How Stuck’s favourite Porsche 962 was brought back to life

The car closest to the heart of German racing legend Hans-Joachim Stuck is one of the less storied examples of the Porsche 956/962. His 1987 ADAC Supercup winner been brought back to (almost) original spec by the Porsche museum

How Stuck’s favourite Porsche 962 was brought back to life

Ask Hans Stuck to name the favourite iteration of the Porsche 956 or 962 he raced, and he doesn’t go for one of the factory chassis in which he notched up his two Le Mans 24 Hours victories in 1986 and 1987. Nor one of the two IMSA GTP cars in which he scored back-to-back triumphs at the Sebring 12 Hours in 1987 and 1988.

Rather he plumps for a more obscure machine in which he enjoyed considerable success, one largely overlooked by the history books. And it is this obscurity that explains why the chassis in question has been restored to its former glory by the German manufacturer for the 40th anniversary of Group C and the launch of the 956. 

Stuck picks the car he raced in the 1987 and 1988 editions of the ADAC Supercup, Germany’s very own Group C sprint series. He won the championship in Porsche 962C #009 in the first of those years and claimed a further race victory in the second on the way to third place in the points. He chose the final win aboard #009 as his Race of My Life in Autosport many years back. 

Porsche’s successes with the factory team and its customers in the short-lived Supercup, which was effectively a replacement for the Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft and ran from 1986-89, haven’t been celebrated by the German marque over the years. Not, it can be said, in quite the same way as its achievements with the 956/962 in the world championship, at Le Mans and in the North American IMSA series and its big enduros at Daytona and Sebring.

The fleet of Group C and IMSA GTP racers maintained as runners by Porsche had a gap in it, and it was one that Armin Burger, motorsport coordinator at the Porsche museum in Stuttgart, set out to redress as the big 4-0 approached for Group C and the 956/962. 

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The idea arose, partly at least, by accident. Chassis #009 had long since been part of the museum’s collection, and like many of its cars was a runner, too. Long-time Porsche factory driver Pat Long raced it – “pretty hard”, he says – as recently as 2015 at the Rennsport Reunion Porsche extravaganza at Laguna Seca. But it wasn’t recognisable as the car with which Stuck notched up three wins from nine starts over its two seasons in the Supercup.

“We had this car in storage but I didn’t know its history,” says Burger, who is the bridge between the Porsche museum and Porsche Motorsport at the marque’s Weissach research and development centre. “So I looked at the dossier – we say ordner or folder – that Porsche keeps for each car and looked at its record. I thought, ‘Wow, this is the Supercup-winning car from 1987.’ 

Stuck won back-to-back titles in the Supercup sprint series aboard the 962, pictured in action at the Norisring

Stuck won back-to-back titles in the Supercup sprint series aboard the 962, pictured in action at the Norisring

Photo by: Porsche

“In our collection we have Le Mans-winning cars, world championship-winning cars and cars that were successful in IMSA, but we didn’t have anything from the Supercup. I spoke to my bosses and did a little presentation saying that we should restore this car.” Put simply, Burger wanted to complete the 956/962 set: “The Supercup was a bit of our history that was missing.” 

The reason that Burger and his team had overlooked the significance of #009 in the 962 story was the form in which it existed on being passed to the museum. It was used to test out the later aero spec with a centre-post rear wing introduced on the 962C for 1990 as Porsche became interested in the car again after Joest Racing’s victory at the Dijon World Sports-Prototype Championship in May of the previous year. It was retained in this spec as a kind of reference car after its transfer to the museum. 

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This particular 962C had led a peripatetic existence after its Supercup campaigns. It was loaned to Busby Racing for the second half of the 1989 IMSA Camel GT Championship, running with the team’s own bodywork from the pen of former Eagle Indycar designer Roman Slobodynskyj. It then became a development mule at the factory. It was used for aero and tyre testing – ahead of Joest’s switch from Goodyear to Michelin tyres in 1990 – and even to try out a four-wheel-steering system that never made it into competition. 

