Any motorsport features two essential parts: the driver and the vehicle. Everything else might play significant roles, but they will still pale in comparison. While the driver offers their skills, reflexes, and ability to plan things, the car provides power. And more than power, the ability to cut through corners, overall maneuverability, and the car’s weight-to-power ratio are all important things.
In this article, we will look at the best-known cars in the history of autosports. We will cover all disciplines featuring cars, from F1 and NASCAR to rallies. We will explain what will make a car iconic, its technical features, and its lasting legacy.
Note that this article doesn’t aim to cover the betting aspect of the sport, even though racing is quite common among punters. If you want to read more about it, check out other sources. A good recommendation is to start by joining some betting platforms. For example, this article explains in detail the Betking verification problems one might encounter.
A List of Autosports Disciplines
Let’s start by looking at the sports we will include. As we already mentioned, we will only include autosports, so all disciplines feature cars, not motorcycles or bicycles. It’s also important to remember that some vehicles might appear in different sports. Here’s the list:
- Long-distance racing (24 hours of Le Mans, 6 hours of Nurburgring)
- Gran Turismo: the type of racing that involves cars designed for high-speed and long-distance
And now let’s check out the cars. Our list will include different ones, ranging from futuristic-looking hypercars to something that one could see on the streets of their town. Some impressed the crowds with their sheer speed, while the others also had a shockingly great level of durability. Some are great at cutting corners, and others are all-around great vehicles. Many factors can make a racing car successful, and it’s usually the combination of several aspects that make a vehicle a great competitor in any motorsport.
Ford GT40 Series
Developed as a competitor to Ferrari racing cars in the 1960s, the Ford GT40 resulted from the feud between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari. It essentially grew from the “Ford GT” project, an effort to make a car superior to Ferrari’s in long-distance car racing. The engineers based the design on the Lola MK6, another successful race car that implemented a Ford engine. Carol Shelby helped to polish the design, and racing legend and founder of McLaren, Bruce McLaren, raced the car.
The final result was great: a series of successful cars dominated various races for years. It won Le Mans four consecutive years, as well as foгr FIA international titles. The MK IV model of the car was fully manufactured in the U.S. So its win in Le Mans 1967 became the only all-American Le Mans victory in history since the team, the drivers, the chassis constructor, the engine manufacturers, and the tire producer were all American.
Lancia Stratos HF
Considered by some to be the first car fully designed for competing in rallies and being quite successful at that, the Lancia Stratos HF is a legend in the world of automotive manufacturing and racing.
Produced during the 1970s, the car was a feat of engineering at the time. The engineers designed the vehicle from the ground up to perform in rally competitions, and its chassis and drivetrain can easily withstand the impacts of this sport. The car was initially presented as the Lancia Stratos Zero concept, created by Marcello Gandini, a chief designer at Bertone.
And the design did pay off. The car managed to win three World Rally Championship titles in a row and many lesser-known awards along the way.
BMW E30 M3
Winning several touring car championships, the BMW E30 M3 is one of motorsport’s most successful touring cars. It won 24 Hours of Nurburgring five times and the Spa 24 Hours four times, and it was also a popular rally car, winning the Tour de Corse in 1987. The M3 version was quite fast for its class: 192 horsepower, with rally versions reaching almost 300 horsepower. The reliability, simplicity of the construction, and readiness for races, even in stock form, made the car famous and successful in autosports.
Audi R8 LMP
The Audi R8 is more known as a supercar, but the car it’s based on called the Audi R8 Le Mans Prototype (LMP), has won plenty of racing awards. For example, it won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2005.
Made of carbon fiber and a lightweight polymer material and capable of reaching a speed of up to 350 km/h, the R8 LMP is a beast and a feat of automotive engineering at its finest. Unsurprisingly, such a prototype had a successful road car version: the regular R8 is a legend on its own merit.
The Ferrari team used this car for the 2004 Formula One season. The vehicle was nothing short of an engineering marvel: 965 horsepower under the hood and a small weight of just 600 kg provided impressive speed and acceleration. The naturally aspirated V10 engine, rear-wheel drive, and in-house developed semi-automatic with 7 gears (plus a reverse one) all worked together to provide an ultimate F1 driving experience. Michael Schumacher was behind the wheel, so it’s easy to imagine what a combination of one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time and an engineering masterpiece can provide: he won 13 races with this car during the season, breaking his own record and dominating the whole championship. His Ferrari teammate, Rubens Barrichello, also had a couple of wins and several second-place finishes during the season.
McLaren F1 GTR
The McLaren F1 was the fastest road car at the time of its release in 1992. Its massive 6.1-liter engine had an output of 618 HP and 650 N⋅m of torque. Being lightweight and having an incredible acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h, the car dominated the automotive world with its specs. Over 30 years later, it remains one of the fastest-production cars ever. It’s also the quickest naturally aspirated car ever produced.
And now, let’s get to the GTR version. The release of the fastest road car convinced the engineers to develop a racing variant, even though Ian Gordon Murray, the mastermind behind the car, was initially against the idea. And that’s how the F1 GTR was born. The changes were minimal since the original car was already quite similar in design to many race vehicles. The designers stripped the car of many of its luxuries and replaced them with a racing cage, although they kept the butterfly doors. FIA GT Competition in 1997 required further changes to the car, so the engineers fully rebuilt the exterior.
A fun fact is that the race version is less powerful compared to a road one. The reason is that the designers had to use an air restrictor, limiting the power to around 590 horsepower due to specific requirements. The race car is still faster than a road because of its lower weight.
The F1 GTR became quite a successful car in the world of automotive racing. The most famous event related to the car was the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the car finishing first, surpassing the competition in harsh conditions. The drivers continued using the car well into the 2000s. So far, only 28 F1 GTR chassis have been manufactured.
Each sport has its legends. But for autosports, you can multiply the number by two: the drivers and the cars. Or by three, the engineers designing the cars must have their hall of fame. In this article, we looked at different iconic cars from various disciplines and generations. These legends are still adored by the fans of the sports and cars alike.
The vehicles in the list had different reasons to impress the viewers and racers. Some were just fast, and others were quite reliable or easily adaptable. We listed the vehicles of various types, from touring to GT to hypercars. But all of them are feats of engineering. And our article included information about these cars and their achievements.