Certain racecars over the years have changed the face of the sport, whether it is technology advancements or creative designs. We’ve put together a list of 10 racecars that we believe made racing what it is today.
Considering that circuit racing basically revolves around two forms of racing, we’ve incorporated both Le Mans cars and Formula One cars in this top ten. All post WWII and five from each category.
Do you think we got it right?
1. Jaguar D-type Logical development of the “C” type using the same XK motor, initially 3.4l but later 3.8l, it incorporated a monocoque and full aero styling influence not possible on the separate chassis of its predecessor. In order to get the frontal area down the XK mill sported a dry sump and the engine canted at 8% necessitating the asymmetric bonnet bulge. Took 5 of the first 6 places in the 1957 Le Mans 24hour classic.
2. Lotus25. Originally conceived on a napkin whilst Colin Chapman and his chassis designer Mike Costin (later half of the Cosworth dynasty) were dining out, it was the first full monocoque in F1 motor racing offering unparalleled levels of rigidity and lightness. Virtually overnight all the opposition space frames were tossed on the scrapheap. It was originally powered by a 1.5 litre all aluminium Coventry Climax motor which owed its heritage to a humble fire pump engine.
3. Ford GT40 Thus named due to its overall height, probably the most iconic and replicated sports racer in history. Born out of the frustration of Henry Ford’s abortive attempt to buy Ferrari, it was based on the Lola Mk 6 commissioned by Ford to beat Ferrari in their own back yard. Hugely over-engineered and overweight it initially featured a 4.7l iron V8 borrowed from the Mustang, subsequently replaced with a 7l unit allowing it to take the first 3 places at Le Mans in 1966.
4. Porsche 917 Powered by a flat 12 4.5l air cooled engine, it debuted in 1969 and scared virtually every driver that climbed into it due to its incredible instability. Capable of well over 240mph down the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans, it eventually acquired a long tail in an attempt the increase its drivability. Dominating sports car racing in the early seventies in various guises, it was eventually outlawed when rules were changed to favour smaller capacity units. Porsche then took on the American Can-Am series and turbocharged it to produce up to nearly 1600bhp.
5. Audi R10 TDI. The first ever diesel powered car to win Le Mans. The R10 changed the face of Le Mans, combining turbodiesel technology with fuel economy and a broad power band to trounce all competitors for three straight years running. Audi made use of a twin-turbo 5.5-litre V12 diesel, the result was a nearly soundless whoosh as the cars passed spectators, and so different from the screaming petrol engines most had become accustomed to hearing.
6. Lotus 72. Yet another innovative design by Colin Chapman, the 72 dominated the 1970 Formula One World Championship. The 72 was far more technologically advanced than its competition, featuring side mounted radiators, inboard brakes and an overhead air intake. The main advantage came from the trick suspension that allowed the car to maintain stability under braking and acceleration. It will always be remembered as the car that crowned Jochen Rindt F1’s only posthumous world champion after he was killed in the car during qualifying for the Monza GP.
7. Lotus 78/79. The third Lotus car in this top ten and who can forget the ‘wing car’? The original ground effect car that manipulated the airflow under the vehicle in order to provide added downforce. This gave the team a distinct advantage over the other teams and helped Mario Andretti to the 1978 world championship. Ronnie Petersen will always be remembered for his time in the 78, giving Andretti a run for his money every time, despite being the team’s number two and often subject to inferior equipment.
8.Porsche956. Introduced in 1982 specifically for the new group C regs, featuring an aluminium monocoqueand powered by a 2.65l turbocharged flat-6, it produced just shy of 500bhp; it raced successfully in the hands of both the works and numerous privateer teams filling the first 3 places at Le Mans in 1982 until being replaced by the 962 in 1985. In all Porsche built 28 of these iconic cars which are these days much favoured in classic events due to their bullet-proof nature and stunning period-looks.
9. Williams FW14. The red five car of Nigel Mansell dominated the 1992 F1 season in the B spec version of the FW14 but it was in 1991 that the car made its debut. Advancements in technology meant that the car had active suspension, a semi automatic gearbox, traction control and anti-lock brakes. The icing on the cake though was the added aero design of recently acquired Adrian Newey. Newey made the car unbeatable, combining the car’s innovation with an aerodynamically efficient design. Mansell wrapped up the 1992 championship with a record nine wins.
10. Ferrari F2002. The Ferrari domination continued on from the 2001 season into the 2002 season. The F2002 won every race but one that it competed in the 2002 season. The combination of Schumacher, Barrichello and the specially designed Bridgestone tyres left the competition struggling to catch up. The F2002 allowed Schumacher to wrap up the championship as early as France, race 11 on the calendar.