After 40 years, the most successful Porsche race car – the Porsche 956 – ever was reunited with its drivers in Leipzig.
Now 81 years old, British Derek Bell is still the elegant gentleman he was decades ago. 40 years after the fact, Bell finally admits that he and the other racing drivers who drove the Porsche 956/962 models at the tracks “worked like crazy” back in the day.
Joining him at Leipzig are Jochen Mass, Hans-Joachim Stuck, and Bernd Schneider who came to share their unique and special recollections of the most successful Porsche racing car of all time. 40 years ago, the Group C era started and eventually dominated the tracks.
Greeting them at the Porsche Experience Center in Leipzig, the retired race car drivers was the 1982 24 Hours of Le Mans winning car which had chassis number 956-002. The 956 with chassis number 956-005 was also present. It claimed victory at the 1,000 kilometer races at the Nürburgring and Spa as well as other victories. Porsche Museum brought the racing car to its former glory restoring it to its 1983 livery. Other cars in attendance are the IMSA-spec 962 from 1984 which had the fastest qualifying time in Daytona and the 1987 Supercup winner 962 C, and both cars also underwent a restoration to bring them back to their former glory. 1987 Le Mans winner Porsche 962 C with starting number 17 was also present, as well as the youngest Group C car, the 962 C with chassis number 962-015 from the Joest customer team which recorded a fourth-place finish during the 1990 Le Mans.
Also part of the reunion was then-test engineer Helmut Schmid while the former head of the project and the person considered to be the father of the legendary car, Norbert Singer, joined the event by video. An assembly of legends and experts needs an equally legendary host and Timo Bernhard delivered. He won the 2010 Le Mans under Audi, and he was also able to get it under Porsche in 2017 and became a two-time World Endurance Championship winner.
To start things off, he shared, “The 956 is the most successful racing car in the history of Porsche. It dominated everyone. And it remained a winner for an unbelievable 12 year.” From 1982 to 1985, the 956 was unbeatable in Le Mans, and its successor, the 962 C, successfully held the torch as it also took first place at the Circuit de la Sarthe in 1986 and 1987 in the 24-hour race.
The victories claimed by the car are certainly impressive. It was able to bag five manufacturer’s and team titles, five WEC driver’s titles, 43 individual victories at WEC races, and an overall seven victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 956 and 962 got the title from 1982 to 1987, and in 1994, it was claimed by the 962 Dauer Le Mans GT. It also had four IMSA titles, five wins at the 24 Hours of Daytona, and 52 individual victories in the IMSA races.
Jochen Mass summed it up perfectly and succinctly when he said, “Thanks, Norbert, for making it possible!”
The former race car drivers were in a great mood as they started their day in their racing cars, flying in formation on the 3.7 km, FIA-certified circuit at PEC Leipzig, with a design that is reminiscent of the best-known sections of the world’s race tracks. The drivers might not have been as fast as they were back in the day, everyone in attendance got goosebumps as the still powerful racing cars zoomed past, with their distinct engine sounds zooming down the straight one after the other.
Thanks to the Historic Motorsport team in the Porsche Heritage and Museum department and Coordinator Armin Burger, these racing cars can still be driven and raced even after so many decades.
Great article on the 956/962 and the best drivers ever. A video with a SOUNDTRACK would have been very much appreciated!