It did two races and won neither but, with the exception of 956/001, it’s still probably the most important car in our story. Unlike its two Shell Dunlop sisters, 010 was not a repainted ’87 Rothmans car but a brand-new chassis (number 962/140) built specifically to win Le Mans in 1988.
Full of trick, lightweight parts and staffed by the three best drivers on Porsche’s books – Hans Stuck, Derek Bell and Klaus Ludwig – it blitzed the field in qualifying with a special high boost engine giving a reputed 880bhp. Stuck’s lap of 3min 15.6sec was three full seconds clear of 007 in second place, with 008 a further three seconds down the road. Fourth was the best that Jaguar could manage.
What happened next is the stuff of legend, still argued over by the protagonists to this day. With the race under control, 010 inexplicably ran out of fuel with Klaus Ludwig at the helm. To this day Ludwig insists the 10-litre reserve didn’t work and given how much development and racing Klaus had done in the 962 it appears to beggar belief that such a consummate professional could have made such a simple mistake, but Bell has since growled that it worked every time he tried it.
What’s beyond dispute is that, somehow, Ludwig got the car back to the pits on the starter motor. And while more time was lost than would separate the 962 from the winning Jaguar at the end of the race, it was nothing like the two laps lost repairing an intercooler later on. Even so and despite such tribulations, it seemed the Porsche might win because, as the race drew to a close, it started to rain. Rain was literally a present from the heavens to a 962C at Le Mans in the late 1980s. It meant fuel consumption was no longer an issue, removing the car’s single biggest weakness relative to the Jags.
What’s more they just happened to have Hans Stuck, the greatest wet weather sports car driver of his era, not only on strength but also at the wheel as the heavens opened. So while everyone else dived into the pits for wets, Hans stayed out on slicks.
For those of us who were there, sitting above the old pits, the sight of Stuck sideways, on the grass, foot down going for broke will live in our minds forever. Had the rain stayed I have no doubt Porsche would have won, not least because, unbeknown to Stuttgart, the only Jaguar ahead had slowed not to ease down over the last few laps but because it had but one gear left in its transmission. Had Stuck been able to push it, it would not have been able to respond. So 010 came second, did one sprint at the Nürburgring in which Ludwig came fourth, and was sold to a collector in America.
Today it exists with its original factory paint still on its original factory body, exactly as it finished Le Mans, a time capsule, an aching tale of what might have been, and a first-hand witness to probably the finest hour Porsche ever had on a track without actually winning.