Ian Kuah tests the Dauer 962 LM on German soil. The night is always long at the 24 Heures du Mans, the most famous motor race in the World. Reputations are won or lost here, whole media campaigns built around the winning cars. For spectators, many of them who traveled hundreds or even thousands of miles, Le Mans is much more than a 24-hour motor race. With the sights and sounds of the cars, the tension in the air and the fairground atmosphere of the infield, it is almost a cultural experience. Culture, however, is the last thing on the minds of the pit crews. Unlike the drivers who try to sleep between stints, the team managers and mechanics donÂ´t get a wink for the duration of the race. Adrenaline keeps them going. They need that high to keep them sharp, for when something goes wrong, they have to have their wits about them to get the car back in the race as fast as possible. Split seconds may not be as crucial as in a sprint race, but as the SARD Toyota team found out this year when the gear linkage had to be repaired on the leading car, the time it takes to maker and drink a cup of coffee is still the difference between winning and coming second. Thierry Boutsen, Hans-Joachim Stuck and Danny Sullivan in the Dauer Racing Porsche 962 LM were lying a strong second to the Toyota 92CV driven by Eddie Irvine, Jeff Krosnoff and Mauro Martini. Running third was the other Dauer Porsche driven by Mauro Baldi, Hurley Haywood and Yannick Dalmas, a lap and half behind. At Le Mans, that means 13 miles! Then the lead Porsche suffered a minor off-course excursion, followed by a drive-shaft failure. This was soon fixed, but in the meantime Baldi, Haywood and Dalmas were PorscheÂ´s only hop for victory. Painfully slowly but surely, they ate into ToyotaÂ´s lead until a blunder found both Porsches arriving in the pits at the same time. In the confusion, the lead Porsche lost nearly half a lap to the Toyota. Near the end of the race, when it looked like the Toyota was going to snatch the second-ever Japanese victory at Le Mans, its gear linkage went. Jeff Krosnoff managed to limp back to the pits, but in the 13 minutes it took to fix the problem, it was all over. The Dauer 962 LMs finished first and third; Porsche had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans yet again. In fact, it was a double-whammy for the StuttgarterÂ´s, as a Carrera RSR also took top honors in the production-based GT2 class. Traveling Clothes The Dauer Racing 962 LMs took part in Le Mans this year at the behest of Porsche. Originally meant to be a civilized street version of the most famous Group C sports car in history, the 962 Le Mans has completely new Kevlar bodywork and a totally bespoke interior compared to the standard racer. The 1994 Le Mans regulations published by the organizing ACO (Automobile Club de lÂ´Ouest) allowed very low-volume street-legal sports cars to to race in GT1 or GT2; the Dauer racing 962 Le Mans was such a car and was thus eligible. It was sheer irony Â and a loophole in the regulations that the French authorities tried to plug but could not Â that allowed a fully fledged Group C car to be converted to a road car and then back to a race. When Jochen Dauer first conceived his 962 road car three years earlier he had no idea that it would someday win Le Mans, but his name is no stranger to the Sarthe circuit. Dauer Racing is linked to a string of IMSA and German Interserie successes, and famous names like Hans-Joachim Stuck, Bob Wollek and John Andretti have driven for the teams run by Jochen Dauer. When the deathknell of the turbocharged Group C cars was sounded in 1991, Dauer began to explore the possibility of developing his own road-legal version of the car. One of his first stops was to contact stylist Achim Storz, who used to work for Porsche Design and penned the famous McLaren M26 F1 car of the 1970s. Latterly, Storz has designed concept cars for Audi, BMW, Citroen, VW and Nissan. The first sketches showed a car much more rounded than the Group C racer and this became the logo for the project that appears on all DauerÂ´s literature and T-shirts. The shape was distinctive for its larger, more rounded windscreen than the race cars. This larger and longer `bubbleÂ´ gives a greater feel of space and the finished car is actually 7cm higher over the roll cage. The next step was to transfer this 2D concept into 3D and industrial designer, Gert Hildebrand was brought in to make model from the drawing. In fact, the design team missed out on step which is normally to produce a 1:5 scale model and they went form drawings to a full-size mock up. This was not actually a problem except the mock up was built on a platform 50cm off the ground level. ÂWhen we finally brought the car down to ground level, we discovered a lot of mistakes had been madeÂ Klaus explained, Âpurely because of having the car off the ground we looked at it.