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  • Writer's pictureAmie Sparrow

The Group C Racing Cars that Defined a Generation

Group C racing cars are some of the most iconic in the history of motorsport. With their speed, power, and technology, these cars captured the imaginations of a generation of car enthusiasts. From Porsche 956s to Mazda 787s, Group C cars set new standards for performance and design, pushing the boundaries of what was possible on the track. In this blog post, I’ll be looking back at the greatest Group C racing cars that defined a generation.

Porsche 956 (962)

The Porsche 956 (962) was a legendary race car developed by the German automaker Porsche in 1982. It was an evolution of the successful Porsche 936 and featured a powerful and reliable 2.65-litre flat-six engine that allowed it to dominate endurance racing during the 1980s. The 956 was also the first racing car to feature ground-effect aerodynamics and a six-speed sequential manual gearbox, which helped it achieve greater levels of performance than any other race car of its era.

The 956 was highly successful on the track, taking pole position in every World Endurance Championship race it entered from 1982 until 1988. It won Le Mans four times in a row from 1982 to 1985, as well as four consecutive World Sports Prototype Championships. The car was also instrumental in bringing future Formula One star Ayrton Senna to prominence, as he drove a 956 at the 1984 1000km of Brands Hatch.

Today, the Porsche 956 remains a revered icon of motorsport, remembered as much for its technological innovations as its on-track successes. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest race cars of all time.

Jaguar XJR-9

A Jaguar XJR-9 racecar
Jaguar XJR-9 racing at LeMans 1989

The Jaguar XJR-9 was a highly successful endurance racing car that was produced by British manufacturer Jaguar from 1988 to 1990. It was designed to comply with the FIA’s Group C regulations, which meant that it could race in the World Sportscar Championship. The car featured a 6.0L V12 engine and a 6-speed manual gearbox. It also featured aerodynamic bodywork and advanced suspension technology, helping it to achieve speeds of up to 200 mph on some tracks.

The Jaguar XJR-9 won multiple championships during its three-year career, including the 1989 World Sportscar Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It also achieved 17 victories, setting records in both the WSC and Le Mans.

The Jaguar XJR-9 was an important part of motorsport history, as it defined a generation of endurance racing cars that pushed the boundaries of technology and performance. It is still revered by many fans of classic motorsport today.

Sauber C9

The Sauber C9 was a Group C racing car developed and produced by Swiss manufacturer Sauber for the 1989 World Sports-Prototype Championship season. It was designed by Jean-Claude Migeot and was the first Sauber-built car to compete in international motorsport. The car was powered by a 5.0 litre Mercedes-Benz M117 V8 engine, which was capable of producing over 600 horsepower at its peak. The C9 featured a tubular steel spaceframe chassis and a carbon fibre and Kevlar monocoque.

The Sauber C9 racecar
Sauber C9 racing in 1989

The C9 competed in 11 rounds of the 1989 championship and finished the season with six podiums, including three wins. Its best result was a 1-2 finish at the 1000 km of Spa. It also took pole position at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1989, but retired due to an engine failure late in the race. The C9 is best remembered for its dramatic crash at Le Mans in 1990, where Sauber driver Henri Pescarolo rolled his car and walked away unscathed.

In 1990, Sauber introduced an upgraded version of the C9 called the C11. This car featured a redesigned aerodynamics package, improved suspension, and more powerful Mercedes-Benz engines. The C11 won three races in the 1990 season and finished third in the championship.

Although it only competed for two years, the Sauber C9 remains one of the most iconic Group C racing cars of its era. Its success on the track and dramatic crash at Le Mans helped to define a generation of motorsport fans.

Mazda 787B

The Mazda 787B is a car that needs no introduction to those familiar with the Group C Racing series. The car was developed by Mazda Motorsport, making it the first and only Japanese car ever to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1991. It was powered by a four-rotor, 26B Wankel rotary engine and featured a semi-automatic transmission, a chassis made of aluminium honeycomb composite and a venturi rear wing.

The car made its debut at the 1990 24 Hours of Le Mans and despite not being one of the favourites, it ended up taking home the overall victory in 1991 with drivers Volker Weidler, Johnny Herbert, and Bertrand Gachot behind the wheel.

It was a huge success for Mazda, as their engineering prowess had allowed them to beat out some of the biggest and best names in racing at that time. They would go on to use some of the technologies they had developed on their 787B in their future racing cars.

To this day, the Mazda 787B still holds a special place in the hearts of motorsport fans around the world. It stands as a testament to Mazda's dedication to excellence in engineering and as a reminder of just how far Japan has come in motorsports.

Mercedes-Benz C11

The Mercedes-Benz C11 was a racing car built by Mercedes-Benz for the 1990 Group C World Sports Prototype Championship season. The C11 was developed to replace the Sauber-Mercedes C9, which had won the championship in 1989. The C11 featured a 3.5-litre V8 engine and a lightweight carbon fibre monocoque chassis.

The C11 debuted at the 1990 24 Hours of Le Mans where it finished first in its class and fourth overall. This success was followed up with a 1-2 finish at the Suzuka 1000 km race, a 2nd place finish at Monza and a 3rd place finish at the 1000 km Nürburgring. At the end of the season, the C11 secured the championship with four wins and three podiums in eight races.

The C11 is best remembered for its race victories, but it also has an interesting design history. The car was originally designed to be powered by a 3.5-litre turbocharged engine, but was later upgraded to a naturally aspirated engine for better reliability. The car also had a distinctive wheelbase that was designed to help with weight distribution and aerodynamics.

Despite its success, the C11 was quickly replaced by the new CLK GTR for the 1996 season and has since become a part of Mercedes-Benz's racing history. It is an impressive example of what can be achieved when pushing engineering boundaries and pushing the limits of performance.

Nissan R90CK

The Nissan R90CK was a Group C racing car produced by Nissan Motorsports for the 1990 season of the World Sports Prototype Championship. Developed from Nissan's previous R89C and R88C chassis, the R90CK featured a 3.5-litre V8 engine producing over 600 horsepower and weighing just 900 kilograms.

The R90CK saw moderate success in its first year, winning the Suzuka 1000km race, with drivers Mark Blundell and Masahiro Hasemi behind the wheel. The car also finished third in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Julian Bailey and Martin Brundle at the helm.

Despite being successful on the track, Nissan pulled out of the WSPC at the end of the 1990 season to focus on other racing series, thus ending their tenure with the R90CK. Although it never won any championships, the R90CK is remembered as one of the most iconic Group C cars of its era and is highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts alike.

Toyota TS010

The Toyota TS010 was a prototype racing car created by Toyota Motorsport GmbH and debuted in 1992 as part of the Group C World Endurance Championship series. It was Toyota's first attempt at entering the world of international endurance racing and was an impressive contender.

The TS010 featured a carbon-fibre chassis and a 3.5L twin-turbo V8 engine that was capable of producing over 700 horsepower. It also featured a six-speed manual transmission and active suspension technology to maximize the power output. The combination of the lightweight construction, powerful engine, and advanced suspension gave the TS010 tremendous speed and handling capabilities.

The car was piloted by drivers such as Geoff Lees, Masanori Sekiya, and Juichi Wakisaka and was able to score three victories in the 1992 season with Lees, Sekiya, and Wakisaka claiming first place at the Suzuka 1000 km and Le Mans 24 Hours races. Unfortunately, despite the success, the team was unable to secure any championship titles due to the dominance of Porsche's 962C.

Despite this, the TS010 still remains a memorable example of Toyota's foray into international endurance racing and its impressive performance remains one of the iconic Group C cars that defined a generation.

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