Why is the Mulsanne Straight ruined by two chicanes? ….Group C. From 1982 to 1993 this was the category that formed Sportscar racing. These were purpose built prototypes that had little to do with production cars. The major restrictions allowed only engines from any manufacturer already homologated in FIA’s Group A or Group B and another allowing only 600 litres of fuel to be consumed over 1000kms. This provide for a variety of engine types to compete. Big motors vs. small turbo charged lumps. V12s V10s, V8s, V6s, Flat 6s… This proved enticing for many manufacturers.
Rothmans Porsche 956.
The first 6 years were DOMINATED by one manufacturer. Porsche. The all conquering 956 is arguably Porsche’s best ever. The 956 was an aluminium monocoque, turbo flat six engined world beater. Among its claims to fame is the, still standing, lap record at the Nurburgring (6:11 by Stefan Bellof). Jackie Ickx, Derek Bell, Stefan Bellof, Kluas Ludwig, Henri Pescarolo, Hurley Haywood, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Al Holbert, Jochen Mass, Mario and Micheal Andretti, Bob Wollek, and Stefan Johansson are all former drivers of the 956. That pretty much reads as the who’s who of sportscar racing for that time period. Once the 956 ran its course the 962, which was basically an evolution of the 956, won for another two years. Its also the basis for that nameless hot wheels prototype car we had as kids. Other successful manufacturers after Porsche include Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, and Peugeot. Jaguar having success with both the XJR-9LM and XJR-12 provided Porsche with its first real competitor. They did however have a few more prototypes, like the XJR-14 below with little success. Its Silk Cut livery will forever be one of the eras favourite. As a kid I thought, how big do hair salons get to sponsor a whole Le Mans team. Turns out they were smokes. The Jags unique feature were the rear wheel covers. Other manufacturers would run them eventually too. In contrast to Porsche turbo flat six, Jaguar used a huge 7.0L V12. It’s drivers include Mark Bundell, Martin Brundle, Teo Fabi, Andy Wallace, Patrick Tambay and Jan Lammers, among others.
SilkCut Jaguar XJR-9LM.
Silk Cut Jaguar JXR 14 (not a successful car, I just like the livery)
Next in line were Mercedes Benz. With the help of the Sauber team its C9 and C11 were on top of the field for a few years. However they were only able to win Le Mans once. Incredible top speed were helped along with a twin-turbo charged 4.9L V8. The Silver livery was a throwback to its Silver Arrows days back in the 50’s. It’s lineup included Micheal Schumacher, Manuel Rueter, Jochen Mass, Jean-Loius Schlesser, Jean-Pierre Jabouille.
Sauber Mercedes C9
Sauber Mercedes C11
The end of Group C saw Peugeot clean up with the 905 and 905 Evo. It ran a 3.0L V10. The car and engine were both developed by Peugeot Talbot Sport. The same team that designed all of Peugeot rally cars, so you know the pedigree was up to task. And with drivers like Derrick Warrick, Yannick Dalmas, Geoff Brabham, Christophe Bouchut and Eric Helary. Part 2 will see the Japanese machines of this era along with the also rans.