By Reynald Hézard and David Legangneux
It would be easy to underestimate this publication from Le Mans Racing contributors Hézard and Legangneux. “Porsche 956” is a 400-page large format hardback, featuring a history of every chassis bearing the designation that was produced from the Porsche factory in the 1980’s.
Summarising the book is very easy – it begins with a brief history of the development of the car, a background to the nascent Group C regulations and how these developed over the time period covered by the book. Then the career of each and every chassis is described: the ten works chassis (ids 001 to 010), followed by the cars that went into the hands of private entrants (chassis 101 to 118).
However, this does not do justice to the detailed research behind the book. Virtually every livery that each chassis ran in, down to re-positioning of stickers between practice and the race, or even different configurations of rear bodywork between the start and end of the Le Mans 24 hours (for example), is all shown in high-quality graphical detail. In addition, many photographs accompany the text, although these are not captioned, the type of reader to whom this book will appeal will not need them.
The book is published in both English and French, and sadly the English translations are at times rather clumsy and typos abound. This should not put off the enthusiast though. This is a volume that could easily sit on the coffee table and be dipped into and out of at leisure, or used as a reference point for the provenance of individual cars. Either way, interesting nuggets of information leap out at the reader on every page.
Reading it through from beginning to end, as I did, is also an interesting exercise. As each race that each car took part in is described in order, you end up reading about the same race from the point of view of different cars – sometimes with the same driver in more than one of them. For me at least, this made for an interesting perspective; especially as it brings home just how ‘busy’ some of the privately-owned chassis were, compared to their works brethren. The 1982 Le Mans winning chassis, for example, completed only one race before being retired to the Porsche museum. Whereas the Joest chassis were busy competing in the DRM (Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft – German sportscar championship) between 1,000kms races, and were active for three seasons or more (to say nothing of their later lives in historic and revival racing).
It is important to note that this book only deals with the 956 chassis though. The 962 is not covered, although I am sure (at least I hope) it is only a matter of time before a similar volume appears covering this era as well.