Icon for Knysna Hillclimb
The iconic Porsche 956 sports prototype, widely-regarded as the best sports racer of all time, will be seen in action at the Renault Knysna Hillclimb from 22-24 October.
The 956 will be driven by Franz Pretorius and is sponsored by Hi-Q Plettenberg Bay. The vehicle is one of the most successful sports cars of all time, having won the Le Mans 24-hour race four times from 1982 and 1985, 29 World Championship races and three world championships before it was replaced by the 962C, which continued its winning ways.
While the 962C is deemed to be a different model, it was effectively a 956 with its wheelbase extended by 120mm and included a few other minor tweaks to comply with the US IMSA sports car regulations. Although it made its debut in the US in 1984, it only replaced the 956 in the Group C World Championship in 1985 and went on to score another 3 Le Mans victories with the last in 1994.
Dreaming of a 917
Pretorius is a committed Porsche enthusiast and, ever since his teenage years, has hankered after a flat 12-cylinder engine Porsche 917, the car that dominated Le Mans and endurance racing in the early '70s.
The Porsche 917 is one of the world's rarest and most sought after classics and only two or three are in private hands. They rarely come up for sale.
The alternative for Pretorius was a Porsche that re-wrote endurance racing records. The iconic Porsche 956 made its debut in 1982 and was in production until 1985. Porsche built a total of 28 of the 956 Group C sports cars and the car driven by Franz Pretorius is one of only 10 constructed specifically for privateer teams.
It was delivered to Nova Engineering in Japan as chassis number 956-108, where it was raced under the Team Trust banner in 1983 in the inaugural Japanese Sportscar Championship (JSC). Driven by Australian Vern Schuppan and Naohiro Fujita, the car won the championship at its first attempt. It was damaged in a testing accident in early 1984 and retired from competition.
The car was purchased from Porsche by Brunn Racing as a damaged 'tub' in 1988 and restored to original condition before racing in the Group C/GTP classic series. It came to South Africa in 2003.
Depending on boost settings, power from the turbocharged flat-six can be pushed to over 500kW, which was enough to propel the car to 380km/h on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans.
Pretorius currently races the 956 in selected historic events, with his son Ruan sharing the driving on occasion.