962: Dominating Porsche prototype racer

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The Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance featured a full class of Porsche 962 race cars, which dominated prototype races in the 1980s and into the '90s | Andy Reid photos

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While 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the fabled Porsche 917 race car,  there is another Porsche prototype that completely surpassed the 917. That car is the 962.

When introduced in 1984, the 962 immediately made it known that there was a new race car on the circuit. In its debut, the first 962, driven by Mario and Michael Andretti, led the Daytona 24-hour race until retiring with a gearbox failure. A similar fate would fall on the 962 at Le Mans later that year when the car retired with an ignition system issue.

But things would be different in the years that followed.

When a car raced with different sponsorship support at different times, this is one way to show it

The championships won by teams campaigning the 962 included The World Sportscar Championship title in 1985 and 1986, the IMSA GT Chmpionship from 1985 to 1988, the Interserie Championship from 1987 until 1992, every Supercup series championship from 1986 to 1989, and every All Japan Sports Car Championship from 1985 until 1989. 

In addition, the car was dominant in the American IMSA series well into the 1990s. 

The 962 won Le Mans in 1986 and 1987, with Derek Bell, Al Holbert and Hans Stuck driving on both occasions. The 926 also won Le Mans again in 1994 as the Dauer 962. In total, the 962 won an astounding 21 constructors championships. 

A Porsche advertisement at the time of the 962’s dominance stated in bold letters, ‘The Porsche 962. 0 to 50 in 4.6 years.” An astounding accomplishment indeed, 50 race victories in barely 4 1/2 seasons.

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Storied drivers who raced the 962 included Jackie Ickx, the aforementioned team of Derek Bell, Al Holbert and Hans-Joachim Stuck, Hurly Haywood, John Andretti, and Tiff Needell, among others.

In total, the 962 won Le Mans three times, the Daytona 24 six times, and Sebring four times.

Cars rolled onto the show field in the pre-dawn hours

When asked to describe the 962, Stuck summed the car up: “The 962 is the best race car that I ever drove. Brute force and unbelievable ground effects. The centrifugal forces were enormous, and there was no power steering. You needed the strength of a bear and a lot of courage.”

Derek Bell is has said much the same of the 962 calling the car his “personal favorite race car.” He added that the car “had no opposition, except from other teams racing the 962.”

This past weekend, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance celebrated the story of the 962 with a large group of the cars on the field, as well as with a seminar about the historic race car. 

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Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 cars—none of them normal or reasonable—as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.

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