With a shape reminiscent of German pre-war streamliners, the Porsche 956/962 is passion in motion, the definitive sportscar for the ages, and coming to Project CARS 2 

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If dominance suggests a car’s inherent greatness, the Porsche 956/962 comes to the party with the World Sportscar Championship (’83, ’84, ’85, ’86), the IMSA GT Championship (’85, ‘86, ‘87, ‘88), the Supercup series (‘86, ‘87, ‘88, ‘89), the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship (‘85, ‘86, ‘87, ‘88, ‘89), and Le Mans (‘ 82, ‘ 83, ‘ 84, ‘ 85, ’86, ’87) on its résumé.


If looks are a part of that greatness, the 956/962 comes with the smooth streamlined look and livery that made it the quintessential sportscar of its—or any other—era.

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And then there’s the little matter of being the fastest car around the ’Ring in history—a record that has stood for 30 years.

Add the drivers who turned this car into the all-conquering machine of lore—Jacky Ickx, Derek Bell, Hans Stuck, Jochen Mass, Stefan Bellof, Manfred Winkelhock—and what you have is that combination of legendary car, legendary drivers, legendary designer, and legendary performance that makes this car the gold standard by which all others are judged.

Most will end where the 956/962’s competitors at the time ended—lapped and never in contention.

 

And then there’s the little matter of being the fastest car around the ’Ring in history—a record that has stood for 30 years.

Add the drivers who turned this car into the all-conquering machine of lore—Jacky Ickx, Derek Bell, Hans Stuck, Jochen Mass, Stefan Bellof, Manfred Winkelhock—and what you have is that combination of legendary car, legendary drivers, legendary designer, and legendary performance that makes this car the gold standard by which all others are judged.

Most will end where the 956/962’s competitors at the time ended—lapped and never in contention.

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While the 956 and 962 are seen by purists as separate cars, the two are often paired in shorthand as the 956/962, and for good reason; the 962 was but a minor evolution of the 956. In essence, the two cars were almost identical.


Almost … but not exactly …

The Porsche 956

Porsche has won 18 editions of Le Mans, and one engineer has played an instrumental role in every one of those wins aside from 2015-’16. Starting in the late ’60s with the 917, and ending with the car that sealed Porsche’s 16th win in 1998 (the 911 GT1-98 coming to Project CARS 2), Norbert Singer was the man at Porsche’s sportscar program.

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Sandwiched in-between the 917 and the 911 GT1 of ’98 was his greatest creation, the Project CARS 2-bound Porsche 956/962.

The 956 was developed between June of 1981 and the early spring of 1982, built to replace the ageing 936, and created to dominate the then nascent Group C rules that were introduced for the 1982 season of the World Sportscar Championship.

The early ’80s were the cowboy years in motor racing; big turbos and ground effects created the fastest and most dangerous cars in history, both in Formula 1 and sportscar racing. The 956/962 is every inch a part of this wild, lethal decade.

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The basics of the car were pretty rudimentary by today’s standards: An all-aluminium monocoque (a first for Porsche) was mated to the tried-and-tested 2.65-litre turbocharged flat-6 along with a 5-speed synchromesh ’box. The 956 also came with the world’s first dual-clutch, but that was used sparingly (it won only one race) as it was judged unreliable.


Turbo-lag was huge, and inevitable understeer cured by setup and spool. Anywhere over 5,000RM, meanwhile, lay the mule-kick of two Kühnle, Kopp und Kausch AG K27 turbochargers.

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In number terms, the 956 pushed out about 650hp (up to 700hp in qual’ trim, and over 800hp by the late ’80s) and weighed in at 800kgs. The engine was the crazed lump that first saw life in the Porsche 935 silhouette of the ’70s—though the 956/962 was air-cooled as a concession to IMSA—and it went on to dominate the 1980s both in sportscars and in Formula 1 where (after an extensive development cycle in a 956 test-mule) it would power McLaren to two Constructor’s and three Driver’s Championships. The 956 lump was an evolution of the 935’s engine, coming with water-cooled heads. The engine was first used in the “Moby Dick” 935/78 and then on the 936/81 which won Le Mans in ’81 and was a test-bed for the evolving engine.


But the big step, for Porsche, lay in the black arts of ground effects that had come into Formula 1 with Colin Chapman at Lotus in 1977 (you can drive the Lotus 78 in Project CARS 2). As with the aluminium monocoque, ground effects were new territory for Porsche, and Singer had to learn on the go.

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Early experimentation on the big sportscar was disappointing. This was due to both Porsche attempting to replicate the air-flow on Formula 1 cars by forcing the air under the nose of the car, and the flat-6 engine which proved less suitable than the traditional “V” when it came to underbody tunnel design. The expectation was that some black magic, which involved air-flow, tunnels, and voodoo, would inevitably create a “vacuum” effect. With the 956, however, that effect just wasn’t happening, no matter what Singer tried.


