Porsche 962 - Eight Victories at World's Greatest Endurance Races
Porsche 962 (also known as Porsche 962C) is one of the most famous and most successful sports-prototype racing cars in motorsport history, with five overall wins at 24 hours of Daytona, three overall victories at 24 hours of Le Mans and many other championship titles all over the world between its introduction in 1984 and the last victory in 1994.
Evolution of the four-time Le Mans winning 956 model
The Porsche 962 was introduced in late 1984 as a successor to the 956 model. The old model wasn’t immediately retired because both cars raced at the same time for a few seasons. In that time, the sporting and technical regulations for the World Sportscar Championship and IMSA GTP Championship were not the same, so the WSC-prepared cars were labeled as 962C to make a distinction from the IMSA-spec cars.
In many ways, the 962 was an evolution of the 956, which was the first Porsche race car with an aluminum monocoque chassis. Some of the 956s were simply rebuilt as new 962s. The 956 was using the 2.6-litre flat-six boxer turbo engine and the 962 was also equipped with the same power unit, which developed around 630 hp.
By the middle of 1985, the newer 3.2-litre fuel injected flat-6 engine was placed into the 962 for the IMSA GT Championship. The 962C cars, prepared for the World Championship, didn’t get new engines until 1986, when Porsche started to use 2.8, 3.0 and 3.2 variants of the flat-six engine with turbochargers.
Porsche produced 91 examples of 962
In total, Porsche produced ninety-one 962s between 1984 and 1991. Sixteen were used by the Porsche factory team while all other cars were sold to customer teams worldwide. During the races, some 962s were badly damaged and later rebuilt with a new chassis number. Due to high demand for 962s, some chassis were built by Fabcar in the US and then shipped to Germany for their final assemblage.
During a long period of usage in the races, many teams adapted their 962s to better suit their needs, including new bodyparts, mechanical elements and improved aerodynamics. What stood out of the bunch was a large amount of privately built 962s. In fact, there was a real industry of teams and manufacturers which were modifying 962s, so some of them started to sell their cars to other customer teams.
Many teams built their own 962s
The most known private builder was Kremer Racing. Kremer replaced the aluminum chassis with a carbon fiber tub and built eleven cars which were named 962CK6. Brun Motorsport also had a 962 which was created in their own garage. Some other 962 builders were Obermaier Racing, Richard Lloyd Racing, Holbert Racing and Dyson Racing. The most extensive modifications were roofless Porsche 962s. Some of them, such as Kremer’s CK7 and K8, were successful in international racing.
Vern Schuppan planned a business with 962 street-legal supercar
One of the builders was the former Porsche factory driver Vern Schuppan, who built five new chassis for races but also started the business with the road version of the 962 in 1991. Well, he wanted to start the business and introduced the Schuppan 962CR, prepared for Japanese customers for a price of 195 million Yen (UK£830,000), but the business failed.
The most successful modified version of the 962 was the one of Jochen Dauer. He used the original chassis of the 962 to build a GT1 version named the Dauer 962 Le Mans, both as a street-legal car and race car. Dauer’s car beat all others and took the overall victory at 1994 24 hours of Le Mans.
Racing debut at 1984 Daytona 24-hour race
The Porsche 962 had its racing debut at 1984 24 hours of Daytona, with Mario and Michael Andretti in the cockpit. They led the race but retired on Lap 127 with engine and gearbox problems.
At 1984 24 hours of Le Mans, the Porsche factory team wasn’t participating. They boycotted the race due to a disagreement with the organizers (ACO – Automobile Club de l’Ouest). Only the privateers run with old 956s and took eight places in the top 10, including the victory of Henri Pescarolo and Klaus Ludwig in the Joest Racing’s car. The IMSA GTP version of the new Porsche 962 debuted at Le Mans in the colors of the American Henn’s T-Bird Swap Shop team but retired after 247 laps.
First Daytona victory and IMSA title in 1985
The real debut on the world’s racing scene followed in 1985 when Rothmans Porsche team entered the World Sportscar Championship with 962C. In the United States, a few private teams were running the Porsche 962 in the IMSA GTP Championship.
In its debuting season, the 962 was more successful in America than in the World championship. The season started with the victory of the #8 Henn’s Swap Shop car at Daytona 24-hour race. The first victory of the 962 was achieved by AJ Foyt, Al Unser, Bob Wollek and Thierry Boutsen. During the whole season, four different Porsche 962s were victorious at 15 of 17 races, including nine wins of the #14 Holbert Racing’s car, and the team owner and driver Al Hobert won the title.
1985 World Championship title with 962 and 956, Le Mans win for the old car
In the 1985 World Sportscar Championship, the new Porsche 962c scored the maiden victory in April at Mugello Circuit. Jochen Mass and Jacky Ickx was driving the #1 car. The pair Mass – Ickx won two more times in the season, but the world’s driver’s title went to their teammates and three-time winners Derek Bell and Hans-Joachim Stuck.
Bell and Stuck were mostly competing with the old 956, their only victory with 962C was achieved at Brands Hatch. The old car was also the winner at the Le Mans 24-hours race, the most important race in the season. The winning car was the #7 Joest Racing’s 956B while the best-placed 962C was the #2 of Bell and Stuck in the third place.
