this review, has been easy to keep track of.  On the bulkhead between the driver and the mid-mounted flat-six engine is glued a brass plate, etched with black numbers “956 009”, and carrying a stick-on brass Porsche badge.  Take one look through the windscreen of a 956, and the chassis number plate will be staring back at you, unmistakable, easily recordable.  Thus it came about that the history of the individual 956s, and their near-identical siblings the 962s, became the best recorded of any sports-racing cars ever built.

It’s interesting how attitudes can evolve.  Back in the nineteen-sixties, nobody ever gave a thought to “chassis-numbers”.  Every car had one, and so, presumably, did every racing car, but in the case of racing cars their only use was to ensure that a car could be legally identified for customs and carnet purposes; identification in the case of theft was unlikely to be required.  What had once been a front-line racing car would be sold by its users - generally speaking, its builders - to a lesser team, who would campaign it for a while before passing it on to a succession of less and less well-heeled enthusiasts who would each play with it, maybe try a little restoration (or, just as likely, some butchery), before its history became lost in the mists of time.

Beginning in the early ‘seventies, things began to change.  A new breed of racing-car owner came on the scene.  These men were not merely enthusiasts, they were also investors, and for them it was not enough to know merely that their car had raced, somewhere, some time.  They wanted to know where it had raced, who had driven it, and what it had achieved.  Provenance - a car’s undisputed history - suddenly became important.  The only way to piece together what a car had done was to begin by establishing its identity - and in an era when almost every part of a racing car could change from one season to the next, its identity was its chassis number.

With chassis numbers came problems.  In the hurly-burly of a racing year a car could be damaged, put aside, partially cannibalised, rebuilt with bits from another car, damaged again, once more rebuilt, and in the process the picture of its history became blurred beyond recognition.  We’ve all come across them - the restorations, the recreations, the plain fakes whose claims to fame rest on having little more than a nut or a bolt from some illustrious predecessor included within them: apart from having new chassis, bodywork, suspension, brakes, lights, engine, transmission, wheels, tyres, interior, glass and paint they are, of course, “totally original”.  With tube-frame chassis the problem was compounded by the ease with which new frames could be built, but with the arrival of monocoque racing cars, it became, thankfully, rather more difficult to fake a real racer.

Despite the easily visible chassis numbers which adorn 956s and 962s, their histories are not always clear-cut, and one or two or them were so badly damaged in racing or testing that they, too, suffer from broken branches on their family trees.  Exactly how many chassis were built is also something of a grey area.  For 956s there is no problem - there were precisely 28 official chassis built, and only two “copies” (both easily identifiable); however, when the 962s came on the scene, several concerns other than Porsche became so prolific in their building of substitutes that the question of what’s real and what isn’t can really tax the mind, and many of these ersatz chassis will fool most of the people most of the time.  At the final count there were no fewer than 82 962 chassis in the “official” numbered listing, plus an uncounted number of other chassis, either semi-official (made in the USA) or merely copies used as replacements for damaged chassis or the build up of brand new cars.

For the 956 though, that relatively small number of chassis makes tracking their histories relatively simple.  From amongst those cars, just two stand out. Everyone knows of Joest Racing’s legendary 956 117, one of a select few cars ever to have won twice at Le Mans - but how many realise that 956 009, relatively unsung, has a racing roll-of-honour that even ‘117 would be proud of?

956 009’s first public outing was in the Fall of 1983, at the Fuji 1000km, scheduled for 2 October.  The season so far had already seen the works team - Rothmans Porsche - field a variety of 956s, all carrying the prestigious double-0 numbers which identified cars reserved for the factory effort.  003, 004, 005, 007 (demolished by Stefan Bellof at the Nürburgring) and 008 (crashed during testing at Weissach) had been used, and of the other double-0s 006 was an unraced experimental car, and the doyen of the type, 001, was in Rothmans’ hands for use as an exhibition vehicle.

At Fuji, Jochen Mass and Jackie Ickx (the pair being nicknamed “MIX” because of the legend used on the pit board) had their trusty war-horse 005.  Indeed, Ickx and Mass used this car at every round of the 1983 championship, except that at Le Mans Ickx was partnered by Derek Bell, and Mass had switched to 008, which he shared with Bellof and Jurgen Barth.  So it was that Bell had lost his regular mount, 007, to the Nürburgring crash, and its replacement, 008, to Roland Kußmaul’s testing mishap.  At Brands Hatch and Spa he had had to make do with the elderly, much-travelled, 004, so it was with some relief that the “BEL” duo got their hands on a stiff new 009, for the Japanese race.

