40th Anniversary of the Porsche 956 Racecar

2022-04-26 02:44:11 By : Mr. Edgar Zhou

Our car experts choose every product we feature. We may earn money from the links on this page.

The car that revolutionized sportscar racing.

It was 40 years ago this week that Porsche unveiled the mighty 956, a race car like no other before it. It was made specifically to meet the rules of the FIA’s new Group C class for “sports prototypes.” With the rules laid out before him, designer Norbert Singer created a car that fit perfectly within the new specs and yet became such a dominating force that competitors seemed to be fighting only for second place.

Or, rather, for whatever the first finishing position was after all the 956s crossed the line. In its first Le Mans, in 1982, Porsche 956s took first, second and third. In 1983 they took first through eighth, and then added 10th for good measure. By 1984 it was the first seven spots, with the first run of its sole successor, the 962, dropping out after about two-thirds distance. By 1985 the 956s still finished 1-2, but the 962 had risen to third place. And after 1985 the 962 was unstoppable.

But from 1982 to 1985, Le Mans and much of sports car racing around the world, were all 956s all the time.

The 956 was longer and wider than the 917 that came before it, and it also had Porsche’s first aluminum monocoque chassis, whereas the 917 was a complex and crazy web of highly flammable magnesium tubing. Underneath the new car was a set of ground-effects tunnels that made so much downforce it could famously be driven on the ceiling, if you could just find a way to get it up there.

Power came from a 2.65-liter twin-turbo flat six that made 620 hp. Suspension was inboard-mounted pushrod titanium coil springs. Inside were two seats, because the rules said Group C cars had to have two seats. Outside it was a thing of breathtaking beauty, from a time when beauty and speed seemed to coexist splendidly.

The 956 could have gone for a decade at the top of the charts had it not been for IMSA’s (very reasonable) regulation that the driver’s feet must not extend forward of the front axle. So Porsche extended the 956’s wheelbase to do just that, and made the 962, a car that itself continued dominating sports car racing in one form or another on both continents until its last Le Mans victory in 1994. But it all started with the mighty and powerful 956.

Jackie Ickx was one of the great 956 drivers.

Jacky Ickx, Jochen Mass, Michele Alboreto, Bob Wollek, Porsche 956, Lancia Martini LC1, Porsche 936C, 24 Hours of Le Mans, Le Mans, 20 June 1982. Start of the 1982 24 Hours of Le Mans.

This 956 was driven by Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell to victory in the 1982 24 Hours of Le Mans car race.

Pit stop for the Porsche 956 of Derek Bell and Hans Stuck which finished second, Silverstone 1000Km.

Flat out on the Hunadierès is the winning factory Porsche 956 driven by Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell, Le Mans 24 Hours. (Photo by Nigel Snowdon/Klemantaski Collection/Getty Images)

Pit stop for the winning Porsche 956 of Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell, Le Mans 24 Hours.

Jacky Ickx, driving the Porsche 956 with teammmate Derek Bell, on his way to victory in the 1982 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Mario Andretti, Porsche 956, 24 Hours of Le Mans, Le Mans, 19 June 1983.

Mario Andretti, Porsche 956, 24 Hours of Le Mans, Le Mans, 19 June 1983.

The factory Porsche 956 driven by Derek Bell and Stefan Bellof which finished 10th, Silverstone 1000Km. (Photo by Nigel Snowdon/Klemantaski Collection/Getty Images)

Porsche 956 on its way to winning the Le Mans 24 Hour Race, France, 1983. Porsche 956s dominated the race to such an extent that the cars filled the top eight places. This, the winning car, was driven by Vern Schuppan of Australia together with the Americans Al Holbert and Hurley Haywood.

Porsche 956 driven By Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell, 1982. They won at Le Mans, Spa and Brands Hatch, and came second at Silverstone as Ickx won the World Sportscar Championship that year. Ickx also won in Japan when he shared the car with Jochen Mass.

Porsche Test track in Weissach on June 29, 1983: At the bottom of the frame is the Porsche-powered Formula 1 McLaren-TAG Porsche MP4-1E. That's Ron Dennis standing in the seat of the McLaren with driver John Watson and engine guru Hans Mezger, in attendance. At the top is the Porsche 956.

Motorsports / DTM 4. race Nuernberg, Norisring Race Classics, Porsche 956.

Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell lead into the first corner at Le Mans 1982. The no. 2 Porsche is driven by Jochen Maas and Vern Schuppan, the two cars finished the race first and second.

Klaus Ludwig, Paolo Barilla and John Winter Porsche 956, the race winner Le Mans, 16th June 1985.

1984 Porsche 956 entered and driven by Russ Kempnich, Celebrating 70 Years of Porsche, outside Goodwood House at Goodwood on July 13th, 2018 in Chichester, England.

A Porsche 956 stuck to the ceiling of the Porsche museum in Stuttgart.

A kid with the right toys plays with a brace of 956s before Le Mans 1985.