Porsche 962 Dominance

With the 962 essentially an improved version of the 956, it garnered immediate and consistent success on both sides of the globe.  Its reliability put it in strong demand for privateers, serving as the perfect platform for private teams to apply modifications and remain competitive against the heavily backed factory teams.  Some went as far as reengineering the entire vehicle, to address one of the common complaints with the car regarding its lack of stiffness Teams even modified the chassis, purchasing components from Porsche to complete the car, and sell their creations to other customer teams.  The most popular of the modified 962s were the Kremer Racing machines.  Dubbed 962CK6, they did away with the aluminum tub chassis and replaced it with a carbon fibre tub.  This popular offshoot of the original 962C was campaigned by Kremer eventually filling 11 grid spots with them.  In the United States, teams were in search of higher stiffness in the chassis as well.  Holbert Racing made similar efforts as Kremer and built a stiffer and safer monocoque chassis.  The sheer number of teams with their engineering input on purchased 962 chassis prolonged the life of the vehicle well into the early 90’s.

 A Kenwood sponsored Kremer 962CK at The 24 Hours of Le Mans

A Kenwood sponsored Kremer 962CK at The 24 Hours of Le Mans

                In the World Sportscar Championship, the 962C drove to back to back championships in 1985 and 1986.  In IMSA, the 962 asserted continued success as it went on to win the championship from 1985 to 1988.  A notable participation at the 1985 24 Hours of Le Mans considering the fact that the #2 factory Porsche 962 driven by Joachim Stuck and Derek Bell achieved a qualifying lap of 3:14.80.  Based on track distance, this put the average speed of the car at 251.815 km/h, a record which will never be broken in competition, as the track was changed to the current double chicane down the Mulsanne straight configuration.  Interestingly enough though, the winner of the event was a repeat of last year; the New-Man Joest Racing 956.  The 962 picked up wins at other events over the season to garner enough points for the championship title.

                One of the last factory-produced technical updates on the car was the PDK.  It stands for Porsche double clutch gearbox, but in German, which contains about as many letters in it as the first chapter of War and Peace.  Considering that the basic principle of the PDK is still found in an option box you can tick when you purchase a brand new 911 from the dealer is an engineering accomplishment.  Essentially, the gearbox contains two separate clutches versus a tradition single clutch set up in most manual transmissions.  The first clutch transmits the torque to odd numbered gear (1 – 3 – 5) and second to the even gears (2 – 4).  This means that the driving gear, and a consecutive gear up and/or down is readily available to be selected.  The switchover is done by the simultaneous hydraulically actuated opening of the first clutch and closing of the second.  This produces a gear change with no interruption of power transmission between gear changes.  It provides an incremental power advantage on every gear change, which may seem insignificant, but over the course of several thousand gear changes in an endurance event, makes a profound difference.

 The #17 and #18 Works Porsche 962s leading the field on the Opening lap of The 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1987.

The #17 and #18 Works Porsche 962s leading the field on the Opening lap of The 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1987.

1986 and 1987 24 Hours of Le Mans were won convincingly by Porsche works 962s and driving team Stuck, Bell and Holbert.  However, as the decade began to wind down the landscape of Group C prototype racing was starting to change.  The life cycle of the Porsche 962 was reaching its end, and wins were harder to come by.  A new presence of strong factory teams with equally rich racing heritages and funding to pursue sports car racing at the highest level were emerging in the field to challenge the 962.  Porsche was by no means a one hit wonder, but Jaguar, Mercedez Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Mazda were looking to establish their own technology in Group C competition.  This is when I start to get really excited as we approach the span of years in which my absolute favourite Group C cars waged war with each other.  Engineers were squeezing more horsepower per liter out of the engines, while guzzling only slightly less fuel than a Boeing 747.  Aerodynamic packages grew more sophisticated, and top speeds climbed as racers continued to scream down the Mulsanne straight chasing a level of dominance the Porsche had established through its many trials of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  The World Sportscar Championship was poised for a climactic series of battles to dictate supremacy in the Group C class.  Are you fired up yet?

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