Besides the Rothmans Porsches, there were, of course, other cars at the event, but apart from privateer Porsche 956s none of them really seemed to count for much.  Perhaps that may seem a trifle deprecating, but facts are facts, and during the 1983 season if you weren’t in a 956 you might as well have stayed home... as the best of the rest, the Martini Lancia team, discovered most of the time.

The Fuji weekend got under way a couple of days early - Thursday, in fact - with untimed practice, the session seeing John Fitzpatrick’s 956 go off in a big way, the damage being enough to rule out the car making the start.  Although the Rothmans/works team had a spare car, they were keeping it to themselves, and despite Fitz’s pleadings to be allowed to borrow it, the Rothmans spare remained just that.  After Friday was also given over to untimed practice, qualifying proper took place in two sessions on the Saturday.  009 got off to a good start, with Bellof - playing the firebrand, as usual - setting a scintillating time of 1m10.02, just 0.49s ahead of Mass’s time in the other Rothmans car.  The second session showed no improvement for either car, so there it was - the Rothmans cars one-two on the grid, with 009, first time out, sitting on pole!

For Bellof, it would have been unthinkable to finish the race’s first lap in anything other than first place.  He set off as if this were a sprint event, never mind the thousand kilometres which lay ahead, and 009 stayed in front.  Team orders?  No chance!  Mass went charging after Bellof, and after 16 laps put his own 956 ahead of 009.  That was too much for Bellof, who repaid the favour by the end of the 22nd lap.  On the 39th lap, Bellof made his first pit stop, and handed over to Bell.  009 remained in the lead, by only one second, from the Mass/Ickx car, which made its first stop on lap 40.  Unfortunately, all was not well with 009, Bell finding the car understeering badly, so much so in fact that 009 lost the lead to Ickx, and at the next pit stop 009’s front tyres were seen to be badly worn.  Ickx’s tyres began to go off too, but not as badly as 009’s, but even so the newer car fell further and further behind, until eventually 009 was almost a lap back on the MIX car.

In the end, the race’s outcome was decided by tyres - but in 009’s favour!  Although the understeer suffered by 009 was worse than was 005’s, a burst tyre on the latter car saw roles being reversed, delaying MIX long enough for them to take over the role of chasers, but not managing to catch BEL by the finish - which came earlier than scheduled because of a Japanese Dome crashing heavily due to... a burst tyre.  And so it ended, with 009 having secured both pole position and first place - quite an achievement for a first outing.

The next two major endurance events on the calendar were to be played out at Imola and Mugello, but both counted for points for only one series, the European Championship for Drivers, so, since Rothmans Porsche were not interested in that title, they didn’t go.

The season’s finale was at Kyalami, on 10th December, giving the teams a chance to enjoy some summer sunshine in the middle of a European winter.  For the Rothmans team, the car/driver pairings were as for Fuji - MIX in 005, and BEL in 009.  They were joined by a third car, old 003, equipped with a PDK gearbox, and shared by Vern Schuppan and Al Holbert.  It wasn’t expected to do very well, as the extra weight and complexity of its PDK made it uncompetitive, but it had to serve its purpose as a test and development vehicle.

The front row of the grid was a repeat of Fuji’s, with 009 and Bellof doing the honours ahead of Mass.  The best times were set in the first session, with 009’s margin being 0.65s, for a lap time of 1m10.88.  The second session was much slower, thanks to the atrocious weather, and nobody managed to put in a quick time.  At least the MIX pair were on the front row, especially important for Ickx as he was intent on wrapping up his second consecutive drivers’ championship, in which he was comfortably - but not decisively - ahead of Bell.  As time would tell, he would manage it, too - but that didn’t mean he would win the race.

The race began with a ding-dong battle between BEL’s 009, and, unsurprisingly, the MIX car, with Bellof ahead of Mass; behind them, places changed frequently, with Bob Wollek’s Joest 956 gradually emerging as best of the rest.  The two Rothmans cars steadily pulled away from the pack, and, by the time of the first pit stops, Bellof’s 009 was around 15 seconds in front of Mass.  For Mass/Ickx, the pitstop was a disaster, problems with the jacking system, and an engine unwilling to restart, costing MIX no less than 40 seconds.

