The 1980s were by and large not a fun time for prototype racers, mainly because Porsche had monopolised it. With seven consecutive victories. In particular, a year after the Porsche 956 was released, Le Mans had basically come down to a ’24 Hours of 956′ in terms of top runners. Not even Lancia’s speed-freak LC2 could beat it, not without breaking down long before the end of a race.
The Porsche 962 was a bonus that came in after 1985 and was basically a more legal version of the 956. It took wins in 1986 and 1987. Even when the stranglehold was finally broken, the 962 kept on going until 1994, when it won Le Mans in a slightly different guise. Yes, it won a race ten years after it had debuted. That good a car.
I tend to hate dominance on this level, but really the 962 is just sort of different. Mostly I suspect because of how good it looks with that Rothmans livery on it. Who care that it’s not properly sponsored? Doesn’t make it look any less impressive.
The version that Forza 6 presents us with in its rather over-advertised Porsche expansion is the 1987 winner. 720hp comes about from its turbocharged flat-6 and it makes itself very much felt. Down the full Mulsanne that these cars used to race on before chicanes came in, it’ll do 240mph. Which feels remarkable in some views, most especially the nose view.
The car weighs only 890kg and it will get thrown about a lot on the throttle. This is not an easy car to drive. Slow corners are a particular nemesis as the wheels spin about all over the place and while it has the nous to stay straight at times, other times it seems to just spin out without giving you any chance. It’s almost blind luck at times, driving this thing, but in any case it is a challenge.
The experience is definitely one to be milked though. Onboard views really don’t get much better than the 962’s, with what you get from it. Quite apart from the ‘overtake’ button marked on the steering wheel, the sound you get from the gearbox as you change is another example of 80s mechanicals, and it’s vintage 962.
And that transmission really, properly wails, the way every race car does in your mind, in 5th gear. It makes the run down the Mulsanne, Indianapolis, and down to the Porsche Curves even better.
The speed is probably the most impressive part of it all. Once it’s thrashed through the fairly long 1st gear – and if it’s stopped wheelspinning through 2nd and even 3rd – it really picks up speed at a superb rate. And, of course, as I’ve mentioned, it’ll keep right on going to a massive top end. Compared to this game’s other prototypes, this is easily the game’s fastest in a straight line. So you can always rely on that where needs must.
But whilst the handling is still pretty great when you get it all right, it isn’t up there with what other prototypes can manage. And whilst braking is mostly fine, it is very definitely outgunned compared to other prototypes. Unsurprisingly, nowhere is this more noticeable than at the Mulsanne Corner itself, when you’re braking from 240mph…
Really, the Porsche 962 is probably what I expected it to be – and yet not. But it’s difficult to compare it to something else. I was expecting it to be deranged, but within my grasp…sometimes. And it seemed to get a little too loose too often for my liking. But who am I to question a 17 time Le Mans winner?
The fact is, that if you’re looking for out-and-out speed on a race track, the 962 is actually beaten by all the proper Le Mans racers, the ones that were either winners or seriously competitive after the 962 was (long) gone. So if you actually want to get round you’d be better off with one of those.
But come on. This is a Porsche 962. You know you wanna drive it no matter what. I have too, and so should you. Few other cars carry such a legendary aura, look or power about them.