Throughout the decades, there have been countless race cars from numerous manufacturers. However, not all of these cars have stood the test of time. As racing technology continues to develop, there are certain race cars that truly stand out.
For a race car to excel on the track, it needs to be at the forefront of innovation while remaining within the established guidelines. Some race cars do this better than others, pushing the boundaries of what these cars are capable of. Ultimately, this solidifies their place in motorsport history.
From Audi to Porsche, we’ll be looking at iconic race cars that you should know about. When it comes down to it, the eight vehicles we’ll be looking at have rightfully earned their places in the motorsport history books!
1. Audi Quattro
Audi’s history in the motorsport industry largely began with the Quattro. In March 1980, the Geneva International Motor Show was held in Switzerland. At this event, Audi unveiled the first Quattro model, which would go on sale later that year. This mid-size rally car would remain in production until 1991, with more than 10,000 Quattro vehicles produced in that time.
When it was launched, the rules surrounding the drivetrain of rally cars used in competition racing had just been revised. At the time, Audi was the first manufacturer to adapt to the new regulations, with the Quattro utilizing a now-permitted four-wheel drive system. The original Quattro featured a 2.1L engine that delivered a formidable 200 horsepower, forcing competitors to up their game.
2. Ferrari 330 P4
Between 1960 and 1965, Ferrari won every 24-hour Le Mans endurance race. However, in 1966, Ford broke their winning streak. That same year, Ferrari released their 330 P3. However, the 330 P3 was plagued by gearbox issues and a tendency to overheat. However, it was the release of the 330 P4 in 1967 that would put Ferrari back on track.
With a shorter chassis than the P3 model, the 330 P4 featured a V12 engine and better road holding. Not only was the 330 P4 more reliable than its predecessor, but it was capable of delivering up to 450 horsepower. In 1967, at the 24-hour Daytona race, Ferrari had an iconic 1-2-3 victory, with the 330 P4 placing second.
3. Ford GT40
Unveiled in 1964, Ford’s GT40 is an iconic endurance racing car that remained in production until 1965. At the 1966 Le Man race, three Ford GT40 Mk. II cars took the top three positions, finally breaking Ferrari’s ongoing winning streak. Due to this, Ford’s GT40 remains one of the most iconic race cars of all time.
The GT40 Mk. II featured a 7.0L V8 engine, which was capable of producing up to 485 horsepower. By 1968, however, there would be a change in racing regulations, which prohibited the use of an engine larger than five liters. In 2018, the Ford GT40 Mk. II which placed third at the 1966 Le Mans race, was sold for more than $9 million. Today, the GT40 spirit lives on in Ford’s modern GT sports car.
4. Lancia Stratos
When it comes down to the history of rallying, the Lancia Stratos remains one of the most iconic racing cars. In fact, it was the first racing car to be built especially for rallying, a legacy it more than lived up to. Between 1973 and 1978, nearly 500 Stratos were produced by Lancia. The original 1973 Lancia Stratos featured a 2.4L V6 engine capable of delivering 190 horsepower.
Between 1974 and 1976, the Stratos made Lancia the consecutive winner of the Manufacturer’s Championship (WMC) for three years. Designed for racing victory, the Stratos more than lived up to expectations. With these WMC victories, Lancia’s Stratos solidified itself as one of the most celebrated racing cars of all time.
5. Mazda 787B
The 787B is another iconic racing car! Manufactured by Mazda, the 787B became the first Japanese vehicle to win the 24-hour Le Mans race in 1991. Throughout this iconic race, the 787B wasted no time, with the team only needing to complete routine pit stops and change drivers. The three drivers for the 1991 race were Johnny Herbert, Bertrand Gachot, and Volker Weidler.
The 787B featured a four-rotor 2.6L engine that was capable of delivering up to 690 horsepower. The 787B was well-known for its distinctive sound. In 2011, for the 20th anniversary of the 787B’s Le Mans victory, Johnny Herbert took a 787B for a spin around the Le Mans track.
6. McLaren MP4/4
One of the most well-known vehicles in Formula One history, McLaren’s MP4/4 is more than deserving of a spot on this list! Designed by Steve Nichols, the MP4/4 was used for the 1988 F1 season. Throughout this racing season, there was only one race that the McLaren MP4/4 did not win.
The MP4/4 utilized a turbocharged 1.5L V6 engine, which was capable of delivering between 650 and 700 horsepower. With that engine, it comes as no surprise that the MP4/4 won fifteen Grand Prix races throughout the 1988 season. By the end of that season, however, new engine rules came into effect, effectively prohibiting the use of the MP4/4.
7. Mercedes-Benz W196
In terms of infamous race cars used in Formula One, the W196 from Mercedes-Benz is one you should know about! Manufactured for use in the 1954 and 1955 Formula One seasons to meet new Grand Prix regulations. Across the twelve races it competed in, Mercedes’ W196 won a total of nine races.
At the time, the W196 utilized the most advanced fuel technology of any vehicle used in Formula One at the time. However, in 1955, Mercedes’ W196 was involved a devastating crash at the Le Mans race, which resulted in 84 fatalities. This not only spelled the end for the W196 but Mercedes-Benz’s participation in motorsport as a whole. They would only return to Formula One in 1994.
8. Porsche 936
In 1974, Porsche ushered in the turbo ear of the Le Mans endurance race. This year marked the first time Porsche used a turbo engine in the race. Up until this point, no turbocharged engine had won the Le Mans race. In 1976, Porsche would introduce the 936, which utilized a turbocharged 2.1L engine and had a Spyder body style.
At the 1976 La Mans race, Porsche would officially become the first turbo winner throughout the race’s history. At the following La Mans race in 1977, a Porsche 936 would reign supreme once more. The Porsche 936-77 that was used in the 1977 La Mans race featured a twin-turbo engine. The 936 was a revolutionary racing car, which would pave the way for future racing cars from Porsche, such as the 956.
Over the years, there have been many famous race cars produced by different manufacturers. Often, these iconic cars have forced manufacturers to remain competitive. When Ford’s GT40 broke Ferrari’s La Mans winning streak, Ferrari knew they needed to step up their game.
Ultimately, this competitiveness between manufacturers encouraged innovation. It is this sheer drive that resulted in the production of many iconic racing cars that will be remembered for decades to come.