Le Mans Porsche 956 fails to sell at auction

RM Sotheby’s Porsche 70th anniversary sale packed plenty of historically significant lots yet the biggest of all failed to sell

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A Porsche 956 Group C prototype which starred at Le Mans and in the World Sportscar Championship has surprisingly failed to sell at the Porsche 70th anniversary auction in Atlanta, Georgia last weekend.

Chassis 956-110 was raced extensively by John Fitzpatrick Racing to great success, with wins at the 1983 Can-Am Road America and Brands Hatch 1000km, and described by auctioneers RM Sotheby’s as 'the most original surviving example of the nine WEC privateer 956s'.

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Yet, despite its strong provenance, bidding fell well short of the $5.25 million - $6.75 million (£4m - £5.1m, €4.6m - €6m) sales estimate. Instead, bidding stalled at $3.5m, short of its reserve and remaining on sale post-auction.

The 956 was considered the ‘lead’ lot at the Porsche 70th anniversary sale, but when it came to bidding many flocked to the Porsche 959 Dakar prototype, which sold well above its estimate at $5.94m.

Despite falling nearly $2m short of its sales estimate the outcome isn’t entirely surprising. Porsche 956 values peaked in 2015 when the 1983 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning car piloted by Vern Schuppan, Hurley Haywood and Al Holbert sold for $10.2m (£8.0m, €8.9m) with Gooding & Company, its works status and victory at the world’s greatest endurance race propelling it well beyond its original estimate.

Contrast that result to only a year earlier, where another works 956, just one of 10, came in at only €2.35m ($2.7m, £2.1m) at RM Sotheby’s Paris sale in 2014, it seems the appetite for non-works machines isn’t as strong as for the sister factory cars.

It’s worth pointing out that 956-110 does have its own strong history behind it. Victory at the Brands Hatch 1000km was obtained by a dominant performance against the works machines, John Fitzpatrick and Formula 1 driver Derek Warwick beating factory pairing Derek Bell and Stefan Bellof. Thierry Boutsen, David Hobbs and Australian touring car ace Alan Grice all piloted 956-110 during its competition lifetime.

We’re hoping it reappears for sale again soon. Currently tucked away in a private collection, its excellent condition indicates race preparation is definitely possible for any new owner willing to take on the challenge. Who wouldn’t love to see a period authentic 956 race at the Le Mans Classic Group C race in 2020?

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