An interesting car, even by works Group C Porsche standards.
Not only was it the last 962 to be built to race in Rothmans colours, it was also one of relatively few 962s to race with a PDK, double-clutch transmission. The double-clutch gearbox is a common item these days but even in the rarefied world of racing in the late 1980s, it was an unknown, untried and therefore unproven concept.
The appeal was easy to see, particularly for racing Porsches that had long been hampered by the factory’s insistence on using synchromesh transmissions that were slow but far harder for drivers to damage. PDK would allow much quicker upshifts and continuous power delivery, so eliminating turbo lag between gears. On the way down through the gears the car would not be able to be destabilised by a hamfisted gear change from an exhausted driver. On the downside, PDK was heavy and not always blessed with Porsche-style reliability.
In its first season, as the other of two new lightweight-spec cars built to take on Jaguar, 008 took Derek Bell and Hans Stuck to the podium of every race it finished, and it finished them all up until Le Mans.
Here the car was handed to Mass, Wollek and Schuppan and promptly earned itself pole position. But it was not to be: within 16 laps, suspect poor fuel had made the engine run lean, burning a piston.
Rebuilt to the new MP1.7-spec of the 1988 works Le Mans team entry and repainted in Shell Dunlop colours, it became the car in which Mario, Michael and Jeff Andretti tried to become the first family affair to win the race. Had they done so, Mario would have also joined Graham Hill as the only person to have claimed racing’s holy trinity: the F1 world championship, the Indy 500 and Le Mans. In the end, after running as high as second place, sixth was the final result.
It was shipped to Japan at the end of the season to tackle the 1000km of Fuji, where it came second. Despite Omron sponsorship this was still a works entry and, as it would transpire, the final works entry of the Group C era. Vern Schuppan bought the car at the season’s end and raced it in Japan throughout 1989, winning the Fuji 1000km and achieving second and third places at Fuji, too. 008 was also entered at Le Mans, its third visit there. Driven by Schuppan, it ran as number 55 in Omron colours.
The race was going well and the car was up to fourth place overall, behind the two Mercedes C9s and ahead of all the Jaguars by eight o’clock in the morning. It held this position for the next four hours, when Vern became too concerned about some fuel fires to other 962s in the race, and called 008 in to renew all the fuel lines, being totally sympathetic – even then – as to how special this car’s history was. Losing almost two hours in the pit stop, it returned to the race with 3.5 hours remaining and claimed tenth in Group C.
The following year, the last the of the traditional Group C formula, it was less successful and the car was sold to an American collector before being returned to the Shell Dunlop livery it wears today, complete with 1988 Le Mans body.