When Stefan Bellof comes to Porsche in the winter of 1982, the company’s expectations aren’t very high. The 24-year-old driver from Giessen is rumoured to be too young, too bold, too cheeky, and too inexperienced. By May 1983, though, he’s become a small hero. Bellof set out to prove himself, and in the process set one of the best times at the world’s most notorious race track, the Nürburgring.
The weather in the surrounding Eifel region is cold and miserable, but at least it’s dry. Porsche is entering a 956 (chassis number 007) with 13-inch front-axle rims for the first time. The larger camber angle and modified steering lever enhance the car’s turning abilities. Bellof uses it to great advantage. Bellof is five seconds faster than former Formula One driver Jochen Mass and half a minute faster than reigning world champion Keke Rosberg. “When the time appeared on the display, I thought, ‘That can’t be right—there must be something wrong with the clock’,” recalls Rainer Braun, who at the time was both the course spokesman and Bellof’s manager. But there was no mistake. Seemingly impossible, but absolutely correct.
Bellof’s time of 6:11.13 minutes for a 12.946-mile lap (slightly shorter than usual due to construction work) in the qualifying session for the 1,000-kilometer (621-mile) race is still a head-shakingly, stopwatch-doubting time.
“Stefan broke records in that history-making lap,” says Norbert Singer, Porsche’s head engineer at the time. Bellof was the first driver to average more than 124mph for a lap on one of the world’s most beautiful and difficult racetracks. “I could have gone even faster,” Bellof says at the time, as casually as if it were a matter of mowing the lawn. “But I made two mistakes. And a 911 briefly got in my way.”
Those 6:11.13 minutes are legendary. Like the 1000-kilometer race on the Nordschleife. The last great event there took place in 1983; the new Grand Prix course on the edge of “Green Hell” is now the Nürburgring. Bellof wins the World Sportscar Championship with Porsche in 1984. Bellof’s true talent wasn’t ever fully realised, as he died in a racing accident at Spa in 1985: A great talent gone too soon.