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The Best Racecar Ever? - Porsche 962

Rothmans Porsche 956/962

Kerry Morse
May 28, 2015
Photographer: Bruce Benedict

Porsche enthusiasts are counting off the days until September 25-27, when the fifth edition of Porsche Rennsport starts at Laguna Seca Raceway on the Monterey Peninsula. In tribute to this very special gathering, ec is focusing in on a special Porsche in each issue leading up to the event.

The 956 and 962, based on their long and competitive history, may well be the most successful top-line sports prototype ever constructed. It was thirty-three years ago that the first werks Rothmans 956 debuted at Silverstone for the inaugural race of the FIA's new Group C class. The most coveted examples are the factory team cars: Only ten 956s and ten 962C models were built at Weissach. So what was it that made the 956 and 962 so good that even a basic amateur team could campaign the car in Group C and IMSA and post decent results? For the answer, who better to call than the man called the "father" of the 956/962, famed engineer Norbert Singer.

"To have a successful car in endurance racing, you need to have first a very reliable car. This was one of the main points when we started with the 956. This car had a lot of different and complete new components. The engine was the only part, which was proven and tested; it won Le Mans in 1981. The rest of the car was completely new - gearbox, suspension and, for the first time in Porsche history, an aluminum monocoque, which had right from the beginning an outstanding stiffness-to-weight ratio. Also new were the composite materials for the bodywork. All this was developed and built in nine months! Also important was that all the development and parts manufacturing was done in-house, in Weissach, starting from the monocoque to engine and gearbox down to suspension and rim design as well as bodywork, especially the underfloor with its very specific needs for the ground-effects forces.

Second, you had to have the performance to race, and you should have the possibility to beat the others. In that point we had very good aerodynamics. We were able to use the ground-effects very efficiently. I think this was one of the main keys to be so successful through all the years.

Third, the engine was over the years also very efficient in fuel consumption versus power output, which was a key factor of the new Group C regulation.

Not to forget the perfect support from the tire side with Dunlop. They supplied us not only with tires with good and constant grip, they also made new tire sizes on your requirements; for example, in 1985 we asked for a narrower but taller rear tire to get better aero with wider ground-effects ducts.

That car, which was in principle the same through all the years, aside from detail works, took the others six and more years.

Not to forget the whole team, which was not only very excited to do the work, but was also very creative and was only a fraction of the number of people that is today necessary to be successful."

By Kerry Morse
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