It doesn't sound like Stefan Bellof's 6:11.13 Nordschleife lap record is going to fall just yet. On May 12th, just before the start of the Nürburgring 24-hour race the 919 Hybrid Evo and 956C will appear together for a display lap. The cars will be driven by Timo Bernhard and Hans-Joachim Stuck respectively. The legendary 956 was the first successful sports car to use ground effect aerodynamics, and 34 years on Stefan Bellof's astonishing Nordschliefe lap record still stands. While the 919 Hybrid Evo is busy smashing lap records previously held by Formula 1 cars, it doesn't appear May 12th is the day the 956 will be dethroned.
A Meeting of Legends
The Porsches will be driven by 37-year old FIA WEC Champion Timo Bernhard and 67-year old two-time Le Mans winner and three-time Nürburgring 24-Hour winner Hans-Joachim Stuck. The two cars will be driven on a parade lap of the Nordschliefe following a safety car and bypassing the start-finish line. The Nordschleife is deeply important to both drivers, and to Bernhard especially as a native of the region. "The Nordschleife is home for me. When I was a kid I used to accompany my father to the Eifel mountains. The complexity of this over 20 kilometer long track doesn’t compare to anything.”
Directly and indirectly both drivers were influenced by record holder Stefan Bellof. Stuck was first introduced to ground effect cars by the then-25 year old driver. In 1983 "The 956 was new to me and Stefan taught me how to drive this ground effect car. I learnt an awful lot from him. When I joined Porsche, I understood why those cars were unbeatable. You had no gearbox issues, the brakes were excellent and thanks to this tremendous downforce, you could enter the corners at very high speed. Literally, the car stuck to the ground. For me it is a world-class opportunity to take the 956 once again around the Nordschleife. Emotionally, this is something hard to top.”
956C Meets 919 Hybrid Evo
The 956C used for this demonstration is not an original Bellof-driven car, nor is it one driven by Stuck in-period. Chassis number 005 was shared by Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass for the full 1984 World Championship season. In compliance with European tobacco laws the Rothmans logo has been replaced by one that simply reads "Racing." The car Bellof used for his lap record, chassis 007, carried a matching livery.
Following its remarkable performance at Spa earlier this year, the 919 Hybrid Evo remains fresh in our minds. This 1,150 horsepower derivative of the 919 Hybrid LMP1 car lapped Spa a massive 12.3 seconds faster than the WEC-legal 919. Like the WEC Porsche the Evo features a turbocharged 2.0L V4 with two energy recovery systems. One system recovers energy from the brakes and returns that power to the ground via the front axle. The second system recovers energy using a 130k RPM exhaust driven turbine, and feeds power to the rear axle alongside the internal combustion engine.
Bellof's record has stood for more than three decades. Impressive as it is, no record can stand forever. In fact, our own Bradley Brownell performed some quick math to determine exactly what it would take for 919 Evo to break Bellof's record. While I am saddened that the car poised to claim the record is not a series-legal racing car, at least the car contesting it is another Porsche.