PORSCHE 956 (1983)
On January 1, 1982, the new Group C regulations came into effect, as the class around which the World Endurance Championship would be based. It is now formally defined as a class for two-seater cars built as single examples and destined solely for competition purposes. Engines of any capacity, configuration or induction system may be used provided they are built by a recognised production car engine manufacturer. BMW, Ford, Porsche, Chevrolet and Aston Martin have all been involved during the first year. Practical restrictions on engine performance are limited by fuel efficiency regulations, allowing a maximum of 100 litre fuel tanks, limited refuelling stops and fuel flow monitoring during pit stops. The rest of the rules concern the chassis, there is a minimum weight of 800 kgs (1746 Ibs) and a maximum size for the bodywork: overall length of 480 cms (189"), width 200 cms (79") and a height of 110 cms (43"). The bodywork must also cover all mechanical components of the car. Restrictions include windscreen and door sizes, maximum tyre width of 16" and no skirts, sliding or fixed. A flat surface area between the wheelbase of 100 cms (39") x 80 cms (31") must be an integral part of the chassis construction. This last rule reduces the ground effect capability of the cars but does not ban it completely.
Porsche, always a regular competitor in the sports racing field, built their 956 to these new regulations, the main objective being to win Le Mans, but primarily, 1982 was to be a development year for the car. The 956 was designed and built by Porsche System at Zuffenhausen, West Germany by a design team under the guidance of Norbett Singer. This design project broke new ground for Porsche, the 956 being the first monocoque racing car they had produced; it was also their first ground-effect machine.
The new chassis is a honeycomb aluminium monocoque, with glass resin-formed plastic body panels. The oil and water radiators, and the turbo intercoolers, lie laterally in the sidepods, alongside the compulsory centrally-mounted fuel tank, radiators collecting their air through the deep ducting in the door panels.
The under-body air tunnels begin immediately behind the mandatory flat-bottomed area, and are steeply angled at the back after passing alongside the engine and out through the high level rear suspension. The engine used in the 956 was designed over four years ago for projected use at Indianapolis, but was initially shelved owing to a change of regulations in the United States. This engine was adapted for endurance use and used in the Porsche team 936 cars that won Le Mans in 1981. The flat six, four valve engine with water cooled heads, has a capacity of 2649 cc and is fitted with twin KKK turbos giving it a turbo co-efficient of 3708 cc. The turbos were of a smaller size than those fitted in '81, to help reduce the fuel consumption and, with the pressure set at around 1.1 bar, the engine produces around 580 bhp in race trim. The cars are fitted with Porsche five-speed gearboxes while both engine and gearbox are mounted longitudinally and tilted upwards at the rear so that the air tunnels can be longer and bigger.
The front suspension consists of upper and lower wishbones with outboard mounted coil spring damper units. At the rear, lower wishbones and upper triangulated links operate inclined overhead coil springs, adjustable in a vee above the rear axle. To keep the rear of the cars as clean as possible, the cars also had revised exhaust pipe systems, the gases exiting from the bodywork on either side ahead of the rear wheels. The cars were run on Dunlop tyres throughout the season and, with fuel corisumption in mind, the cockpits were fitted with driveroperated boost control and fuel consumption digital readout gauges, calibrated in litres per hour. "
The 1982 Porsche works team was sponsored by Rothmans and ran in their deep blue, gold, red and white livery, the team managed by competitions boss Peter Falk and led by drivers Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell.
The car first appeared at Silverstone for the annual six hour race, which was treated as a shakedown test for the team and to calibrate fuel consumption. The car was raced in short circuit form with short-tail and high overhanging tailfins. J. Ickx qualified the car in pole position for the race with the turbo boost turned well up, but ran at a reduced pace in the race running" well behind the Group 6 Lancias, moving up to second place overall and first in class at the end.
The car was ther) taken to Weissach where it successfully completed a 24 hour Le Mans simulation test on a rolling road. It then travelled to the Paul Ricard circuit in the south of France and ran extended sessions with revised front bodywork and extended tail sections, designed to reduce the ground effect and increase straight line speed and fuel consumption. The engine was also revised to take the modified Bosch fuel injection systems.
Three brand new chassis' were entered by Porsche System for Le Mans with the Silverstone car taken along as a spare. The team drivers were, NO.1 Jack Ickx and Derek Bell, No.2 Jochen Mass and Vern Schuppan and car No.3 was driven by Americans Hurley Haywood and AI Holbert. Jurgen Barth was nominated as third driver in all three cars, but in fact only codrove in No.3.
The 1982 Le Mans race was the 50th event of this classic and with 30 all-new group C cars entered along with the works Lancia Group 6 cars, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest had an excellent entry for this anniversary event. The vast crowd witnessed an amazing sixth victory for Jacky Ickx, a third win for co-driver Derek Bell and an outstanding one, two, three by the factory-entered Group C Rothman's Porsches.
It was almost the perfect victory, their nonstop run halted briefly by a puncture around 10.30 on Sunday morning when Ickx had to drive slowly and carefully around the circuit before reaching the pits; he lost three laps of his five lap lead at the time to team mates, Mass and Schuppan.
A works Rondeau led during the opening three hours, then the Haywood/Holbert car moved to the front during the fourth hour to hold the lead up until midnight. Then the Ickx/ Bell car moved into the lead which it held until the finish, no challenger remaining in the race to prevent the works Porsche trio finishing in line astern.
Two Porsche 956s were entered for the WEC round in Belgium on Jacky Ickx's own revised circuit at Spa where he again won, co-driven on this occasion by Jochen Mass. Derek Bell/Vern Schuppan finished second in the other team car fitted with a revised electronic fuel injection system. Both cars ran in Silverstone short-tail form and were fitted with only two headlights instead of the usual four.
Jochen Mass also drove the ex-Silverstone car in the German Racing Championship event to win at the Norisring. Porsche did not contest the next round at Mugello in Italy which ended with a one-two victory for the Martini Lancias.
Both Porsche and Lancia made the trip to Japan for the Mount Fuji 6 Hours, each entering two cars. Porsche took the short-tail, single headlight cars and the Porsche team claimed another victory for Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass. The second car, driven by Bell/Schuppan, became the first race retirement of a 956 when both suspension and gearbox were damaged in an accident caused by a burst tyre.
The final race of the Drivers' Endurance Championship, the Shell Oil 1000 held at Brands Hatch, turned out to be a classic battle for the title. Porsche entered only one short-tailed car for Ickx and Bell to challenge the two Martini Lancias of Patrese/ Fabi and Alboreto/ Ghinzani. Pescarolo drove the Joest Porsche 935C in his title bid but various problems dropped him to eighth place at the finish. Alboreto's Lancia stopped with electrical problems, leaving Teo Fabi trying to hold on to the lead in the last 40 minutes as Jacky Ickx carved through the back markers in the half light of a damp October afternoon. Jacky Ickx won the Drivers' Championship on the last lap of the 5.5 hour race, after a Championship involving nearly 47 racing hours.
Porsche's final race of the season was the non championship event in South Africa, the Kyalami Nine Hours. The two works short-tail cars, with four headlamps as the race finished in darkness, was won again by Ickx and Mass from Bell and Schuppan.
Porsche also won the Constructors' title from the works Otis Rondeau team, and are preparing for 1983 by building ten cars for sale to selected private entrants at a cool £149000 each.
What is it like to drive a 956
What is it like to drive a 956
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