The theory, in practice, meant a driver had to have enough skill and courage to exceed the brain’s survival-mode in order to take enough speed into the turns to generate enough air-flow to “activate” the ground effects. It was the kind of madness that made that era so spectacular—and so dangerous.

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Singer, with the results of the ground effects experiment not working, resorted to testing the 956 with “skirts”. Ubiquitous in Formula 1, they were banned in sportscar racing, but Singer was desperate enough to try.

The results were even worse.

The breakthrough eventually came when Singer realized that the air had to enter a sportscar not from the front, but from the side. Finally, by late winter of 1981, Singer had figured out the key to creating ground effects for a sportscar.

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The grip offered from the ground effects meant downforce was tripled from the all-conquering 935 and 936s that preceded it. In terms of steps, this was not an evolution; it absolutely pulverized all that came before it.

Fast and just a little dangerous

The 956 debuted in 1982 and, yes, it pulverized all that came before it. With Jacky Ickx at the wheel, it claimed the World Sportscar Championship and Le Mans, and repeated that in 1983. That was also the year when the 956 would lap the ’Ring faster than any car before—or since—in the hands of Stefan Bellof.

These were the deadly years in motorsport, an era where only the very brave and the very fast were capable of controlling machines with upward of a thousand horsepower with three pedals, no power-steering, or traction control or even ABS. By 1986, the 956 was already on its way to being phased out, replaced by the 962 which was seen as safer. Safety, though, in the midst of the ground effects big turbo era of the 1980s, was a relative term …

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Evolution of winning—the 962C in Project CARS 2

The 956 was designed to run in both the World Sportscar Championship and IMSA GTP Championship. At IMSA, though, the 956 was banned due to the driver’s feet being ahead of the front axle (not to mention the concerns that the 956 would dominate the series as the outgoing 935 had done). Porsche set to work modifying the 956; first by withdrawing the driver back behind the front axle, and then adding a steel roll-cage. They also had to modify the engine, as twin-turbos were banned at IMSA, with a single turbo. Along with all that came an upped engine—a 3.2-litre air-cooled lump.

The 962 debuted in the summer of 1985 in North America, and would officially replace the 956 in the WSC that same year in the guise of the 962C (C for Group C).

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This is the car that is coming to Project CARS 2, the car Derek Bell, in that epic Rothmans livery, powered to 21 wins in two seasons. The Project CARS 2 962C comes in two versions; the WSC version, and the “Langheck” version, which was the long-tail version used specifically for Le Mans and was capable of 235mph (378kmh). The 962C had the twin-turbo as well as the water-cooled heads not used at IMSA.

How dominant was this car? It was still winning races at IMSA in the 1990s, and scored its final sportscar win at Fuji in August of 1994, this an unbelievable 12 years after the 956 was born. At Le Mans, it was finally defeated in 1988 by another legendary car – the Silk Cut Jaguar that you will also be able to drive in Project CARS 2. 

That 1987 win was the last one by a works-entered Porsche for a decade. In September of 1988, the racing program was summarily shut down, and Singer was moved to overseeing production car suspension development.

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It’d be a decade before the Porsche works would return with Singer overseeing the development of their next all-conquering Le Mans runner, the 911 GT1-98, also coming to Project CARS 2. But before that, there was the 962’s final win—at Le Mans in 1994. The history books show the winning car was a Dauer 962 Le Mans. The numbers that matter, of course, is the 962.


Le Mans that year was in a transition phase, shifting their efforts to GT-based cars and away from prototypes, which met up with where the auto industry wanted to go, and that included Porsche. With Porsche aware that their rear-engined 911 was not up to the task of winning Le Mans, Singer recalled having met a man named Jochen Dauer at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1993.

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Dauer had taken a race 962 and remade it into a road car (by swapping out everything but the chassis), and named it the “Dauer 962 Porsche”. Singer, by exploiting a loophole in the new ACO rules (GT1 cars had to be homologated to a 100 car series, but the cars didn’t need to be produced beforehand), decided that the Dauer would have a good chance at winning the GT1 category. With Joest Racing then brought in to run the race team (everything from the hospitality to the mechanics), two “Dauer 962 Le Mans Porsches” were entered for the 1994 Le Mans 24 Hour, and went on to not only dominate GT1, but ended up winning the race outright.

And that was it for the 962. The ACO quickly moved to fix the loophole by setting a minimum amount of produced cars for homologation, and that meant the Dauer never again raced, and the 962 had won its final race.

The Porsche 926C will come with Project CARS 2, released in late 2017 for the PlayStation®4 system, Xbox One, and PC.

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