Straight4 Driving Consultant
On his YouTube channel, Ben Collins drives the coolest cars in the world … and then he gets to tell us all about it. This month we thought we’d give you a little glimpse into the kind of feedback we get from the former Stig after he drove two of the most legendary endurance cars in history—the Porsche 962 from ’85 and the Nissan R90CK (with 1,100bhp riding shotgun!)
The Porsche 962 is surprisingly refined inside the cockpit and equally smooth to drive. We can thank Norbert Singer for that. The ergonomics are excellent, so once you slide into the cockpit feet-first and land in the helm, the seat wraps you like pigs in a blanket with a natural seating position, slightly sloping at the back with a decent bend at the knee and an easy reach to the wheel. Porsche designed these cars to be driven over long distances and looked after their drivers. That said, the gear lever is small and slightly reluctant so you need to place that carefully and the throttle pedal is stiff, so you have to push through some resistance to squeeze the juice. Once you do that, you get a rewarding surge of power from the turbos and a smooth rush to high speeds. The ride is what strikes you most because it’s silky smooth, like riding on a magic carpet. It devours corners with seemingly little body roll, but bumps are imperceptibly ironed out. It allows you to trust the outer limits of grip and float additional speed into the turns.
The 962 is very much the driver’s friend. The steering is quite light but engaging so you can detect what is going on. The one I drove told me that there was a lot more front downforce than the rear could live up to, because I was running a Daytona front aero kit with a Le Mans rear wing configuration. Le Mans is about being slippery and fast on the straights, so it was set a little low for Donington. I loved every second I spent in the car and had it not been up for auction for several millions of dollars and had the team not been eyeballing me so carefully, I could easily have found myself in my own world of ’trying to make it go as fast as humanly possible’.
The engine on the Nissan R90CK has a fantastic shout. It’s a feral tone that I really appreciate because it is beautifully synced with the rise in power as you climb through the rev range. The turbo boost wasn’t scary as I imagined but, rather, a progressive wedge of smile-maker. However, it is wise to have the steering relatively straight when the engine comes on cam because the surge is enough to upset the apple cart of any fool trying to use the throttle to overcome understeer. If you try that then the car will answer you with a quick revolution.
What really surprised me is how slick the controls are. The Nissan feels like a big Formula Ford. The small wooden peg of a manual shifter slams through the gears with absolute precision and perfection. Sweet as a nut and as the day it was made. My favourite feature was braking because the pedal was really firm and reminded me of the Ascari LMP900—you can slam your thigh into the pedal with maximum force and the downforce is there to absorb the energy and stop your speed like you hit a brick wall. After that, you can finesse the throttle around the corner and tease out a delicate balance in the chassis. It’s a supremely balanced car to drive and a superior machine to those of the ’80s because it’s so raw and intuitive. That braking power must have given Mark Blundell a lot of confidence when he found himself arriving at corners 30mph faster than usual thanks to the massive overboost on what became known as his “banzai lap” in 1990.