Â These were corrected and pattern work began in July 1991. This took a year, and then they began an intensive program of wind tunnel testing by Dutch race car designer Wiet Huidekoper, based in St. Neots, Cambridgeshire, to resolve aerodynamic and stability issues. With a shorter nose and the increased ground clearance needed for the road, the car was unbalanced and carried to much rear downforce. Work was thus directed to increasing downforce at the front. When all these issues were resolved it was found that while total downforce was now just 40% that of the Group C race cars, the drag coefficient had also dropped to a very good 0.31Cd. This very low drag figure was significant for the Dauers projected top speed, the target which was 400 km/h (nearly 250 mph) a very reasonable goal considering the speed potential of the much higher-drag race cars. The interior is work of Reinald Mattes from Ludwigsburg. He came in and used 300kg of clay in the process of making a full sized mock up from which he could take moulds! Â He changed his mind twice during the design process, Â Klaus explained, Âbut he did a very good job and managed to squeeze in the two full-size seats we wanted.Â When the final design was approved, polyester moulds were taken off the plaster, finished with body filler and then the final patterns were used for the production pieces which are made from carbon fibre. These patterns alone wound costing the equivalent of $125,000! Power Plays The engine is the Le Mans spec 2994cc watercooled flat six with DOHC per bank of cylinders and four-valves-per-cylinder. Twin KKK turbos are employed with charge-coolers on either side and the expensive stainless-steel exhaust system with four exit pipes has catalytic converters which help to meet EEC emission standards. Engine management which is Bosch Motronic 1.7 which helps tractability, emissions and, of course, output, which is 730bhp at 7600rpm with 517 lb ft of torque at 5000rpm. Drive is taken through a 5-speed all.synchro and (of course) a limited-slip differential. A hydraulic-operated sinter metal clutch takes this power to the road via a five speed, all-synchronized gearbox and there is , of course, a limited slip differential in the axle. Suspension is by double wishbones in front and inverted wishbones at the rear with transverse links and radius rods. The dampers have concentric titanium springs and the anti-roll bars are adjustable. Spring and damper rates of the road car are considerably lower than the racing version. There is a ride-height control system to help the car negotiate speed bumps and garage ramps. With a kerb weight of just 2340 pounds (Group C cars raced at less than a ton), the 962 Le Mans will rocket to 60mph in 2.6 secs., in first gear and reach double that speed in 7.2 sec from rest! Top speed is an Â ahem - rather remarkable 251,25mph! Containing this sort of performance is hard on the brakes and these are 330mm diameter Brembo vented discs with 4-pot calipers. The road car gets specially made 6-spoke Speedline alloy wheels of 18 inches tall and 10 wide up front , 11 at the back, the racing version uses BBS wheels In road form, the Dauer Racing 962 Le Mans made its public debut at the Frankfurt Show 1993 from which it went on to the motor show in Dubai at the end of November. ÂAlthough not involved in the project at all, unofficially Porsche had been very helpful in sourcing parts and advice for the project and, once the car was finished and on show, they became somewhat warmer to the idea,Â Jochen Dauer explained. ÂWe started the project in 1991 as a pure road car, although we always said it would be possible to race it in the projected GT class with F40s and Bugattis. We were not too much surprised when Porsche approached us in December 1993 to discuss a possible Le mans entry.