A 1985 Porsche 962 Group C race car is too valuable for regular use, let alone one of the works cars wearing the iconic Rothmans livery. So who better to take the wheel for a rare outing in one than Ben Collins—the former Stig of "Top Gear" fame? RM Sotheby's put Collins behind the wheel of a Rothmans 962 before it heads to auction on June 9.

Collins calls the 962 his hero car, and it's easy to see why. It was the most dominant car in one of the greatest eras of sports car racing. The 1980s saw the rise of two premiere classes that generated intense competition between manufacturers—Group C in Europe and the original IMSA GTP class in North America—and the 962 was the car to beat in both.

The 962 was an evolution of the Porsche 956, with a longer wheelbase designed to meet IMSA crash-protection requirements. IMSA specified that the driver's feet needed to be behind the front axle, which wasn't the case with the 956.


1985 Porsche 962 Rothmans Group C race car

1985 Porsche 962 Rothmans Group C race car

The mechanical package from the earlier 956 wasn't changed. The 962 was powered by a twin-turbo 2.6-liter flat-6 making about 630 hp, propelling a chassis weighing less than 2,000 pounds. Add in ground-effects bodywork shaped by legendary Porsche engineer Norbert Singer, and you had a world beater.

The 962 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1986 and 1987, continuing the streak started by the 956, which was the winning car from 1982 to 1985. It continued to rack up race wins into the 1990s, and some chassis were even converted into road cars. That distinction allowed the 962 to take its final Le Mans victory in 1994, with the winning car running in a GT class for production cars, rather than as a prototype. 

In the video, Collins notes some period shortcomings, including turbo lag and steel brakes that need a bit more consideration than modern hardware. But the old-school nature of the 962 can be a good thing as well. Unlike modern prototype racers, the cockpit is fairly simple. It's recognizable to anyone who has driven a Porsche 911 of similar vintage, Collins says. He also notes it's very easy to drive and user-friendly.

This particular chassis is a Group C version that raced at Le Mans three times, finishing fifth in 1988. It's one of six original works Rothmans cars, and will be the first works 962 Group C car offered for sale to the public when it crosses the auction block June 9. Examples that raced in IMSA have come up for sale before.