First Le Mans victory for Porsche 962C in 1986
In the 1986 Le Mans, the new 962C again was fighting against the old 956, but this time, the factory entered #1 Porsche 962C, driven by Derek Bell, Hans-Joachim Stuck and Al Holbert took the victory. The second-placed was the 962C of Brun Motorsport while Joest Racing’s Porsche 956 took the third place.
In the 1986 World Sportscar Championship, the driver champion was again Derek Bell while the team’s title went to Brun Motorsport, which scored two wins with the 962C at Jerez and Spa-Francorchamps.
One more IMSA title and Daytona win in 1986
In the 1986 IMSA GTP Championship, Al Holbert again was on the championship throne, driving the Porsche 962 to victory in six races, including the Daytona 24-hour race. His teammates in the second consecutive Daytona victory were Al Unser Jr. and Derek Bell.
In the 1987 World Sports-Prototype Championship, under the pressure of rising rivals, Porsche 962 gets a new 3.0-litre engine but it wasn’t enough to stop the domination of the Silk Cut Jaguar team. The British team won the title and Raul Boesel took the driver’s crown.
962C scored seventh consecutive win for Porsche at Le Mans
Rothmans Porsche team had won just one race, yet the most important one – the 24 hours of Le Mans. It was the record seventh consecutive victory for Porsche at the world’s biggest endurance race. The winning drivers were the same as the year before – Bell, Stuck and Holbert.
The winning streak was stopped in 1988
The Porsche’s 7-year reign at Le Mans ended in 1988. The victorious car was the #2 Silk Cut’s Jaguar XJR-9. Hans-Joachim Stuck, Derek Bell and Klaus Ludwig finished in the second place in the #17 Porsche 962C, almost catching the winners in the final lap after the Jaguar was hit by gearbox problems. Among 11 best finishers, there were nine Porsches.
Porsche didn’t lose only at Le Mans, the team also lost their championship titles. In eleven races of the 1988 World Sports-Prototype Championship, Porsche didn’t score any victories.
Third consecutive IMSA title and Daytona victory in 1987
At the American ground, Porsche 962 was still a winning machine in 1987, as Chip Robinson had won the driver’s title in the IMSA GTP championship. Robinson was also the winner of the 24 hours of Daytona, together with Al Holbert, Al Unser Jr. and Derek Bell. It was the last IMSA championship title for Porsche.
Two more wins at Daytona in 1989 and 1991
At the Daytona 24-hour race, the Porsche 962 was victorious two more times. In 1989, the winners in the Busby Racing’s car were Derek Bell, Bob Wollek and John Andretti. In 1991, Joest Racing came to Daytona with a five-men crew and won the race. The drivers were Hurley Haywood, Henri Pescarolo, Frank Jelinski, Bob Wollek and John Winter.
In the World Championship, tough times followed for Porsche and the 962C prototype which faced newer, stronger and faster rivaling cars. The last victory was achieved in 1989 at Dijon-Prenois, where Bob Wollek and Frank Jelinski were driving Joest Racing’s 962C.
Two podiums and three seventh places at Le Mans
At Le Mans, Hans-Joachim Stuck and Bob Wollek finished third in 1989 in the Joest Racing’s car. In 1990, Alpha Racing Team took the third place with Porsche 962C, driven by Tiff Needell, David Sears and Anthony Reid.
In the following years, the best result at Le Mans was the seventh place. In 1991, Stuck, Bell and Jelinski were driving Konrad/Joest car to finish 7th. In 1992, the seventh position was the result of the Kremer Racing’s 962CK6, driven by Manuel Reuter, John Nielsen and Giovanni Lavaggi. In 1993, the seventh place was scored by Obermeier Racing’s Porsche 962C.
Sensational Le Mans victory for Dauer 962 GT1 car
The rules for the 1994 Le Mans were changed and the Porsche 962C was no more eligible to enter the competition. In order to go around it, the German fashion magnate Jochen Dauer planned to build a street-legal version of the Porsche 962. That car was used for development of two race cars named Dauer 962 Le Mans, which entered the race in the GT1 class. The #36 car, driven by Hurley Haywood, Yannick Dalmas and Mauro Baldi, won the race. The second car, driven by Hans-Joachim Stuck, Thierry Boutsen and Danny Sullivan, finished third.
The very last win was scored in Japan
The last win of the Porsche 962 at Le Mans wasn’t the last win in general. One more victory followed in August 1994 at the Fuji Speedway, in the race of the Japanese Grand Touring Car Championship (JGTC). The last victorious Porsche 962C was the #35 car of Team Taisan, driven by Anthony Reid and Masahiko Kondo.
Historic results: eight wins at Daytona and Le Mans plus championship titles on three continents
In the previous years, the Porsche 962C had won five consecutive titles in the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship from 1985 to 1989, four times by Kunimitsu Takahashi and once by Hideki Okada. So, it was a proper place for Porsche 962 to close its victorious career in Japan.
With five wins at Daytona 24-hour race and three victories at famous Le Mans endurance race, plus championship titles on three continents, Porsche 962 deserved its special place in the world’s motorsport history as one of the most successful Porsche racing cars ever.