Not long afterwards, the weather produced a repeat performance of its previous two days: the heavens opened.  In the midst of a torrential downpour, many cars left the road, with varying degrees of damage as a result.  Ickx managed to avoid most of the carnage, but not totally unscathed, the MIX car losing part of its undertray, which did nothing for the handling.  Through it all went 009, staying between the kerbs (just), and avoiding contact with others. The rain eased, the sun came out, and the track rapidly dried - leaving Bell and 009 serenely cruising on, well in the lead.  Fuel consumption came into play, for although the lead car was precisely on schedule, most of the others appeared to have overspent their allocations (or used the maximum permissible number of fuel stops), and were thus unable to mount a serious challenge to the lead 956.  With BEL’s lead virtually unassailable, interest moved to the rest of the field.  Despite the damage to the MIX car, it still managed to arrive in third position, but, for once, behind a Lancia.  The points earned by Ickx and Mass were enough to keep Jacky’s tally greater than Derek’s, so Ickx rounded off the year as World Champion, yet again.  The leading 009 took the chequered flag after darkness had fallen, to chalk up the second win of its career.

1983 was over, and 009 had scored two out of two - race wins and pole positions!

1984 was to be 009’s first full season - and during it the car would make no fewer than seven starts, at Monza, Silverstone, the Nürburgring, Mosport, Spa, Fuji and Sandown Park.  On each occasion it would be crewed by Bellof and Bell, and the only WEC events it missed were Le Mans, Brands Hatch and Imola, the latter two races earning points for the Drivers’ Championship only.  Come to think of it, there was another event missed - Kyalami.  Political considerations came into play, and there were only three Group C cars present, these being a single 956 for Dieter Schornstein’s team, and a pair of Lancia LC2s, the latter giving Lancia their only win of the season!  The omission of Le Mans from the Rothmans schedule was down to a protest by the team against a set of rule changes which FISA had imposed without complying with its own stability rules.  Several of the changes affected the fuel consumption aspects of Group C, with which Rothmans Porsche had spent a vast sum of money in complying.

And so to Monza, on 23rd April...  where, at last, MIX had the services of a brand new car, 010, to replace 1983’s trusty 005, whilst the position of spare car fell to 004.  For once, practice was not as predictable as we had come to expect.  Astonishingly, the front row of the grid was not an all-Rothmans preserve! The best that MIX could achieve was a dismal 8th on the grid, with two Lancias and four privateer 956s between them and the pole-sitter - 009.  This made it three poles in a row for 009, but some of the credit for this third pole can be laid at the door of other cars’ engines, several of the 956s suffering broken motors during practice, the Ickx/Mass example having no fewer than two giving up the ghost.

The early pace of the Monza race was dictated by pitstop strategy, with teams having effectively just two options - five stops, or six.  For BEL and 009 the choice was six, so, from the flag, Bellof hurtled away into the distance, attempting to build up enough of a lead to compensate for the extra stop compared with several of their Group C rivals.  Ickx and Mass, however, were on the same fuel plan as was 009, and Ickx, in charge for the first stint, had no intention of being left behind.  Apart from brief occasions as a result of pitstop timing, the two Rothmans 956s were never headed.  Throughout, the only two real contenders for victory were these two cars, and although 009 was often under pressure from MIX, the BEL pairing and 009 took the chequered flag just 24 seconds ahead of MIX.

Monza made it a hat-trick for 009 - three poles and three wins.  For how long could this last?  The answer was - not long; not, in fact, after post-race scrutineering, where the scales showed 009 to be all of 2kg - about four pounds - underweight.  Disqualified!  But perhaps not...  Although the decision was handed down at the circuit, that was not the end of the battle, and Rothmans Porsche duly appealed, won its appeal, and 009 was reinstated as winner.

Round 2 of the World Endurance Championship unfolded at wind-swept Silverstone, on May 13th, and, at last, 009’s unbroken run of wins and poles came to an end.  The works team ensured that there would be no repeat of the weight fiasco of Monza, and 009 tipped the scales at 16kg above the minimum weight of 850kg, enough to compensate for anything that might happen during the event; 009’s sister car was just 3kg lighter.  The best qualifying lap for 009 was 1m15.50s, giving BEL third on the grid, behind - wait for it - a Lancia LC2 (!) and the other Rothmans Porsche.

