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40 years of Porsche Group C: Hans-Joachim Stuck looks back

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In 1982, Porsche embarked on one of its most successful adventures in racing. With the 952 and the 962, Porsche would utterly dominate Group C (and IMSA) racing. Forty years later, we look back in a series with Jochen Mass, Derek Bell, Hans-Joachim Stuck and Bernd Schneider. Today, part 2: Hans-Joachim Stuck.

Forever carrying his trademark beaming smile, Hans-Joachim Stuck (71) is still grateful for the life motorsport has given him. His happiest times were the years he spent with Porsche, starting as a driver for the privately-run Brun team.

When Stefan Bellof left the Porsche factory team to pursue his Formula 1-dream more freely at the end of 1984, it was ‘Strietzel’ Stuck who took his place for 1985. “I just thank my lucky stars each day for what I’ve been given,” he says. “Porsche felt like a family. Or better: we all felt part of the Porsche family. Many of the guys on the team are still my friends today.”

Photo Porsche

Learning from Bellof

Even so, initial impressions weren’t all that favourable. “I have to say a big ‘thank you’ to Stefan Bellof. My first race with the 956, then with Brun Motorsport, took place in 1983. I was teamed up with Harald Grohs and none of us had a clue how to drive the car. It was a disaster.”

“At the second race, I was so slow. Seconds off the pace. Stefan, a works driver for Porsche then, grabbed me by the arm. He said: ‘Stuckie, come with me. I will tell you how to drive these cars. Stefan knew ground effect from Formula 1 and he explained me that if you wanted to make it work, you had to keep your right foot buried on the throttle. The more speed, the better it gripped. After that, I no longer had any problems driving the car.”

Photo Porsche

Piling on the test miles

One year on, in 1984, Bellof crowned himself world champion in the WEC thanks to a win when he teamed up with Stuck in a Brun Motorsport Jägermeister Porsche 956 for the Imola round. Occasionally driving in the WEC in 1985, Bellof had a coming-together with Jacky Ickx in Spa and lost his life. Germany’s most promising young talent was gone.

Photo Porsche

Stuck, on the other hand, was quickly finding his marks in the Porsche works team. “The biggest difference were the seemingly unlimited testing opportunities. As I was the one living the closest to the Weissach test track, I ended up doing most of the testing. Which worked fine for me. According to Roland Kussmaul, I was the one who drove the most miles in the 956 and the 962. At times, I would effectively be the last one in the office. I would be doing my laps, park the car in the pits, lock the garage and go home. Everyone else had already left.”

Photo Porsche

BEST

In the races, he was usually driving with Derek Bell as a teammate, forming the ‘BEST’ abbreviation. “Driving together with Derek was fantastic. When Derek was in the car, I was always relaxed because I knew he would take good care of the car. At first, Group C was a fuel-regulated affair. It was Peter Falk at Porsche who came up with an alternative idea to save fuel. He suggested that instead of braking at 200 metres from a corner, we should come off the throttle at 400 metres and just coast. This was how we managed to beat the opposition.”

Derek Bell has less fond memories of the first years of Group C. With only a fixed amount of fuel available per car for the race, the races turned into economy runs: “It was just hideous. We felt like development drivers, not racing drivers.” To make an entente with IMSA more likely, the FIA subsequently became more lenient with the fuel-limiting regulations in Group C.

Photo Porsche

Hitting 400 kph

For Stuck it didn’t matter that much, he was making his dream come true. “All I wanted, was win one of the big three: the Monaco Grand Prix, Indy or Le Mans. In 1985, in my first year as a works driver with Porsche, I stood on the top step of the podium. It’s still one of the best moments in my life.”

40 Years of Group C 2022, Leipzig. Photo Porsche

I would do my laps at Weissach, park the car in the pits, lock the garage and go home. Everyone else had already left

Hans-Joachim Stuck

The lanky German simply loved Le Mans. “I’ve always had a preference for fast corners, and at Le Mans I got plenty of that.” One of his personal highlights was qualifying at Le Mans in 1988. “The French WM team was always aiming for the highest top speed on the Mulsanne straight, back then still uninterrupted by chicanes.”

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WM would set the highest top speed ever measured at Le Mans during the race at 405 kph. But Stuck says he did better than that in his record qualifying lap (3’22”50 at an average of 240.622 kph). “I hit a top speed of 407 kph,” he smiles. “Once over 380 kph, the dotted lines in the middle of the road on the straight became just one line.” The official Le Mans books grant him a top speed of 391 kph.

Photo Porsche

PDK experiments

Stuck would add another Le Mans victory to his tally, in 1987. Of course, later he became famous for his association with Porsche’s experimental dual clutch PDK gearbox.

“It’s a system everyone has in their road car these days, so I’m proud I played my part in it. At first, it wasn’t faster over a lap, but it was clear from the beginning the PDK was going to be an advantage despite the 15 kilos of extra weight. You never had to come off the throttle when you shifted gears. And there were no more misshifts. We could shift with buttons on the steering wheel, so you didn’t have to take your hands of the steering wheel anymore.”

Photo Porsche

Stuck does remember discussions on improvements where not always the easiest thing with Porsche. “At one point, we had suggested the head of the department – professor Bott – to add power steering to the cars. His response was blunt: ‘why don’t you do a bit more power training instead?’ (laughs).”

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