Very few drivers have the list of accolades that the legendary Jacky Ickx has to his credit. He has a total of 6 wins at Le Mans, 8 wins and 25 podiums during his time in Formula 1, plus a Can-Am Championship and Dakkar Rally win under his belt. He raced for multiple different teams and manufacturers, such as Ferrari and Lotus. But it was his time spent with Porsche that’s remained as some of his greatest memories. And none more exciting than being the man who piloted not one, but two of the most iconic Porsche race cars ever made. The cars I’m referring to are the 936 and 956 models and thanks to the recent Porsche Experience Day, Jacky was able to relive those wonderful memories by getting back behind the wheel at 72 years of age.
The Porsche Experience day was held at the beautiful Mt. Fuji International Speedway in Japan. It gathered some of the best Porsches ever produced, and the people that drove them, all to one location. It’s basically a Porsche enthusiasts dream come true. Event organizers planned it to take place at the Mt. Fuji Speedway because both the Porsche Carrera Cup Japan and Porsche Carrera Cup Asia will be held there. And while there were many fantastic cars in attendance, the Martini Racing Porsche 936 and Rothmans Porsche 956 shined above the rest. The heritage behind each of these cars is second to none and even though they are more than 30 years old, each is still in fantastic shape and are essentially priceless.
The 936 with the classic Martini Racing livery will immediately bring back memories to those that followed the Le Mans racing series back in the late 70’s. It was produced from 1976-1981 and during that time, Jacky Ickx won the 24 hr of Le Mans three times. The open top design must have been exhilarating to drive, especially considering how fast it was. Power came from a 2.1L flat-six engine with a single turbo charger that produced approximately 540hp. It was actually one of the first Le Mans race cars to use a turbo charger and it was so fast and powerful that Porsche had to take a handicap in regards to engine size to make up for it. But that still didn’t stop the 936 from racing its way into the history books.
If the 936 didn’t look familiar, the 956 surely will. Especially with the Rothmans livery. The 956 was similar to the 936 before it, only it was a closed top and had a slightly bigger engine. It was built to comply with the new Group C regulations in 1982. It featured Porsche’s first all aluminum monocoque and weighed in at just 1,764lbs. That is a featherweight when compared to the standard road going car, but yet thanks to a 2.65L turbocharged flat-six it still had 635hp on tap which of course made the 956 an absolute rocket ship when you put your foot to the floor. There were other Porsche firsts used on the 956, for example, the very first dual clutch gearbox was used which was mated to a traditional 5-speed manual. It was also the first Porsche to have ground effect aerodynamics which helped the 956 to produce more than three times the amount of downforce as the Porsche 917 from the early 70’s. To give you an idea of just how good the 956 was, and still is, it currently holds the record for the fastest ever lap time at the Nurburgring with a staggering time of 6 minutes 11 seconds back in 1983. That’s 32 seconds faster than the record set by the lightning fast McLaren P1 LM just a few months ago. In my opinion, that achievement by itself speaks volumes to engineering and innovation that Porsche has become so well known for since it was founded back in 1931.
Even though its been almost 30 years since Jacky Ickx was behind the wheel of these two iconic Porsche race cars, he says “it’s just like riding a bike.” At 72 years young it might take him a bit longer to get in the car, but apparently, once he was strapped in he said he felt like he’d never left and was just racing yesterday. At this point with how valuable these cars are, and with only a few examples ever built, the chances of driving one are pretty much non-existent. I’d even be willing to bet that current pro level Porsche racing drivers would get denied the chance to drive one. So to see Ickx out on the Mt. Fuji Speedway must’ve been an experience that not only will he never forget, but all the Porsche owners and enthusiasts in attendance will likely never forget either.
Watch this amazing footage of from the Porsche Experience Day and get a behind the scenes look at Jacky Ickx and his amazing history with team Porsche. Notice the genuine level of respect that he has not only for the company, the engineering and design, but everything Porsche stands for. And I also included footage from the record lap time at the ring back in 1983 even though technically it wasn’t Ickx that piloted the Porsche 956 that particular day. It still gives you a glimpse into the beastly performance of these old school race cars.