Â Porsche had been planning to enter the 993 in turbocharged form at Le Mans, but lack of development time meant that it might not be that competetive in the GT2 category. Besides, GT2 was not as fine as an achievement as winning outright, and it had been some years since Porsche had claimed a Le Mans victory. The factory reasoned that, as the Dauer 962 was homologated as a road legal sports car, it was eligible to be turned into a GT1 Le Mans. Bottom Soundings And then in January, the ACO, governing body of the Le Mans 24 Hour event, introduced the flat-bottom rules which caused a big hiccup in the carÂ´s specifications. With just 40 per cent of a racing 962Â´s downforce due to its underbody configuration, the Dauer 962 was fine for fast autobahn sweepers taken at 180mph, but if it were to comply with the Le Mans flat-bottom rule, it would have no downforce at all! And on a racing track you need substantial downforce to generate competitive and safe cornering speeds. Dauer and Porsche thought long and hard about the rules and then decided that the only way to meet them was to homologate a second version of the road car with an underbody configuration in front and on behind the axles that could generate the needed downforce in conjunction with spoilers that were allowed to be used. And so the 962 Le Mans Sport version was born with a longer nose, deeper tail with double wing (you could add a spoiler, which meant you could have two if you started with one!) and a flat underbody between the front of the front tyres and rear axle, Dauer than added two small air tunnels in front of the front tyres and aft of the rear axle for airflow control and brake cooling. ÂIt all happened very fast , Â Jochen Dauer explained. ÂThe French changed the rules, we reacted to meet them and they didnÂ´t understand the implications of our response within their rules. It was obvious that they still wanted to push us out as we stood a good chance of winning. They told us we had to run in Group C class rather than GT1 and we told them that we would leave ours cars at home in protest as we had fully complied with their rules.Â ÂThe politicians realized that they had snookered themselves and had to let us run,Â Jochen went on. Âwe went to Le mans and, as expected, a lot of people from the other teams protested, especially after Stuck went out and did a 3 min 56 sec lap in practice. He came in asking in asking for more downforce but we told him that was all he could have within the framework of rules, so he was limited to this best lap time. In fact, only the Courage Group C 962 went faster, but we won the race...Â Street smart It is quite an education watching the world go by from behind the goldfish-bowl windshield of the Dauer 962LM. The occupants of a VW Golf nearly fell of thier seats when we pulled up beside them at a stoplight, pedestrians came close to walking into lamp-posts as they gaped in amazement, and IÂ´m convinced that an old man sitting at a tram stop did himself permanent harm as he craned his head around to follow our progress. The bright yellow Dauer 962 LM simply has that effect on people. As good as visibility is to the front, this is no shopping. Over six feet wide, with extremities that are invisible from the driving seat and reward visibility akin to peering out from a mailbox slit, the 962 Le Mans is not a shopping car, the two big wing mirrors, pinched from a Porsche Turbo, give a reasonable view over the rear wings, but reversing into a parking space needs outside help. That said, the car has its practical points. The clutch and steering are not too heavy, the air conditions very effective and thanks to the Motronic engine management system the engine is more than tractable enough for urban driving. If you insist n using it for a weekend away, the rectangular luggage compartment built into the deep and wide left-hand door sill is large enough to take a pair of custom-made carbon-fibre cases. Curse the poor visibility in town if you must, the 962 Le Mans really is a car for the open road. On a deserted autobahn the Dauer is in its element. But a deserted autobahn nowadays means getting up early on a Sunday morning in summer, as post-reunification GermanyÂ´s autobahns are more crowded and dangerous than ever with recently unleashed drivers now blundering about in a constant state of awe. Those who do use the rear mirrors move out of you way instantly when they see the squad yellow form arrowing towards them; head-on, the Dauer has `speed` written all over it in as subtle away as a brick through a plate glass of window. The occupants of cars that have just bolted to the right lane crane their necks in wonder. If they donÂ´t elaborate on their stories too much, their friends might get the impression that they had driven Le Mans this year. Inside the cozy cabin