It is now 25 years since the Porsche 956 first appeared and started another of Porsche’s amazing periods of domination, this time in long-distance racing in the Group C and IMSA categories. Having decided that they wanted to win races outright rather than just the classes, as they had done through the ’50s and early to mid-’60s, the Porsche 908 led the first wave of overall winners followed by the ferocious 917. Trends and regulations changed by the early 1980s where something very different was needed. The 956 was that something.
Vintage Racecar recently had the privilege of testing the very first 956, chassis 956-001, and the chance to compare it with its successor, the 962. As it turned out, 956-001 was Derek Bell’s first works Porsche and 962-010 his last. As this is a story as much about the people involved as the cars, it is fitting that Derek was involved in the test. At Silverstone, car owner Henry Pearman assigned Derek Bell as my “assistant” for the comparison driving! Further firsthand assistance in pulling the tale together also came from Norbert Singer, whose “baby” was the 956, Jochen Mass who made the connection between Porsche and Rothmans, Sean Roberts who was the key person at Rothmans at the time, and Vern Schuppan, another of the drivers involved with the project for many years.
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