They say you should never meet your heroes, but the Stig wouldn't agree after this experience.
Since the man behind the original Stig on Top Gear was revealed as Ben Collins, we've had time to appreciate not only the previously unknown aspects of his story, but also his tastes as a gearhead, and Collins has now introduced us to what he calls his hero car. The hero in question is a 1985 Porsche 962 Rothmans. Along with its 956 predecessor, the 962 Group C racer attained five consecutive World Sportscar Championships, an unprecedented feat for a single program. This 962 debuted at the 1985 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it retained second place for over 12 hours before a crankshaft failure ended its race.
The 962 remained competitive well into the 1990s, and this Rothmans-liveried version is one of only three from the mid-1980s, distinguished by its white livery with stripes in red and gold. For Collins, this was an opportunity to drive the car that adorned a poster on his bedroom wall when he was a child.
"This is the pinnacle of '80s engineering," said Collins as he gets ready to take his seat behind the wheel of the 962, a car that evolved from the 956 with a longer wheelbase and steel roll cage integrated into the chassis. "Big wings, massive power, and colossal speeds," said Collins of the racer. He had just 30 minutes to enjoy the car at Donington, and he was immediately blown away by the potency of this machine.
Weighing in at around 1,874 pounds, the 962 is lighter than a Mazda MX-5 Miata, yet the 2.6-liter Boxer engine with twin turbochargers makes around 630 horsepower. Collins does acknowledge some lag from the turbos, being an older design, but once they spool up, the 962's thrust is still immense.
The aerodynamic body of the 962 keeps it pinned firmly to the ground and through the corners, and it was capable of reaching over 200 mph through the Mulsanne Kink and the Indianapolis corner at Le Mans.
"If you've sat in a 1980s 911 road car, then you can basically imagine what it is I can see when I look down," said Collins of the 962's retro cockpit. It's all raw and unashamedly analog, right down to the five-speed manual gearbox.
"It's bloody amazing," described Collins as he praised the shove generated by the turbos and their distinctive whistle, along with the car's balance, its nimbleness, and the fact that you can get used to it fairly quickly. "This is really the icon of Group C racing. What an honor," he said.
If you consider the half an hour Collins had with this 962 to be a privilege, you'll be pleased to know that this very car is set to go up for auction at RM Sotheby's next month, making it the very first time that a works-campaigned 962 C has ever gone up for public auction.
As the listing states, it is one of the most raced factory 962s ever, but it is being sold in full running condition following a restoration by Porsche Group C expert Trevor Crisp of Katana Ltd.
This epic piece of racing history - the car has appeared at Le Mans, Silverstone, Monza, and more - is expected to sell for between €6,000,000-€9,000,000. That works out to around $6.5 million-$9.7 million at current rates.
Its racing accomplishments speak for themselves, but the fact that it's the original Stig's hero car may just be the coolest stamp of approval this 962 could've asked for.
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