Porsche 956 - 103

 

 

 

Porsche 956-103 was one of twelve customer cars built in 1983 for American Preston Henn to compete in the FIA World Endurance and Japanese Sportscar Championships. Following an accident during the last race in Fuji 1984 the damaged car was sold to Rob Dyson to enable him to purchase a new 962 chassis as Porsche policy at the time stated that you could only buy a 962 if you owned a 956. Vern Schuppan bought 956-103 from Rob Dyson and subsequently had the chassis repaired before selling it to Chris Crawford in 1993. During his time at Group C Ltd Trevor conducted a no expense spared ground up restoration to the 1984 Swap Shop Le Mans specification prior to the 2004 Le Mans Legends support race. 956-103 is one of only twenty-four surviving genuine Porsche 956 in the world.

 

RACE HISTORY

 

Silverstone 1000kms 1983

 

The first race for 103 was at the Silverstone 1000kms race was with Bob Garretson, the first endurance world champion in 1981, as the team manager. The team was based in John Fitzpatrick’s premises. In its first race along with some of the other customer cars they were handicapped by having only the low drag Le Mans spec nose and tail bodywork sections rather than the high down force sections used by the factory team. Also they had Goodyear tyres and mechanical injection rather than the Dunlop’s and Bosch Motronic injection, the factory always kept the newest developments for the Factory cars. Preston Henn drove with Guy Edwards and Rupert Keegan, but the latter did not take part in the race. Henn started on wet tyres on a rapidly drying track, which ended in the second hour with engine failure with Edwards at the wheel.

 

Le Mans 24 Hours 1983

 

For the Sarthe race, Henn hired Claude Ballot Lena with whom he had won the Daytona 24 Hours in a Porsche 935. The third driver was Jean-Louis Schlesser. During Wednesday’s practice a tyre exploded on the Les Hunaudieres straight causing heavy damage to the bodywork and suspension. On Thursday, an electrical failure stopped Henn on the Les Hunaudieres on his first lap. Once retrieved he lapped in 3m 40s on his first flying lap with high turbo boost but the engine failed. Come the race the BP livered car spent most of the first hour in its garage with an injection problem and was lying forty-seventh on the time sheets. At the ten-hour mark it had fought its way up into thirteenth place. Then more problems arose with the door, gearbox and uprights loosing a further fifty minutes just before half distance. Further minor problems arose with the result being 10th place overall.

 

Brands Hatch 1000kms 1983

 

Back in England for the third championship race, the first with the high down force rear bodywork but still with the low drag front. Henn teamed up with David Southerland and Davina Galicia. Both were making their debut in Group C cars and things were made more difficult for them when Henn blew up the engine on his third lap during qualifying. A new engine was fitted for the second qualifying session with Sutherland posing the slowest time of all the 956’s. During the race Sutherland went off under braking for Westfield hitting the guardrail damaging the suspension.

 

Fuji 1000kms 1983

 

The car had a new livery in Japan in the colours of Advan and Alpha Windsurfing, Ricky Chiba’s company that had bought 956-103. Advan’s backing led to the adoption of Yokahama tyres. Local hero Kunimitsu Takahashi qualified second-last place of the 956’s. John Paul Jr the reigning IMSA champion completed the driver line-up. Takahashi started the race in sixth place but had to stop early due to a fuel feed problem. On lap 64, the left side of the nose section was torn off in a collision with a back marker. As the team did not have a spare nose section the officials refused to allow the car to rejoin with a wheel partially uncovered.

 

Le Mans 24 Hours 1984

 

Although 956-103 was supposedly sold to Ricky Chiba, Preston Henn held on to it for a few months further. For Le Mans John Paul Jr was again part of the driver line-up with Jean Rondeau. Even though Henn’s name appeared on the bodywork, he drove his own 962-104 that was entered in the GTP class. During practice Michel Ferte qualified the 956-103 while John Paul Jr qualified the 962-104! Jean Rondeau put the number 26 956-103 on the 26th grid spot. The 956 had an uneventful race apart from losing a wheel on Sunday morning. It moved slowly up the time sheets from eighteenth place at the end of the first hour to fifth with a quarter of the race gone. In front of it were two Lancia’s and 956-114 and 956-115; it gained another place when 956-115 collided with a back marker. The two Lancia’s and the 956-114 all succumbed to engine problems leaving the Swap Shop 956 to take the overall runner-up spot. It was 956-103s last ever race in Europe and its most notable performance.

 

 Suzuka 1000kms 1984

 

The Nova Engineering team bought 956-103 to race in Japan. It competed in this round in the FromA colour scheme with Dunlop tyres, its livery in the last two races counting towards the Japanese Championship. Its drivers were Jiroh Yoneyama and Chikage Oguchi who qualified in thirteenth place finishing seventh.

 

Fuji 1000kms 1984

 

Its last race appearance in period was in the in the Fuji 1000kms, a world championship round in Japan. Its drivers were again Jiroh Yoneyama and Chikage Oguchi who qualified it last of the 956s. 956-103 retired with a blocked gearbox after 44 laps.

 

Le Mans Legends 2004

 

Twenty years on 956-103 returned to the Sarthe resplendent in its iconic 1984 Swap Shop livery for the morning Le Mans Legends morning support race. Gareth Evans fulfilled his dream of racing a 956 round the most famous endurance circuit in the world bringing her home to a fine second place class finish.