1982 Porsche 956
Porsche AG (retained for works team 1982 through 1984)
Vern Schuppan, Australia (acquired from the above in March 1986)
Aaron Hsu, New York, New York (acquired from the above in 1996)
Jeff Lewis, Newport Beach, California (acquired from the above in 1999)
Wayne Jackson, Columbia, Maryland (acquired from the above in 2001)
Chris Cox, Chapel Hill, North Carolina (acquired from the above in 2002)
Jean Marc Luco, Switzerland (acquired from the above in 2007)
Current Owner (acquired from the above)
24 Hours of Le Mans, June 1982, Jochen Mass/Vern Schuppan, No. 2 (2nd Overall)
1000 Kilometers of Spa, September 1982, Jacky Ickx/Jochen Mass, No. 1 (1st Overall)
1000 Km of Fuji, October 1982, Jacky Ickx/Jochen Mass, No. 1 (1st Overall)
1000 Km of Brands Hatch, October 1982, Jacky Ickx/Derek Bell, No. 11 (1st Overall)
9 Hours of Kyalami, November 1982, Jacky Ickx/Jochen Mass, No. 1 (1st Overall)
1000 Km Nürburgring, May 1983, Stefan Bellof/Jacky Ickx/Jochen Mass, No. 31 (DNS)
24 Hours of Le Mans, June 1983, Al Holbert/Hurley Haywood/Vern Schuppan, No. 3 (1st Overall)
1000 Km of Kyalami, October 1983, Vern Schuppan/Al Holbert, No. 3 (DNF)
1000 Km of Imola, September 1984, Jacky Ickx/John Watson, No. 1 (DNF)
DRM Nürburgring Supersprint, September 1984, John Watson, No. 6 (DNS)
MotorSport, July 1983, pictured on the cover
Reynald Hézard and David Legangneux, Porsche 956: Der Langstrecken-Champion, pp. 53–64
Karl Ludvigsen, Porsche 956 & 962: Immortal Endurance Racers 1982–1994, pp. 28–29, 31–33, 41, 48, 113, 116, 118–120
John Allen, Porsche 956 962, pp. 23–30, 146, 151
Monterey Historics at Laguna Seca, August 1998
Chelsea Auto Legends, September 2010
Goodwood Festival of Speed, June 2010
Chelsea Auto Legends, September 2012
Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, March 2014 (Most Historically Significant Porsche)
The history of 956-003, and the Porsche 956 program at large, can be tracked back to 1981. That year, the FIA began to roll out regulations for its new Group C category for sports car racing, designed to replace both Group 5 (closed touring prototypes like the 935) and Group 6 (open sports car prototypes like the 936), as well as its World Endurance Championship (WEC) for the 1982 racing season.
Porsche immediately responded to the challenge and set to work designing a completely new car that could be ready to race in less than a year. The team that Porsche racing director Peter Falk assembled for the project included Norbert Singer, Horst Reitter, Valentin Schäfer, and Eugen Kolb. All five men had been employed with the company for at least 20 years and had vast experience in the development of Le Mans-winning sports racing cars, having worked on Porsche’s 917 and 936.
The result of their herculean effort was the 956 – a car that was, in many ways, a dramatic departure for Porsche. Though the 956 utilized a variation of the tried-and-true twin-turbocharged flat-six engine – which had powered the 1981 Le Mans-winning 936 – it was the first Porsche ever built to utilize an aluminum monocoque chassis, rather than traditional tubular space-frame construction. The bodywork was similarly groundbreaking, as the 956 was among the first sports cars – and certainly the first Porsche – to use state-of-the-art ground effects to develop significant downforce at high speeds. The first 956s built, beginning with chassis 956-001, were constructed strictly for the Porsche works team and benefitted from many technically advanced features, while customer cars, starting at 956-101, were more standardized.
On May 16, 1982, the Porsche 956 made its competition debut at the 6 Hours of Silverstone, where Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell MBE drove 956-001 to a 2nd Place finish behind the Lancia LC1 Spider of Michele Alboreto and Riccardo Patrese.
It was the next big race, the 1982 24 Hours of Le Mans, that established the Porsche 956 as the car to beat in Group C.
For that race, Porsche fielded three of its works 956s, all wearing an attractive new livery with sponsorship from the Rothmans cigarette company. In qualifying, 956-002 (driven by Ickx and Bell) qualified on the pole, with 956-003 (driven by Jochen Mass and Vern Schuppan) and 956-004 (driven by Al Holbert, Hurley Haywood, and Jürgen Barth) following in 2nd and 3rd Place, respectively. Clearly miles ahead of the competition, Porsche utterly dominated Le Mans in 1982, with the works 956s crossing the finish line together in a magnificent 1-2-3 finish, and the Porsche 935s taking 4th and 5th Place. Porsche 956-003 placed 2nd, with 956-002 taking the laurels.