Stuck takes credit for the idea for moving the controls for up and downshifts to the steering wheel. The first iterations of the system had a sequential-style lever that was pushed forward for upshifts and pulled back for downshifts

Returning #009 to the form in which it won the Supercup with ‘Stuckie’ turned out to be a bigger job than expected for Burger and his colleagues. The car’s use as a development mule in its final active years ensured it had ended up a long way from its Supercup specification. 

“We thought it would be relatively easy and that we could pull parts out of the stores,” says Burger, whose Porsche credits include working on the 911 GT1 and 911 GT1-98 programmes and running the VIP cars in the one-make Supercup on the Formula 1 bill before joining the museum staff in 2008. “The car needed a new nose and tail and the ducting for the cooling system was totally different; so too was the floor and we didn’t have one of them anymore. It took one year just to do the bodywork.”

A new engine was required as well. The later 3.2-litre unit was replaced with a new-build three-litre version of the fully water-cooled flat six: Porsche had a short run of new blocks cast and #009 took the first of the batch. 

Key members of the 962 programme were invited to offer their advice and recollections. Norbert Singer, who led development of the 956 and 962 and was in charge of the aerodynamics, was among them. So too was Rob Powell, who designed the car’s Shell/Dunlop livery in period. (He was also responsible for the Rothmans colour scheme of the world championship 956s and 962Cs of 1982-87, it should be pointed out.)

Key figures in the 962's story were involved in the restoration, including its original development engineer Norbert Singer, and livery designer Rob Powell (left)

Key figures in the 962's story were involved in the restoration, including its original development engineer Norbert Singer, and livery designer Rob Powell (left)

Photo by: Porsche

Restoration of the car was completed in late 2021 and Stuck was reunited with his championship winner – and a set of the period overalls into which he could still fit. The car is now pretty much as it raced in the Supercup over 30 years ago, with one exception. It is no longer running the PDK racing gearbox that paved the way for the introduction of the semi-auto transmission into Porsche’s road car range in 2008 on the ‘997.2’-shape 911 Carrera. Today PDK is available on every Porsche model on sale. 

It proved impossible to put together an authentic late-1980s Porsche PDK system. Instead, the flat-six now drives through a period five-speed synchromesh racing gearbox. 

“The problem is that we don’t have the parts and the budget would be too high to remake them,” explains Burger. “We went into the stores with guys who worked on the car at the time because they knew what they were looking for. But there were no parts.”

Porsche did have one example of the electronic control box from the system. The only problem was that it had been cut in half to show its innards for display purposes in the museum!

Stuckie was a big fan of the PDK semi-automatic transmission from the first time he tested it at Porsche’s test track at its Weissach research and development facility. He could see the advantages of the car from the get-go: “Staying on the throttle during upshifting gave you an advantage and there was no chance of a mis-shift.” 

He takes credit for the idea for moving the controls for up and downshifts to the steering wheel. The first iterations of the system had a sequential-style lever that was pushed forward for upshifts and pulled back for downshifts.

“After a day’s testing at Weissach, I said to Norbert in the evening, ‘Why don’t we have two buttons on the wheel?’” he recalls. “That way, I thought, you could keep both hands on the steering wheel during shifting. That was fantastic for the driver.”

Sourcing a period PDK gearbox proved impossible, but the car was meticulously prepared to be as close as possible to original spec

Sourcing a period PDK gearbox proved impossible, but the car was meticulously prepared to be as close as possible to original spec

Photo by: Deniz Calagan

But Stuck’s love affair with 962C #009 went beyond the trick transmission. For a start he got to drive it alone.

“It was only my car,” he says. But it was also built specifically for the Supercup sprints. “Because they weren’t enduros there were all kinds of developments on that car, hundreds of things that made it that little bit extra special to drive.”

The Porsche factory squad sought to take weight out of the car. It was clothed in full carbonfibre bodywork and also incorporated a carbon front anti-roll bar. “It was stiffer, but also lighter,” says Stuck of the suspension tweak.

Porsche got the car right down onto the weight limit. At the opening race of the 1987 Supercup at the Nurburgring it passed through scrutineering just a couple of kilograms above the 850kg minimum. That was 30kg or so less than the car, also equipped with the PDK system, in which Stuck had won the inaugural Supercup title with the factory in 1986.

