The 24th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance will honor and celebrate the 35th anniversary of one of the greatest and most accomplished sports racing cars of all time. Porsche’s landmark 962 reigned as the king of international prototype racing across two decades.
In American IMSA competition alone the Porsche 962 won 54 races (15 of 16 in 1985) and both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships in 1985, ’86, ’87 and ’88. Ten years after its American debut a GT version of the 962 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans; the third Le Mans victory for the 962 and the 13th for Porsche.
America figures prominently and pivotally in the enduring legend of the Porsche 962. Born from the International Motor Sports Association’s (IMSA) GTP rulebook the 962 was a forced evolution of Porsche’s first ground effects and monocoque prototype, the 1982 Le Mans-winning Group C Porsche 956.
IMSA rules required architecture placing the driver’s feet behind the front axle for safety purposes. The 956 violated that rule. Rather than create a new car just for IMSA competition Porsche lobbied IMSA for certification of the 956. IMSA chief John Bishop would not yield on the issue of driver safety and the 962 was born. When international rules changed in 1985 Porsche created a Group C-legal version named the 962C to replace the 956.
“Porsche’s 962 is a landmark design,” said Tim Pendergast, Director of Operations for the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and a noted GTP authority. “It’s a catalog of ‘firsts’ for Porsche engineering and design. The 962 stood apart and above because it was a complete absolutely turn-key ready package.”
The user friendly 962 enjoyed an unusually long competition life playing the role of “the car of the stars.” It was raced by many marquee names from diverse motorsport disciplines. Besides the Andrettis, father and son Indy 500 winners Al Unser Senior and Junior both raced the 962 with conspicuous success. “Big Al”, “The Amelia’s” 2017 honoree, won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in Preston Henn’s 962. AJ Foyt shared that Daytona victory in 1985 and scored the final professional victory of his illustrious career at Sebring that year in the same 962. Al Unser Junior notched back-to-back Rolex 24 wins with Holbert Racing’s 962 in 1986 and ‘87. Three-time CART Champion and Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal — “The Amelia’s” 2011 Honoree — logged three IMSA victories with the 962 during 1987.
By its fifth season the 962 set one of the most extraordinary records in motorsport. With victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 1986 and ’87 plus Le Mans wins in 1986 and ‘87, Derek Bell, Al Holbert and the 962 were undefeated in 96 hours of the world’s most prestigious endurance races covering a marathon 11,280.542 miles; an unmatched record and a tribute to the design, strength, reliability, durability and pace of the 962.
In 1991 Hurley Haywood, “The Amelia’s” 1998 Honoree, scored his record-setting fifth Rolex 24 at Daytona victory in Reinhold Joest’s 962 seven years after the model’s debut!
From its first IMSA GTP checkered flag at Mid-Ohio in 1984 through its final win in Belgium in 1999, Porsche’s 962 logged 142 victories and won 35 international championships.
“The 962’s record is a testament to the way Porsche conducts the business of motorsport,” said Pendergast. “Thirty-five years after its first race the 962 is still revered as the backbone of IMSA GTP’s golden era and the standard against which the competition was judged.”