Earlier in the season, a cost-cutting measure had seen the teams agree that special qualifying tyres would not be used this year, but, after Martini-Lancia binned the agreement, both Rothmans cars had to wear qualifying rubber to be able to compete.  Unfortunately, the stickier boots were not enough, for the engine gremlins which had bitten at Monza struck again, to the extent that a fair amount of practice time was lost in engine changes.  However, ALL the team’s engines went up in smoke, so 009 had to have a replacement motor flown in from Zuffenhausen!

When it came to the race, at first Patrese’s Lancia LC2 set the pace, but the most dangerous rival to the Rothmans cars turned out to be the GTi Engineering Canon-Porsche 956 of Jonathan Palmer and Jan Lammers.  The Lancia’s initially spirited pace soon weakened, so a three-956 race ensued.  BEL’s chance of a win was destroyed after the first pitstop, Bellof taking over from Bell - but, just one lap later,  009 had to return to the pits to have a wheel-nut tightened. It wasn’t to be 009’s day.  A further pitstop, for a suspected puncture, plus another twenty minutes lost when an oil-cooler began to leak, put an end to any hopes of 009 being in the points, and by the end of the race 009 was tenth, 17 laps behind the winning MIX car.

1983’s race at the Nürburgring had been on the old circuit - the one which is considered to be a such a classic by everyone who doesn’t actually have to risk his life driving on it.  For 1984 die neue Nürburgring was in use for the first time, and reactions were mixed as to how good the circuit was.  True, it could never be another Nordschleife, but then it was a whole lot safer.  Bell and Bellof were, as usual, entrusted with 956 009, whilst MIX had 010. Intermittently bad weather during practice made its mark on qualifying times, but Bellof pulled out all the stops to record, in the first session, 1m28.8s, putting 009 on pole a mere 0.13s ahead of, of all things, a Brun Porsche 956, its time being set by Harald Grohs.  The other Rothmans car managed fourth on the grid, behind the Canon 956.  One interesting aside to practice was that seventh place on the grid was claimed by the Joest 956 driven by one Ayrton Senna, having his first ever race in a sports car!

009 led from the start, but the Brun/Schiesser 956 of Grohs and Hans Stuck was close behind - so close that Stuck, not in the slightest bit overawed by the Rothmans Porsche reputation, actually took the Brun car past 009.  That wasn’t all - Jonathan Palmer, in the GTi/Canon 956, did exactly the same.  It stayed that way until the first pitstops, when the order settled down as 009, Brun, GTi.  However, 009 was being hampered by understeer, and it was obviously difficult for BEL to keep up the pace.  A variety of minor bits and pieces afflicted all the leaders, so for a long time it was touch and go who would end up on top. When the rain came, 009 was in the lead, Stuck was about to plant the Brun car into the tail of an Alba, and one of the Skoal Bandit 956s was set to profit from everybody else’s misfortunes.  Driven by Thierry Boutsen and David Hobbs, it took the lead after Bellof had damaged one of 009’s wheels on hitting a kerb.  More minor problems looked to set to keep 009 even further behind the flying Skoal Bandit car, but, at the final pitstops, the Skoal 956 at first refused to fire up - so giving BEL the lead, which they kept to the end.  Thus 009 had added both another win and another pole position to its already impressive tally.

Mosport, Canada 5th August - and it was no surprise to find 009 on pole.  Bellof set the time, of 1m12.107s, better by 0.690 seconds than the fellow front-row MIX team.  Only sixteen cars started, and they included an Audi 80 and a Camaro - so obviously this wasn’t the best-supported race of the season. Nor was it the best-organised.  It isn’t often that a World Championship race has a false start, but this one did, with somebody forgetting to hang out the green flag at the end of the pace lap.  Not far in to the race proper, 009, then in the lead, lost its fan belt, and a succession of pitstops to have batteries replaced relegated it to fourth place (MIX won), completing only 221 laps against the winners’ 253.  For 009 this wasn’t really a race to remember - but still, it did put another pole position in the bank.