For the remainder of the 1982 WEC season, 956-003 served as the Porsche team’s top car, primarily driven by Ickx, Mass, and Bell. In September and October, 956-003 won the last three WEC races – Spa, Fuji, and Brands Hatch – as well as the last event of the year, a non-championship race at Kyalami. At the end of 1982, 956-003 was responsible for four of six race wins during the 956’s debut season. Most importantly, its three WEC victories secured the Drivers’ Championship for Ickx and the Manufacturers’ Championship for Porsche – a surprise bonus as Porsche had competed only in four of the seven championship rounds.
956-003 returned to Le Mans in 1983, as part of the Porsche factory’s three-car assault on the French endurance race. Driven by Schuppan, Holbert, and Haywood, 956-003 initially looked to be the weak link in the works team, starting in seventh position on the grid behind the two other Rothmans Porsche entries (956-005 and 956-008), two Martini Lancia LC2s, and two customer 956s (956-104 and 956-106). Nevertheless, it took more than outright speed to win at Le Mans, and 956-003 eventually worked its way into the lead, maintaining a smooth, consistent pace.
When Holbert took over for his last stint with an hour and five minutes remaining, he was amazed to find the left-bank cylinder temperature rising, yet for several laps he kept the car cool while simultaneously managing a driver’s door that refused to stay shut and the rapidly approaching 956 of Ickx and Bell. In his famous racing anthology Time and Two Seats, Janos L. Wimpffen vividly describes the race’s thrilling conclusion:
“Fifteen minutes from the end, the no. 1 car unlapped it for the last time. He routinely glanced across the gauges as he had done so many times before at this one ‘relaxing’ spot on the course. The water-cooled head temperature seized his attention – the needle had pegged. As he flicked through the Porsche Curves and the Ford Chicane, a steady trail of vapor came from under the wheel arch. Bell was a little over two minutes behind, and Holbert didn’t have time to take on a splash. Holbert had no choice but to bring it around the last 13 kilometers, while Bell kept up the pressure. The gap shrank to 63 seconds, but the American nursed the nearly seized engine across.”
956-003 crossed the finish line victorious, just before its engine expired in a billowing cloud of white smoke. Schuppan, Holbert, and Haywood’s performances not only earned them an outright win at Le Mans, they also captured the Index of Energy Efficiency and broke several track records along the way.
The 1983 24 Hours of Le Mans will forever be remembered as a high-point in Porsche’s racing history, with 956s taking nine of the top 10 positions. This incredible achievement inspired the “Nobody’s Perfect” poster, one of the most memorable advertisements in Porsche history.
Following its victory at Le Mans, 956-003 was occasionally run by the Porsche factory team, appearing at Kyalami in October 1983, as well as at Imola and Nürburgring in September 1984, where it was driven by Formula 1 ace John Watson.
After its racing career, 956-003 was retired to the Porsche factory collection. As Porsche already owned the first 956 to win Le Mans, 956-002, and had promising new 962s waiting in the wings, it decided to sell four of the works 956s. The process of qualifying to buy one of the cars was relatively simple – you were required to have won Le Mans in a 956, for the factory. So, of the four cars sold, one each went to Ickx and Bell, with Schuppan acquiring both 956-003 and 956-009.
The 1983 Le Mans winner remained in Schuppan’s private collection until 1996, when it was sold to New York-based collector Aaron Hsu. Mr. Hsu, who was then assembling an unrivaled collection of works Group C cars, treated 956-003 to a comprehensive bare-tub restoration overseen by the highly regarded Jim Groom. As the Porsche was in excellent cosmetic condition, Groom restored only the chassis and mechanical components, while the engine was sent to marque specialist Jerry Woods for a rebuild.
Once completed, 956-003 made a memorable appearance at the 1998 Monterey Historics, where Porsche was the featured marque. There, Mr. Hsu reunited the 956 with Schuppan, and the 1983 Le Mans winners did several demonstration laps around Laguna Seca.
In 1999, Mr. Hsu sold the 956 to Jeff Lewis of Newport Beach, California, a collector with a passion for the finest racing Porsches. From there, 956-003 then passed through the hands of two prominent East Coast collectors before being sold in 2007 to Jean Marc Luco, a resident of Switzerland. The consignor, who purchased the Porsche in 2010, has maintained 956-003 in his impressive stable of endurance racing cars and exhibited this important car at many top events, from the Goodwood Festival of Speed to the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where, in 2014, it was honored with the award for the Most Historically Significant Porsche.
Though 956-003 has been spared from an active career in vintage racing, it has always been maintained by leading Porsche specialists. Kevin Jeannette of Gunnar Racing looked after the car for much of its time in the US, Sebastian Crubilé did the same for Mr. Luco, and Gary Pearson has skillfully ha