The Porsche 962 was built in two specs, the original was the 1984 IMSA GTP spec which was a variation of the dominant Group C Porsche 956 sports car first seen in 1982. The 962 differed in two important aspects from it’s Group C cousin. First the 962 had a longer wheel base so that the drivers feet were behind the center line of the front axle and second IMSA mandated a single turbo while the Group C 956 ran more powerful twin turbo’s.
For 1986 the FIA mandated that Group C cars should follow the lead set by IMSA and have the drivers feet behind the the center line of the front axle line while making no changes to the engine regulations so the more powerful Porsche 962C came into being sweeping all before it much as the 956 and 956B had done. Derek Bell became the first driver to successfully defend his World Sports Car Drivers Championship won driving a 956B in ’85 and 962C in ’86. In 1986 Derek also won the Le Mans 24 hours for the forth time sharing his 962C with Hans Joachim Stuck and Al Holbert, Derek was also awarded the MBE for services to motorsport, a Royal honour which even Porsche AG noted on the door of Dereks #17 car as seen above at Le Mans in 1987.
Going into Le Mans 1987 Derek Bell and Al Holbert were on a roll of three consecutive 24 hour race wins going back to Daytona ’86 where they shared an IMSA GTP 962 with Al Unser Jr. As mentioned above Bell and Holbert followed that up at Le Mans winning with Hans Stuck and made it a three peat of 24 hour victories at Daytona sharing Holberts Löwenbrau Porsche 962 with Unser Jr and Chip Robinson. Only a complete idiot would have bet against Bell, Stuck and Holbert claiming victory at Le Mans in 1987. The #17 chassis #006 seen in the rain above qualified 2nd on the grid by Hans Stuck next to the #18 chassis #008 which Bob Wollek qualified on pole.
But the fourpeat of consecutive 24 hour victories very nearly did not happen, things started to go wrong for the works Porsche team a week before the race when Hans Stuck tested all the Le Mans cars at Porsche’s Weisach test facility. Stuck experienced a puncture while driving the car designated for his team mates Jochen Mass and Brilliant Bob Wollek. As a consequence Mass and Wollek were given the car designated as the race car for Stuck, Bell and Holbert chassis #008 while the ’86 winning trio took over the car designated for Vern Schuppan, Kees Nierop and Price Cobb chassis #006, today’s featured car, and the Schuppan, Nierop, Cobb combination were given the older chassis #002 which had been designated as a spare. Bell and Stuck are seen above returning from the new chicane an hour before the start of the race.
The next problem for the Porsche team occurred in practice when Price Cobb had an accident which wrote chassis #002 off during the first day of practice so that there were now only two works entered cars to challenge for the win, but as designer Norbert Singer observed ‘only one of them can win’. Schuppan, Nierop and Cobb all found rides in other cars.
An hour into the 1987 race it looked as if Jaguar who were at least 3 seconds slower than the lead Porsche in practice might pull off a remarkable win as they held first third and fifth. The Porsche cars were falling like a chain of domino’s with engine failures, something in the fuel was causing the latest in Bosch (ECU) electronic management systems to run the Porsche engines much too lean which resulted in engine failures for the pole sitting works car; 2 Joest Porsche 962C’s and a Kremer 962C.
Fortunately the #17 had managed to get into the pits to change to an older ECU before any permanent damage was done and 2nd placed Bell, Stuck and Holbert proceeded to pursue the lead Jaguar at break neck speed until midnight when it took the lead for the final time as the four 7 litre / 427 cui V12 Jaguar XJR 8LM’s started to fall by the wayside with a puncture, an accident, a cracked cylinder head and a missed gear change respectively.
The punctured #5 Jaguar driven by Win Percy had required an 80 minuet safety car period to clear up the debris in the dead of night as the Jaguar had been pitched at 200 mph into the barriers of the Mulasanne straight ripping off the gearbox and engine, Win Percy unlike his helmet was completely unscratched. The relentless pace at which the #17 Porsche had been chasing the Jaguars meant that Bell, Stuck and Holbert were way over their fuel allowance as the safety car period started but right back on schedule once the mess created by the Jaguar had been cleaned up.
By the end of the race Bell, Stuck and Holbert were 20 laps to the good; from the private Primagaz Competition 962C of Juergen Lässig, Pierre Yver and Bernard de Dryver; as they recorded their fifth, second and third Le Mans wins respectively, their second consecutively as a winning Le Mans trio and Bell and Holberts 4th consecutive 24 Hour race win. Porsche also recorded their seventh consecutive Le Mans win in 1987.
The following year things would not be so easy as Jaguar, who won the 1987 World Sports Car Championship and who’s driver Raul Bosel won the 1987 World Sports Car Drivers Championship took the fight even more convincingly to Porsche at Le Mans.
Chassis #006 was driven at Spa in 1986 by Jochen Mass and Bob Wollek on it’s debut where it was qualified third and finished 7th it’s only other race start was at Fuji where Holbert and Pescarolo started from 12th and retired with transmission problems. Prior to the Le Mans 24 hours #006 had primarily been used as a spare car at Jarama, Jerez, Monza and Silverstone in 1987. #006 was driven by Bob Wollek and Canadian Kees Nierop for the ’87 Le Mans test weekend where carrying the #17 it recorded the 2nd fastest time. After the 24 hour win in ’87 #006 returned to Le Mans in 1988 as a spare that was briefly used by Micheal Andretti in practice before it was retired for good.
Thanks for joining me on this “Musical Spares” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !