The 1982 24 Hours of Le Mans was the 50th Grand Prix of Endurance, and took place on 19 and 20 June 1982. It was also the fourth round of the 1982 World Endurance CHampionship.
For 1982, the new FIA Group C rules were in effect. The new ground effect Porsche 956 was introduced, and took all 3 podium places according to their starting numbers.
The 956 made its debut at the Silverstone 6 Hour race, the second round of the World Championship for Makes with Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell driving for the factory. After missing the following round at the 1000 km Nürburgring for developmental reasons, the Ickx/Bell unit reappeared at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. They led the race for the entire 24 hours, eventually taking the overall win – their third win together. As they had already won in 1981 with a Porsche 936 that had used an early version of the 956 engine, their car had started number 1. The two other factory 956 followed them, so the three factory Porsches finished 1-2-3 in the order of their starting numbers.
Boosted by this success, Porsche sold customer versions of the 956 to privateer teams such as Joest Racing, Obermaier Racing, John Fitzpatrick Racing, Richard Lloyd Racing, Kremer Racing and Brun Motorsport who raced them independently of the factory.
The overall all-time lap record for the demanding 20 km Nürburgring-Nordschleife circuit in the Eifel Mountains was achieved during the qualifying session for the 1983 1000km of Nürburgring, by Stefan Bellof, who drove his 956 around in 6 minutes 11.13 seconds, at an average speed of 202 km/h (126 mph). The race lap record is held by the same Bellof, during the 1983 1000 km Nürburgring, the lap being clocked at 6:25.91.
At the 1985 1000 km of Spa, Bellof died after colliding with Jacky Ickx’s newer 962. Safety concerns over the 956 led to its eventual end as teams upgraded to the safer 962. The 956’s last win would come courtesy of Joest Racing in the last race of the 1986 WEC season, in what also turned out to be the 956’s last race.
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