This month sees the publication of a wonderful new two-volume book from Porter Press International for the many Porsche fans who have followed the mark over the years. Works Porsche 956 – The Definitive History, recounts the story of what is arguably the most successful purpose-built racing car.
This is the second title to be published in the Porter Press Ultimate series and has 800 pages packed with some 840 images. The book has been written by Serge Vanbockryck, who is one of the world’s foremost authorities on this historic racing car.
The book focuses on the works-entered Porsche 956, which many of you may remember raced in the iconic blue-and-white colours of Rothmans, their sponsor. For 10 years following the car’s launch in 1982, the Group C 956 and long-wheelbase 962 won five consecutive world championships and won every classic sportscar race, including the Le Mans 24 Hours a remarkable seven times, the Daytona 24 Hours six time and the Sebring 12 Hours four times. It racked up wins in an amazing 39 World Championship events and 55 IMSA races.
It has taken Serge Vanbockryck three decades of gathering data on all 956 and 962 tests and races and a great deal of painstaking research which involved going through literally thousands of pages of period documents in Porsche’s archives in Stuttgart as well as interviewing many of the people involved with the cars’ development. This has resulted in a book that is both incredibly detailed and offers fresh insights into this legendary racing car. Enthusiasts will love the period photographs which show some of the early designs as well as models that were used in wind tunnel tests and some of the prototypes produced.
Vanbockryck began his career in the late 1980s as a journalist and photographer, reporting on endurance racing for European newspapers and magazines. He then turned to public relations and marketing in the 1990s, working with Marlboro, Lucky Strike and Toyota in Formula 1, Le Mans and the World Rally Championship. For the last 19 years, Serge has been European PR coordinator for GM’s Cadillac LMP, Corvette GT and Chevrolet WTCC programmes. He regularly contributes to British monthly magazine Racecar Engineering and German monthly Sport Auto. He is also co-author of the official Porsche Rennsport Reunion programmes.
The book opens by going into Porsche’s racing heritage dating back to the 1950s, from the first Gmünd coupés of 1951, through the iconic 917s of the early ’70s, to the Indy-engined 936/81 Le Mans car of 1981. It then talks about the 956’s creation and development, led by engineer Norbert Singer and his team, and takes the reader through the design stages and wind tunnel models that resulted in the construction of the prototypes and their subsequent testing at Porsche’s Weissach track.
There are chassis histories of every works 956, including all the technical details, from gear ratios to compression ratios for every test and race.
Vanbockryck then talks about the domination of the Porsche 956 in endurance racing from its first outing in 1982, where it took the top three places in the Le Mans 24 Hours and won the World Endurance Championships for manufacturers and drivers, the latter for racing legend Jacky Ickx.
In its second season of racing the car retained its championship titles. However, the following year Porsche boycotted Le Mans in protest about last-minute rule changes, but still managed to win a third manufacturer’s championship.
By 1985 the evolutionary Porsche 962C became the works team main contender, with the 956 only used on occasions when stand-ins and extras were needed during the season.
The book also highlights the profiles of some of the key players instrumental in the car’s success, including engineers Norbert Singer and Roland Kussmaul, and of course the works 956 drivers: Jacky Ickx, Derek Bell, Jochen Mass, Vern Schuppan, Stefan Bellof, Al Holbert, Jürgen Barth, Hurley Haywood, Hans-Joachim Stuck, John Watson and Henri Toivonen.
Vanbockryck also discusses the background relationship between main sponsor Rothmans and the works Porsche team, along with the innovations Rothmans brought to the sport by filming with on-board cameras and televising race action worldwide, which is of course the norm these days.
This beautiful two-volume coffee table style book with accompanying slip case, is strictly limited to a fitting 956 copies and is available to purchase from Porter Press International priced at £450.
ISBN: 978-1-907085-90-1 (Volume 1)
ISBN: 978-1-907085-98-7 (Volume 2)
Format 340x245mm portrait
A second two-volume book is currently being worked on, looking at the works Porsche 962s and is due to be published next year. We’ll of course keep you posted.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs and illustrations courtesy of Porter Press