When the teams came back across the Atlantic, their next stop was at Spa.  The regular pair of Rothmans cars were joined by old 004, allocated to John Watson and Vern Schuppan, and equipped with an experimental gearbox.  004 was part of Porsche’s approach of experimenting when racing, so it could not be expected to do well in the race.  The level of professionalism of the many privateers teams using 956s was such that they could, and often did, mount serious challenges to the works/Rothmans cars.  This time it was, once again, the Skoal Bandit car of John Fitzpatrick Racing which shone, and, driven by Boutsen and Hobbs, it took pole, ahead of MIX and BEL.

With Ickx and Boutsen - both Belgians - on the front row, reputations were at stake, and Ickx made no mistake when it came to taking the lead on lap one. Bellof duly passed Boutsen, too, and then, on the second lap, probably upset the other Belgian just a trifle when he took the lead from Ickx.  From then on, BEL never lost the lead, except during pitstops, and, despite a last-minute scare when 009 began to develop a misfire because the mixture was over-lean, scored an easy win, some 57 seconds ahead of MIX.

As has already been noted, 009 missed the Imola race, on September 16th.  The event counted towards only the Drivers’ Championship, not the Makes’, and Rothmans Porsche sent only one car - and an experimental one, at that.  It was entrusted to Jacky Ickx and John Watson, broke its engine in qualifying, and lasted only two laps of the race, so its presence was hardly even felt.  Fortunately for the other Rothmans pilotes chasing for the Drivers’ Championship, Bellof and Mass found drives with other 956 teams, and wound up respectively first and third overall.

The seventh round of the 1984 Makes Championship took place at Fuji, on September 30th.  The first six places on the grid were all taken by Porsche 956s, and the front row was a Rothmans preserve, with pole going, yet again, to 009.  Bellof set the time, partnered by John Watson, the latter standing in for Derek Bell, who (as two weeks before) missed the event because of dates clashing with an IMSA fixture.  The race became a Rothmans Porsche benefit, although the Trust 956 (of Schuppan and Stuck) harried them closely in the early stages.  Despite a heart-stopping moment when 009, with Bellof at the wheel, tapped an Alba (being lapped, of course), sparking off an accident which brought out the pace car, 009 never once lost the lead, and after 997 kilometres led a Rothmans one-two to the flag.

The points standings by this time read: (Makes) Porsche 140, Lancia 55, others nowhere to be seen; (Drivers) Bellof 119, Mass 116, Ickx, 89, Pescarolo 75, Bell 71, and so on...  The Makes Championship was closed, and with 80 points to its credit 009 itself had scored well enough to clinch that particular contest.  However, just one round of the Drivers’ Championship remained.  To recap 009’s roll of honour at this stage of its career, its log book read like a good domino: Double Six - pole positions and race wins... and, although we didn’t know it then, by the time the next race, at Sandown Park, had unfolded, it would be double-seven.  The score sheet makes it look so easy, with Rothmans Porsche having dominated the entire 1984 season.  True, they did dominate, but constant pressure from the army of 956 privateers kept them on their toes throughout, and they never had time to draw breath.

Sandown Park, Australia, December 2nd 1984: the Rothmans team was back to normal, with Bell and Bellof in 009, Ickx and Mass in 010.  Back to normal, at the front of the grid, too, with 009 on pole (1m31.6s), and 010 alongside it (1m32.3s).  004, the experimental car, was there again, for Alan Jones and Vern Schuppan; numbered 3, it earned third place on the grid, with a time of 1m32.4s.  At last, this time, it was actually to be used, although at Monza, Silverstone, Spa and Fuji 004 had been the unused spare car.

Bellof had his share of good luck; during untimed practice he lodged 009 in the guard-rails, but, fortunately for driver, car and guard-rails, the damage to all of them was not so severe that it couldn’t be repaired in time for the qualifying sessions.  At the start of the race Bellof was astonished - Australian Alan Jones, keen on showing that local knowledge is worth a fraction of a second here and there, sneaked past both front row cars as they headed for the first turn.  Bellof’s amazement put him off his stroke, and he let Mass slip by, too!  This was too much for Bellof to bear, and by the end of the second lap he and 009 were in their rightful place at the head of the queue.

