“The 962 is the best race car that I ever drove,” German driver Hans-Joachim Stuck once said of Porsche’s legendary Group C machine. “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.”
Recently, Stuck was reunited with the 962 he steered to victory in the ADAC Würth Supercup in 1987, the #17 car with its two-tone, red-and-yellow Shell-and-Dunlop livery. Since the middle of last year, Porsche had been restoring the car to its racing glory. The results look period perfect, as you’d expect.
The 962 is one of Porsche’s most successful race cars, having won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1986 and ’87, with Stuck driving the victorious car on both occasions. It won the World Sportscar Championship in ’85 and ’86, the 12 Hours of Sebring from ’85 through ’88 and the IMSA GT Championship overall from ’85 through ’87. And those are just the highlights of its many accomplishments.
As for Stuck’s Supercup car, this 962 was retired for aerodynamics testing after the end of its sporting tenure. It was stripped of its livery and fitted with a different nose and rear wing, taking it further away from competition spec. Later it was transitioned to Porsche’s corporate collection, where it remained in the same stark white paint, revealing nothing of its championship-winning history.
Midway through 2020, though, Porsche’s Armin Burger and Traugott Brecht hatched a brilliant idea:
Armin Burger and Traugott Brecht from Historic Motorsport were jointly responsible for the racing car’s rebuild. “We kept passing this car in the warehouse. Then, about a year and a half ago, we decided to get it out of there, transfer it to Weissach and start working on it,” he Burger. He and his team had to rebuild many parts because they were long gone. “The cooperation with the other departments from Porsche was great. We found almost everything we needed within a radius of just 30 metres,” says Burger. At the very beginning of the reconstruction work, he invited Powell and Singer into the historic motorsport workshop.
It certainly helped that those who helped shape the 962 into the legend it’s remembered as were present for the restoration:
“When you hear the right people talking by the vehicle, everything immediately becomes clear. We learned an incredible amount from two witnesses who were right there when it all happened,” he adds. The experts completely rebuilt the underbody, changed the arrangement of the radiators and made many other bodywork adjustments. Then they presented the Supercup championship car to European media at a journalists’ workshop at the Weissach Development Centre.
Rob Powell, the designer of this 962’s original livery, replicated his memorable work with the original sketches, stencils and equipment first used to plan it 35 years ago.
Once that critical step was complete, all that was left was for Stuck to strap himself in and return to his rightful place in the driver’s seat. Porsche kept the car’s rebuild a secret from him. Unlike other 962s, like those driven in endurance races that were shared among drivers, this Supercup chassis was driven only by Stuck and set up specifically to his liking.
You can’t miss the smile on the 70-year-old champion’s face as he’s reunited with his 962 for the first time in more than three decades. In case you had any doubt, he still really, really likes this car:
It feels like coming home. You sit down, you get in, you automatically know where which button is, where the boost pressure is adjusted. It’s unbelievable how I remember everything. It’s just like coming home.
Don’t conflate familiarity with simplicity, though:
Easy to drive? Not true at all, because the car was not only physically but also mentally very demanding. Physically, we didn’t have power steering, we had to change gears manually, we had huge downforce in the car, which means the cornering speed was very high, very high G-forces, so you had to be very fit. All attempts to get power steering were rejected by [962 designer and then-Porsche motorsport chief Norbert] Singer. A reason for failure doesn’t come into it. “You have to train, you lazy lads!” he said.
Porsche plans to tour this 962 at events throughout next year to mark the 40th anniversary of the first year of Group C competition, 1982. You can watch the full video of the car’s restoration and Stuck driving it over at Porsche’s press site. There are also some super high-res archive and modern photos of the 962 on that page, in case you feel a compulsion to switch out your desktop wallpaper like I just have.