The tale of the 1994 Dauer 962 LM is a classic story of motorsport smarts – clever designers and engineers finding a hole in the regulations to exploit – Werner Kirchmann tells the story of how the 1994 Le Mans 24 Hours was won as Dauer and Porsche showed where the early GT1 regulations had significant flaws!
Le Mans 1994: Months before the race most people at the Toyota Motorsport Division were smelling Le Mans victory. Peugeot had left the battlefield after two consecutive wins and other works prototype competitors were not showing up.
Toyota had sent two well-funded semi-works teams on the long journey to France: the SARD Team and NISSO TRUST. Competitors? OK, there was the annual Courage and Kremer effort, but when it came to budget and development capabilities, these teams were playing in a different league than the Japanese. Everything was well prepared by Toyota; even the all-Japanese driver teams were left at home; instead experienced hands like Wollek, Fouché and Irvine were hired.
The World SportsCar Championship was gone so the A.C.O. had set up its own rule book.
In an effort to promote the GT-1 class and lure supercars like the Bugatti EB110, the Ferrari F40, the Venturi 600 LM and the McLaren F1 to the track, appropriate rules were written down. For the GT-1 class that meant 40 litres more fuel tank capacity with just 50 kg more weight compared to the prototypes. On top of that, a larger air restrictor was also allowed. Not many of these supercars were around yet, so the only pre-requisite to enter a car in the class was the existence of at least one road-going, street-legal version.
The Porsche engineers, an always very creative bunch of people when the task was to find loopholes in a rule book, chose a completely different approach to what the A.C.O. had in mind. Instead of converting one of their road cars into a GT-1 race car, they chose a completely different path.
1. Dust off a Group C prototype and make it street-legal.
2. Take this street-legal car and make a GT-1 compliant race car out of it.
In fact, the first step had already been made only a few years before. In 1991, Jochen Dauer, 1988 European Sports Car Champion and proprietor of a small automotive company, bought five 962 Group C chassis from Porsche: these would serve as the basis for his own road-going 962 project.
Porsche was helpful, delivered parts and gave Dauer some technical support, such as a hydraulic suspension system which was added in order to meet German minimum ride height requirements. The interior saw the addition of a second seat, a little bit of leather for the dashboard and a VCD player with a small video screen.
The luggage compartment (A.C.O. GT-1 mandatory) was in the left door sill. This road car did not have to meet any racing regulations, so the air restrictor was removed, actually giving the engine a higher output (730 hp – 544 kW) than the Group C race version ever had.
In the GT-1 class, only relatively narrow tyres were allowed and this would reduce the performance of the car over the long laps at Le Mans, even with the increased power from the GT-1 class air restrictor. However, the engineers at Porsche believed that the larger fuel tank they were allowed in the GT-1 class would compensate for this lack of speed by spending much less time in the pits than the prototype teams. They were surely right: pit stop time has always been, a key factor for success at Le Mans.
The first version of the Dauer 962 LM made its debut at the Frankfurt Automobile Fair in September 1993.
In December 1993 the idea of co-operation between Porsche and Jochen Dauer to form a team for the 24h of Le Mans was born.
Porsche took two of the Dauer road-going cars and modified them to meet the GT-1 rules. The whole operation was under enormous time pressure. The A.C.O. had published the full details of the rules relatively late, and the Porsche CEOs also needed some time for their final decision The actual work on this project started in mid-January 1994, just five months prior to the start of the race…
By the end of January 1994, the A.C.O. was fully aware of what was happening in Stuttgart. Hoping to stop it in its tracks, or at least to level the playing field a little, the French changed the rules and introduced a flat-bottom rule for the GT-1 class: every car’s underside had to be flat in the whole central section between the wheels. This was no problem for all other GT-1 teams which used road-car based designs, but the 962-based design would have lost all ground effect completely and this caused quite a few headaches for the Porsche engineers. But they did not give up in Stuttgart Within just a few weeks Jochen Dauer developed a new version of his road car with a flat bottom and high downforce bodywork.
He quickly got the revised car certified by the German authorities as street-legal and Porsche had modified the two race versions accordingly.
In April 1994 both race cars were ready and works driver Hans Stuck was able to do a shakedown at the Weissach test track. More tests at Paul Ricard and a full 24h simulation at Magny Cours followed over the next few weeks.
The two 962 LM racers were officially entered by Jochen Dauer for the 1994 24h of Le Mans, but most fans knew that this was actually a works entry. The drivers’ roster showed some of the finest names in endurance racing. Not surprisingly there were some former Porsche works drivers among them: car #35 was driven by two-times Le Mans winner Hans Stuck, Danny Sullivan and Thierry Boutsen, #36 was in the hands of Yannick Dalmas, Hurley Haywood and Mauro Baldi.
During practice, the two cars were slower than the Courage, Kremer and Toyota prototypes and qualified quietly in 5th and 7th positions.
However, compared to the rest of the GT-1 class, their speed was enormous: Their next best competitor in the class was 12 seconds a lap slower and just made it into 12th position on the grid.
Official statements from Porsche at that time still said that their target was a class victory in GT-1, not an overall victory. No-one believed this.
On 19th June 1994, a warm and sunny Saturday, about 140,000 spectators saw a 48 car field starting their engines.
