During 1973 and 1974, the Global Financial Crisis occurred due to the OAPEC oil embargo had a deep cultural, symbolic impact on the Western civilization. In January 1979, the Iranian religious uprising against US-backed Mohammed Pahlavi forced him into exile, which ended with the hardcore Islamist cleric Ayatollah Khomeini coming to power. In the fall of the same year, Iranian students took over the US embassy and kept fifty-two diplomats and civilians hostage for fourteen months.
Political and economic instability in the middle eastern region due to religious revolution as well as the anti-Western political groups halted the production of oil and new embargo. The price of a barrel went up to $39.50 from $12.
FIA due to the severe financial and political instability issues decided to rewrite the FIA regulations for its racing classes for the 1980s.
Group B was introduced to replace Group 4, Group C as the successor of both Group 5 and Group 6 events, starting with the 1982 racing season. When designing the Porsche 935 or any other racing car of its time, the fuel consumption wasn’t much of an issue. In 24 Hours of Le Mans events, the Porsche 935 with its 850hp engine famously consumed 80 liters per 100 kilometers, with an average of 2.94mpg while averaging 150mph to 155mph during the event.
New Group C regulations limited the competing teams to 600 liters of fuel or 158 gallons for 1000 km endurance race events, and 2450 liters or 647.3 gallons for 24 Hours endurance racing events. This new regulation was known as the consumption formula and engineers at Porsche were now tasked with developing a new race car with fuel-efficient methodologies to reduce fuel consumption without any compromise in performance terms.
They started working on a new engine that they had originally developed for the Indy 500 event in 1980. However, Porsche didn’t compete nor the engine saw any competition afterward.
This engine was an alcohol-fueled turbocharged flat-six engine. The bore and stroke were 92.3 mm x 66 mm with the displacement of the engine being 2649cc. Engine output was measured at 630hp. The dual overhead cam four valves per cylinder head meant that it needed a more efficient cooling system than the air cooling and the new laws made the use of water-cooling mandatory.
This engine was then converted to run on fuel instead of alcohol and this was done by Valentin Schaffer and his team of engineers. Valentin Schaffer also went on to attach turbocharges to each cylinder bank.
Porsche 936, the previous Group B car was a success at Le Mans events, but Norbert Singer, chassis engineer Horst Reitter along body engineer Eugen Kolb teamed up to develop something relatively new. During their time spent in wind tunnels on Porsche 935 and Porsche 936, they had extensive knowledge on the stiffness of the bodywork as well as aerodynamic tweaks.
They also knew that the sheet metal bodywork of the Porsche 935 had greater stiffness than the tube-framed Porsche 936 cars. To save weight they came up with an innovative aluminum monocoque chassis. The fuel tank was directly placed behind the driver to eliminate handling effects caused by the weight loss from a full tank to an empty one.
The 2649cc turbocharged engine was now mated to the chassis. An additional spacer tube was included between the engine and transaxle to improve rear axle alignment and car balance.
The mid-engine layout enabled the developers to design under-body tunnels to create more downforce. This resulted in improved road holding and handling of the car.
Norbert Singer came up with a small hump beneath the front axle of the car that helped the creation of an under-car Venturi effect.
With its 2650 mm wheelbase and 4800 mm overall length, this was the longest Porsche vehicle up to that time.
Porsche 956 is considered the first-ever ground effect car and the technology behind it was specifically developed for Formula One racing.
Jürgen Barth was the first one to test drive the car, and he was astonished by the cornering forces of the car. The ground effects provided higher cornering speeds.
In 1982 Le Mans trial runs, this racer reached 220mph along the Mulsanne straight.
More importantly, the turbochargers and the clever engine cooling and management methodologies used to develop the Porsche 956 improved its fuel efficiency. Now it did 5mph and this was almost two times than the Porsche 935 averaged.
Porsche 956 and Porsche 962 Racing History
In the 1982 season, the Porsche 956 debuted in Silverstone and finished the event with 2nd position. It also won the Le Mans, Fuji, Spa, and many more FIA events. Porsche won the manufacturer’s championship and their team driver Jacky Ickx won the driver’s championship.
In the 1983 season, the Porsche 956 on nine major FIA events and ended up receiving the manufacturer’s championship again.
In 1984, Porsche renamed the Porsche 956 the Porsche 962 after reconfiguring the car to reposition the driver’s feet aft of the front wheel to compete in a new GTP class event in the USA. This reconfiguration meant that the Porsche 962 could compete at Daytona and all other American racing events.
Porsche 962 won Daytona and another nine US racing events that year. In 1985 and 1986 racing seasons, Porsche 962 won every US racing event except two events, making Porsche dominant in Group C events.
Porsche 962 won 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1986 and 1987.