The only other 956 which showed enough pace to keep up with the leaders was John Fitzpatrick’s 114, driven by Thierry Boutsen and David Hobbs.  114 didn’t have the raw power of the Rothmans cars, but it was handling better.  Thanks to a pits straight accident, which brought out the pace car, the whole phalanx closed up, negating all the good work of Bell and Bellof, and leaving 009 vulnerable to Hobbs in 114.  Hobbs did his stuff, outbraking Bell to take the lead.  It could have ended that way, with the Fitzpatrick car taking a surprise win, but it wasn’t to be.  Hobbs’s team-mate Boutsen wasn’t as quick as Bellof, and soon 009 was back in the lead.  When a spate of punctures caused by the rapidly decaying asphalt delayed everybody except 009, it was all over bar the shouting.  009 was the winner, MIX in 010 were second, and 114, alas, retired with a burnt-out ignition coil.

The 1984 season had come to an end, Bellof, in 009, becoming the Drivers’ champion, with 139 points (111 scored in 009) to Mass’s 127.

1985 was to be the year of the 962.  The FISA was intent on bringing the WEC regulations closer to those of IMSA, and one way to do this was to adopt the same rules as regards the positioning of the drivers’ pedals.  IMSA decreed that these should be behind the centre-line of the front wheels, but until 1985 no such rule existed in the WEC.  The 962 was a long-wheelbase development of the 956 designed to meet IMSA’s pedals rule, and the IMSA 962 was then adapted for WEC racing.  The new car generally didn’t handle quite as well as the 956 - at least, in its early days - but Rothmans Porsche kept to the spirit of the new rules as far as was possible, and during 1985 raced 962s, instead of 956s, whenever it could, despite the FISA’s new rule not becoming mandatory until 1986.

Thus it was that 956 009 had a relatively quiet 1985 season.  It raced at only Monza and Silverstone, although it was present as T-car at Mugello, Brands Hatch, Le Mans and Fuji.  Drivers in both races were Bell - just like the “old days”, but now partnered with Hans Stuck, the latter replacing Stefan Bellof, who, in mid-1984, had signed for Brun, at a time when Porsche’s involvement in the ‘85 championships was beginning to look doubtful.  Sadly, on September 1st, Bellof was killed at Spa, when he and 956 116 tangled with Ickx in the Rothmans 962 004.

At Monza 009 qualified an unspectacular 6th (MIX were 4th in 962 002, and - wait for it - a Martini-Lancia was on pole!), and they finished an extraordinary race in 4th place.  Bell and Stuck should have been in 962 003, but that was badly fire-damaged during practice (why is it that Monza’s marshals rarely seem to know how to put out fires?), so old 009 was dragged out, had a 962 rear-end grafted on to it, and put into the fray.  Considering everything, it didn’t do too badly, really! The race was stopped early after gales had blown a tree on to the track, and Lady Luck smiled on the Kremer team, whose 962 110, courtesy of Marc Surer, Manfred Winkelhock and pitstop schedules, happened to be in the lead when the race was red-flagged.  Had things run their course, we might even have seen a Lancia win...

Silverstone, May 12th, 1985, was to be 009’s final fling.  Once again, the Lancias were on top, with the first two places in qualifying, but this time the hybrid 009, still with its 962-style rear-end, was best of the Porsches, in third spot.  The Lancias had the pace to win, but troubles caused them to fall back, so that eventually old 009, closing out its illustrious racing career, crossed the line in second place, a lap behind the winning MIX car.  Had it not been for a stop to tape-up a loose windscreen it could have finished on the same lap, but the fates decreed otherwise.

By mid-June, 962 003 was back in action, so 956 009 was relegated to T-car duties, never again getting the opportunity to race.  There was, nonetheless, one more interesting outing in store for it.  It was taken to Le Mans, to act as a T-car, in short-tail trim, more for comparison purposes than with any intention of it racing.  Despite the straight-line speed handicap of the high-winged tail, Hans Stuck managed to pilot it around the 13.626km circuit in the quite remarkable time of 3m19.72s, which would have entitled it to fourth position on the grid!  In late June it was tested by all four regular drivers (Ickx, Mass, Bell and Stuck) at Hockenheim, it turned up as T-car at Brands Hatch in September, travelled to Fuji to fulfil the same role in early October, and was then granted an honourable retirement.

956 009’s race victories do not number as many as those achieved by other cars, but there is more to a good history than a mere tally.  All 009’s victories were gained in World Championship long-distance endurance events, against front-rank opposition (not least its own team-mate), rather than in 10-lap sprints against mediocre competition.  Seven World Championship poles, and seven World Championship wins - can any one car beat that?