Not surprisingly the prototypes took the lead from the start, but the first round of pit stops revealed the 962 LM for what they were: wolves in sheep’s clothing!
The Toyotas and the other prototypes raced with a weight of 950 kg and an 80-litre fuel tank, whereas the Porsches’ weight was 1,000 kg but they carried a 120-litre fuel tank. While the prototypes had to stop about every 11-12 laps to refuel, Hans Stuck and his teammates could easily squeeze 14 laps, sometimes even 15 laps per stint out the fuel tanks.
They also had speed. On Sunday it was Thierry Boutsen in the #35 car who did the fastest lap of the race with a time of 3:52.54 ( 210.544 km/h), more than a second faster than in practice, revealing the qualifying times for what they were – sandbagging!
At the end of the second hour, the Dauer cars were first and second, but then the German team hit unexpected trouble. First of all leading American driver Danny Sullivan in the #35 car had a puncture, unfortunately right after the entrance of the pit lane. He had to do a full lap at very slow speed to make it back into the pits and lost almost two laps to the leading cars.
The next incident happened when Thierry Boutsen ran out of fuel some 50 metres short of his pit, so the marshals had to push him. Shortly after that, the #36 Dauer needed a lengthy repair: a driveshaft had to be replaced. Later in the night, it was again Boutsen who ran into trouble: Somewhere on the track he lost the front bodywork, and this meant that his headlights were gone too. “I had to wait for another car to arrive to see where I was. But he was going too fast, so I had to wait for another!”
After midnight everything was looking favourable for the Japanese, but in the early morning hours, the leading NISSO TRUST Toyota driven by Steven Andskär, George Fouché and Bob Wollek ate its gearbox, resulting in an almost one-hour long repair stop. Meanwhile, the drivers of Dauer #35 had retrieved one of the two laps lost in the puncture incident, but a broken wishbone before breakfast meant another 15-minute repair stop for them.
From Sunday sunrise until lunchtime it was the SARD Toyota driven by Eddie Irvine, Mauro Martini and Jeff Krosnoff which was leading and it looked like the Japanese team could finally take the holy grail – the first overall win for Toyota at Le Mans.
Life is sometimes cruel, and Le Mans is often even more so! Irvine, Martini and Krosnoff lost the race because of poor welding by a Japanese mechanic; a gear linkage broke with just 98 minutes to go. The linkage broke immediately after a regular pit stop, just past the end of the pit lane.
American driver Jeff Krosnoff got out of the car, took off the rear deck and tried to fix it. After a while, he managed to jam in 3rd gear at the gearbox casing, completed a slow lap and brought the car back into the pits. The gear linkage was quickly replaced, but when the #1 Toyota got back out on track it had fallen to third position behind the two Dauer 962 LMs. A couple of very quick laps with Eddie Irvine at the wheel brought the SARD Toyota into second place on the penultimate lap, but the overall victory was lost.
More than 12 years after its initial construction and 7 years after its last win as a Group C prototype in 1987, it was a Dauer 962 LM # 35 which took the chequered flag as the winner, having completed 345 laps. This was the 13th overall victory for Porsche at La Sarthe. One lap down were the SARD Toyota and the second Dauer #36. The 4th place car, the NISSO TRUST Toyota, was 15 laps behind. Reliability issues were a key factor in 1994. All of the leading cars had at least some technical issues and just 18 out of the 48 starters were classified.
After the race the opinion among the organizers, fans and competitors was unanimous – most people felt that Porsche had cheated. But they were wrong, the Dauer 962 LM was within the letter of the regulations, although admittedly not within the spirit of the rule book. Some of the competitors started to blame Stuttgart for a lack of fair play, but most likely they were just jealous that they didn’t have the same neat idea. The A.C.O. let Porsche and Jochen Dauer know that this car would not be accepted again and started work on the rule book immediately after the race. Not surprisingly the conversion of Group-C prototypes into GT-1 cars was outlawed for the future.
A year later a ‘proper’ GT1 car won the race, a McLaren F1 GTR.
So, what happened to the Dauer 962 LM project? The Le Mans winning car never raced again but the production of the road car version continued. Until 2002 altogether 13 road cars were built by Jochen Dauer’s company, all of them based on original 962 race car chassis. Six cars were bought by the Sultan of Brunei, the list price at that time was $853,000.
The winning car can still be found in the Le Mans museum, together with the second-placed Toyota!
With 730 bhp, acceleration from 0-60mph that took just 2.6 seconds and with a top speed of 402 km/h, it had the title of the world’s fastest road car for many years until this was topped by the Bugatti Veyron. The road version of the 962 Dauer LM is a good 50 km/h faster than the Le Mans race car with less downforce and more horsepower. Besides this, there were actually no real significant differences between the road version and the race car – OK, the drivers did not have the VCD player on board in Le Mans!
And Jochen Dauer? He announced a new version of the Dauer 962 for 2006 but this never materialized. He also tried to set up a worldwideBugatti-dealership but without success and he piled on a mountain of debt.
Faced with bankruptcy and an arrest warrant he fled the scene in 2008 and disappeared.
In summer 2009 the police found him in Switzerland, handcuffs clicked and he was handed over to the German authorities. He was charged with tax evasion in 2010 and was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.
1994 Le Mans pics courtesy and copyright pictures Lawrie Cooper