the noise is immense but this is to be expected the Sport version of the Dauer 962 LM on which the Le Mans homologation papers were based. The totally road going version which most wealthy buyers will choose has 50mm-thick foam insulation under the engine cover to help muffle the scream of the twin-turbo Six. It also features the special noise absorbing substance used on the cam gears MAN, these tow measures knock about 8dB off cabin drone. Reinald Mattes may have managed to squeeze two full-sized seats into the 962Â´s cabin, but theyÂ´re practically in each others laps. Even two people of average height and build had better be on good terms if they intend to share this machine. Like most 2-seat racing cars, the drivers sits in the right and the short gearlever falls to hand on the front of the right sill. IÂ´ve driven road and race 962s before, and like the other cars in my experience, the clutch, accelerator, brakes and steering of DauerÂ´s version are reasonably weighted, progressive and full of feel. WhatÂ´s still unresolved is the gearchange, which needs to be handled slowly and deliberately. There were times when i wished for the hugely expensive Porsche PDK clutchless gearbox fitted only to the works 962s. Memories of driving the Almeras 962C came flooding back as I hammered down the autobahn. It seemed like just yesterday as I floored the throttle in third, the rising scream of the engine and the violent thrust of the torque pinning me back in the already tight seat. Fourth gear and noise starts again, then fifth and I settle in as the speed continues to build. But today, instead of being subjected to violent acceleration and then 3g of braking and 3 g cornering IÂ´m just hurtling towards a fast approaching wall of traffic on a 3-lane autobahn. The speedo is reading 310 km/h (194 mph) when I apply the brakes, the closing speed on the order of 100 mph, just like on the race car, LMÂ´s brakes are phenomenal. The straps off the full-race harness cut into my shoulders as forward momentum turns into heat. The BMW on the outside lane moves over and I drop two gears and floor the throttle again. Slowing to the pace of traffic for a minute or so has allowed a Porsche 911 Turbo to arrive behind us. I catch a glimpse of its distinctive wide, arched shape in the left-hand mirror and weÂ´re off, the 911Â´s nose is high in the air as he gives it everything trying to stay in touch. Forget it, boy Â youÂ´re about 400 bhp short of the pace. Still, even with its astounding power, mind boggling handling and eyeball-sucking brakes, if I had one word to sum up the experience of driving the Dauer 962 LM on public roads , that word would be frustrating. There is just so much more this car can do than any road system in the world will allow Â perhaps Le Mans really was the place where Jochen DauerÂ´s road car belonged at the end. After all, thatÂ´s where it may have began Â where do you think Jochen Dauer gets his starting chassis? So important is the history of endurance racing to Dauer that each of the 50 Dauer 962 LM road cars that can be build will be chosen for their competition pedigree. . ÂThere is still one brand new unraced for sale at Porsche.Â Jochen Dauer explained, Âbut from that point of view it will be worth less to a collector purely it has no history. When you buy a Dauer 962 Le Mans, you also get a folio of specially researched books which detail the history of the 956/962 model, the complete race history with photos of `yourÂ´ car and all the practice and race time sheets from every event it took part in.Â Original Equipment The quest for originality extends further than that. Although Dauer provides the carbon-Kevlar bodyshell and all-new interior, the chassis and engine will be built by the Porsche factory at Weissach and only original Porsche made parts are used on anything mechanical. Koenig Specials were first to come up with a road-going 962, and then Schuppan came along with an extensively reskinned version which bombed when the Japanese financier pulled out. Third in line was the DP Motorsport car, which recently received a new engine from RS Tuning. Dauer RacingsÂ´s 962 LM is the latest and probably last car to drive this route towards making the fastest road car around. At the end of the day, though, Dauer is the only one who received approval from Porsche during the project and factory collaboration after the fact. The ultimate kudos, of course, arrive in one simple form; this is the road car that won Le Mans. What more do you want?