[Book Review] Ultimate Works Porsche 962 – The Definitive History
The Porsche 962, following in the footsteps of the already massively successful 956, was introduced in 1984 in response to specific regulatory requirements as laid down by the American IMSA GTP Championship.
IMSA’s refusal to allow the 956 to race in the US championship was based on the rule that required the driver’s feet to be positioned behind the front axle centre line. This posed no problem for Norbert Singer and his team, as they simply relocated the front axle 120mm further forward, keeping the overall dimension of the car the same as the 956.
The history books will show that the 962 carried on from where the Porsche 956 left off, in fact, embellishing Porsche’s record books beyond the manufacturer’s wildest dreams. The 962 would go on to become the most successful prototype race car ever built, competing around the world from 1984 through to 1993.
The list of drivers who were lucky enough to get behind the wheel of the 962 in period, justifiably, reads like a who-is-who of the racing world. Porsche retained the first ten cars for their own works drivers (this would become 19 chassis), while it made a handsome profit by selling 962s to their many eager customers.
The Group C era was good not only for Porsche, it was also hugely successful for other manufacturers, teams and drivers, as well as the army of spectators who flocked to see these fantastic cars doing battle on race tracks around the world.
A Three-Volume Book Set Chronicling the 962
Serge Vanbockryk made it his mission to accumulate as much material concerning the 956 and 962 as was humanly possible. In 2019, the two-volume Works Porsche 956 – The Definitive History was published, and is now followed by this mighty three-volume set, the Ultimate Works Porsche 962 – The Definitive History.
Never before has the 962 been detailed and explained in as much depth as in Vanbockryck’s momentous work. It is truly an impressive piece of research and writing that is superbly presented for posterity.
The Ultimate Works Porsche 962 – The Definitive History is divided into three volumes. Volume 1 covers the period from 1984 to 1988 (the works years) with race-by-race chapters that explain in exhaustive detail the activities of the Porsche works team. The 962’s career commenced with the opening IMSA round at Daytona in February 1984, where the Andrettis, Mario and Michael, drove chassis 962-001 in its debut race.
The years from 1985 to 1987 include the world championship campaigns with the famous works Rothmans Porsches that brought victory at Le Mans in 1986 and 1987 and championship titles for Derek Bell and Hans-Joachim Stuck in 1985 and 1986. Every event is covered in great detail, including all the technical developments that were tried and tested between races, the strategies used, the successes savored, and the odd defeat explained.
Porsche entered a works team in the 1986 ADAC Supercup, where Hans-Joachim Stuck’s special lightweight 962C, with its revolutionary PDK transmission, initially dominated the series, but would later come up against strong competition from the many privateer Porsche teams (and also the works Jaguar and Mercedes teams). Every race of the four-year existence of the Supercup is covered, including how in 1987 the creation of Porsche’s iconic Shell/Dunlop livery came about.
Volume 2 examines the ‘Joest’ years from 1989 to 1994. Following the works Rothmans Porsche team’s unexpected withdrawal from the World Sports-Prototype Championship after yet another Le Mans win in 1987, the world of sportscar racing was at a loss.
The works team made a one-off comeback at Le Mans in 1988 and almost won, then followed that with the ultimate encore performance at Fuji at the end of that year before closing its doors to concentrate on IndyCar and Formula One. But Porsche kept the back door slightly ajar, and earlier developments of what should have been the 962/88 were passed on to Reinhold Joest, the most successful of Porsche’s privateer team owners. Joest beat Mercedes at Dijon in 1989—scoring the 956/962’s 39th and final world championship victory.
The second volume covers all activities with the works and works-supported 962Cs, in the ADAC Supercup of 1989 as well as in the WS-PC, where Joest became the de facto works team in 1990. With the demise of the ‘fuel formula’ at the end of 1990, Joest took his works cars to the IMSA and Interserie championships, again enjoying much success.
Le Mans 1994 marked the final appearance of a works 962, in the form of the road-homologated Dauer Porsche 962 LM GT. Once again technical director Norbert Singer showed that he could read the technical regulations better than those who had written them, winning Le Mans and giving Porsche its 16th title in the French endurance classic.
Volume 3 covers the cars and the people. All 19 works chassis (16 Porsche 962s and three Dauer 962 LM GTs) are outlined in exhaustive technical detail, recording every test and every race with all available data, from gear ratios and fuel consumption figures to strategies and pitstop times.
All this information has been gathered by the author by sifting through thousands of pages of period documents in Porsche’s Stuttgart archives and conducting dozens of interviews with people significant to the 962 story. Also included is the ownership history of each of the cars after completion of their race careers, with photos of where they are now.
What Else Is in the Book?
Exclusively commissioned artwork depicts every single works chassis as it ran, as well as the aerodynamic evolution of the 962 throughout the years, as well as some of the wind tunnel test models that never went beyond the drawing board, ending up on the cutting room floor.
The ground-up restoration of three of the works 962Cs is covered in detail through many pages of step-by-step photos, while eight of the cars are the subject of multi-page photoshoots.
Detailed biographies include the two key engineers behind the 962, and all those who raced the works cars, including:
Sarel van der Merwe
This three-volume set of books is well written with excellent imagery and the design is uncluttered with ample white space where required, making it an easy-to-read publication. In a nutshell, this three-volume set outlines in unprecedented detail the ten-year career of the works Porsche 962s and 962Cs, built and entered by the Weissach-based factory team.
Limited Availability for Special Editions
With the Limited Edition capped at 962 copies worldwide, enthusiasts would be well advised to take this opportunity to acquire this publication while you still can. The Collector’s Edition is limited to just 25 copies, while just 19 copies of the Owner’s Edition will be available. The latter version comes with an authentic certified connecting rod from one of the engines used in a Porsche 962C in the FIA World Sports-Prototype Championship, presented in a bespoke case with a transparent Perspex cover.
Whichever edition you choose, be prepared for a long read, as this publication is no lightweight. Having said that, your automotive library will never be the same again, as you will be the envy of all those enthusiasts who waited too long before ordering their copies.
In the opinion of this reviewer, this publication stands alone in the world of books on race car history. The level of research, attention to detail, the inclusion of rare supporting documentation, image selection and captions, and the easy style in which it is written, make this one of the best overall books on motorsport available today.
The author is to be congratulated on all levels, not just on what is mentioned above, but also for his perseverance over many years in compiling what is the ultimate documented history on the most successful prototype race car in the world… ever!
Title: Ultimate Works Porsche 962 – The Definitive History
Author: Serge Vanbockryck
Publisher: Porter Press International
Edition: Limited Edition
First published: 2022
ISBN: 978-1-907085-92-5 (Limited Edition)
Page count: 1400 pages
Images: Over 1800 images
Format: 340 x 245 mm (portrait), 3 hardback volumes within a slipcase