"[Helmuth Bott] thought that the [PDK] development in the gearbox department was taking too long, so he decided to put it in the racing department" Norbert Singer

Stuck’s final outing in #009 was an emotive one. He took victory at the 1988 championship curtain-closer at the Nurburgring in September on what was the last outing in Europe for the in-house factory Porsche squad with the 962, at least until its one-off success with the Dauer 962 LM Porsche at Le Mans six years later. He describes the finale as “a hard-fought race” with the Joest Porsche driven by Bob Wollek. His margin of victory after an hour and 20 minutes of racing was less than two seconds.

The 962Cs driven by Stuck and team-mate Klaus Ludwig bore little black flags on their radio masts that day at the ’Ring to mark the closure of the factory team. The focus within Porsche’s motorsport department was instead turning to the ultimately unsuccessful Indycar campaign in CART. 

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Stuck got a chance to rekindle the memories from what he regards as the greatest period of his long and successful career when he returned to the cockpit of #009 at Weissach on the completion of its restoration. In his favourite Porsche Group C car.

Stuck made small cockpit modifications to make the car perfectly suited to his needs

Stuck made small cockpit modifications to make the car perfectly suited to his needs

Photo by: Porsche

How racing pushed the PDK forward

The wartime footing on which a race team operates lies behind the history of the use of the PDK, or Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe to give the system its full name, in sportscar racing. It was the pet project of Porsche research and development boss Helmuth Bott, and had been part of a series of advances shown on the 995 concept car at the tail end of the 1970s.

“He thought that the development in the gearbox department was taking too long, so he decided to put it in the racing department,” recalls Norbert Singer. “He said, ‘In the race team, the development will happen much faster.’ He was right, of course.”

The PDK system allows for flat, clutchless gearchanges courtesy of the dual-clutch arrangement.

“You have two shafts and a clutch on each and one gear is always engaged,” explains Singer. “The next gear is already selected before changing, and then one clutch is opening and the other is closing, so the driver could stay on throttle.”

Initial calculations by the racing department suggested that the PDK system should have been worth up to half a second per lap at Paul Ricard, one of its test haunts. When Porsche ran a back-to-back test of a PDK-equipped 956 with one driving through its regular synchromesh five-speed gearbox in March 1984, the PDK car was two seconds slower…

Two years later, that deficit was down to six tenths. Twelve months after that, ahead of Hans Stuck’s ADAC Supercup campaign in 962C #009, the Porsche running the PDK system was eight tenths quicker. 

“On the long Mistral Straight it was maybe two kilometres per hour faster, but on the shorter front straight it was seven or eight,” recalls Singer. “That showed the advantage of the PDK in acceleration out of a slow corner.”

Stuck was delighted to be reacquainted with his 1987 Supercup-winning 962 for the 40th anniversary of the car's debut

Stuck was delighted to be reacquainted with his 1987 Supercup-winning 962 for the 40th anniversary of the car's debut

Photo by: Porsche

Development included a focus on reducing weight – a magnesium rather than aluminium casing saved 15kg – and the losses inside the gearbox as a result of the additional hydraulics. Porsche had found when it took one PDK car to Le Mans in 1986 that it was down on straightline speed as a result of the extra friction in the ’box. 

The PDK system first appeared at a race meeting at the Kyalami round of the World Endurance Championship at the end of 1983, although it was only used in practice. Nine months later at Spa the following season it was raced for the first time in the hands of Jacky Ickx and John Watson. Or rather just Ickx. It encountered problems on the opening lap and completed only one more in the Belgian’s hands after a long pitstop. 

The first win for the car came at Monza at the start of 1986 with Stuck and Derek Bell. That would stand as the only world championship victory for a PDK-equipped 962C. Its subsequent victories at Le Mans that year and in 1987 came with the regular synchro ’box. Singer concedes today that Porsche wasn’t ready to compromise its chances at the ‘Big One’ with the experimental transmission.

PDK gearbox was developed through racing and is now ubiquitous in Porsche road models

PDK gearbox was developed through racing and is now ubiquitous in Porsche road models

Photo by: Porsche

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