WORDS BY ROB HANSFORD | IMAGES BY ROB OVERY
The Group C era was one of the greatest in sportscar racing history. With relaxed regulations, designers and engineers could push the boundaries further than they’d ever been able to before.
Some failed in their pursuit of perfection, but Sauber – in partnership with Mercedes-Benz- got it spot on, creating the Sauber C9.
Life didn’t get off to the greatest of starts for the C9. It suffered with a variety of reliability issues in 1987, meaning it was only able to finish three races that year, but its potential was clear.
Although the C9 didn’t manage to finish the race at le Mans, a clear statement of intent was made, after Kouros Racing’s Johnny Dumfries set a new lap record of 3m25.4s.
Sauber spent the rest of the year developing the car and in 1988 they entered a works team, and with backing from Mercedes they went on to try and take on giants, Jaguar.
The team ultimately failed in their mission in the first year, finishing a distant second in the standings, but 1989 was a whole other ballgame.
Sauber won all but one of that season’s World Sportscar Championship races, clinching the title in emphatic fashion, and they also claimed a famous 1-2 in the Le Mans 24 Hours, with the lead car finishing over seven laps ahead of its nearest non-Sauber rival.
Its results confined the C9 to the sportscar hall of fame, ensuring it would be a car that’s never to be forgotten.
And last week, Girardo & Co announced that they had sold chassis C9.870.01, the car that was used by Jean Louis Schlesser to win the 1988 German Supercup championship.
After falling into retirement, spending time in Peter Sauber’s personal collection, the car (under a new owner) went under an extensive restoration programme by historic race preparation specialist, Moto Historics.
Whilst there, the car was stripped back to its bare bones, parts were sent for crack testing and once signed off everything was meticulously rebuilt.
No stone was left unturned as Moto Historics ensured both the chassis and engine were returned to perfect condition, and once complete it was sent to Donington and then Spain for testing.
The C9 is a simple, yet elegant and beautiful car, yet underneath its exterior lies an aggressive jaw-dropping monster of a machine.
Now, in a running condition, it’s possible for the beast to reappear, to be showcased to the world. And while it may never race in anger again, seeing it on track being showcased to the world will be a fitting consolation.
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