In the early 1980s, Porsche all but dominated sports car and endurance racing with a pair of Norbert Singer-designed cars. In 1982, Porsche launched the 956, which went on to win Le Mans from 1982 through 1985. In 1983, the 956 also set a Nürburgring Nordschleife lap record of 6:11.13, which stands to this day.
To meet the regulations of IMSA’s GTP class, Porsche introduced the safer 962 in 1984, and the car became an instant hit with privateer teams. During its seven-year production run, Porsche built a total of 91 962 models, of which only 16 were raced by Porsche itself. The 962 quickly earned a reputation as a fast and durable race car from the factory.
Like the 956, the 962 also saw victory at LeMans, winning back to back in 1986 and 1987. Change was coming to the sport of endurance racing, however, and the 1987 Porsche 962 campaigned by Derek Bell, Hans-Joachim Stuck and Al Holbert was the last Porsche to take an overall victory at LeMans.
The fact that Porsche would allow a lowly motor journalist to climb into such a priceless relic is amazing. That Porsche allowed Chris Harris to drive such an irreplaceable automobile at speed falls into the astonishing category, but we’re certainly glad ti did. We’re even happier that Harris has the ability to capture such moments for the rest of us, who’ll never have an opportunity this epic.
Harris clearly has a great deal of reverence for Norbert Singer as well, and we could watch the two discuss aerodynamics and race car development for hours. As Porsche’s legendary designer points out, big gains in race car development were possible in the 1980s, but today progress is made in incremental steps.