After a few seconds spent watching this thrilling footage, you get an idea of how the venerable Porsche 962 was configured to run: to put 650+ horsepower to the ground without fuss, to consistently reach 220+ miles per hour, and to provide that sort of reassurance and predictability that makes a car livable for long stints in the dark. Kiwi ace and vintage racer Andy Higgins clearly feels at ease in this qualifying lap around Le Sarthe, where he shows us the 962-003BM’s remarkable sure-footedness at ludicrous speeds.
Prior to this event, chassis 962-003BM was rebuilt to ensure it could withstand racing competitively for the first time since the early 1990s. For the photo album documenting the rebuild, see here.
This hot lap was enough to get Higgins to 14th place on the grid of the 2018 Le Mans Classic with a lap of 4:03.320. Fortunately, this 962-003BM was trimmed for top speed and high speed passes. Reaching 195 miles per hour—fourth fastest in the entire pack—helped it to finish eighth in class.
Friendly at Frightening Speeds
As we can see here, the 962 was meant to be comfortable at 200 miles an hour. It was predictable, progressive, and for something with so much aerodynamic grip, relatively supple on tracks like Le Sarthe. Dominic Dobson, a man who barely escaped from a burning Takefuji 962 at Le Mans ’89, once said of the car, “It rode like a road car and was well-upholstered with leather everywhere. “A pleasant cabin and a composed ride helped its drivers, many of whom were gentleman drivers, quickly find some comfort threading the needle. No wonder this docile thoroughbred was such a success.
The car’s friendly character is first noticeable in the braking department. Higgins slows hard from the top of sixth (1:18) and has to deal with no more than a minor wobble. Considering the speeds and the rate of deceleration, that stability is something that gives the driver confidence to push—especially before the Mulsanne Straight had chicanes and drivers were reaching as much as 240 miles per hour!
The corner exit acceleration is astounding; not a hint of countersteer or even a minor spike in the revs from wheelspinning, even in slower corners. In faster sections, it was even better. Just look how casually Higgins navigates the Porsche Curves (3:50). Higgins gently feeds in the wheel and massages the throttle through these daunting bends as the blow-off valve comically chatters away.
No snaps, shimmies, or anything unexpected. It almost looks pleasant. Almost.