Is there anything as iconic to a car fanatic as race cars? Whatever discipline they’re designed for, be it drag racing, touring car championships, rallies, NASCAR, or endurance races, there’s something wonderful about race cars.
They’re peerless examples of what our favorite hobby can do when pushed to its limits. What are the most successful race cars in history? What marks them out from their competitors?
Join us as we take a closer look at our top 10 race cars from across the decades.
BMW E30 M3
Across the globe, the BMW M3 has come to be recognized as one of the cars of choice for amateur racers. When one has a professional driver at the wheel, magical things happen.
The E30 generation M3 was popular from the mid-80s through to the early 90s. During this time, it won armfuls of prizes, particularly in touring car championships.
It won one world championship, two European championships, two British championships, four Italian championships and a whole lot more. It was, without a doubt, one of the best racing cars ever made.
Audi R8 LMP
You may not think of the Audi R8 as a race car but before it was a huge commercial success, it was a racer. Between 2000 and 2005, the Le Mans Prototype (LMP) R8 won 63 of the 79 races that it entered.
In six years, it won five times at Le Mans. It goes to show what a German-engineered racer with a Lambo engine can do.
From one Le Mans sensation to another, while the E30 M3 was dominating the touring car circuit, the Porsche 956 ruled the endurance racing scene. It won seven overall victories and 24 championships in the 12 years that this car was on the track.
What’s more, it still looks incredible today. If you want a rocket ship with wheels, you’ve got it in the 956.
What do you get when you pair a meticulously-designed F1 car and one of the best drivers of all time? You get the domination wreaked by the F2004.
Piloted by Michael Schumacher, this car let Ferrari net 15 wins in 18 races, with Schumacher and his teammate coming first and second in 8 races. Not a bad record by any stretch.
Mix British and American ingenuity and you get the GT40. The first American car to dominate racing outside the US in many a decade, the GT40 was a sensation at Le Mans.
With the help of legendary Bruce McLaren, the GT40 was no ordinary race car. From 1966-1969, the GT40 won at Le Mans four times in a row and also claimed numerous International championships.
Nissan Skyline GT-R R32
While the BMW M3 dominated European racing, the Skyline R32 did the same in Asia. This car, elevated into legendary status thanks to countless media appearances, was incredible.
Its winning record speaks for itself. The Skyline entered 29 Japanese Touring Car Championships. How many do you think it won? Maybe 20? Nope, it won every \single one of them.
Bugatti Type 35
It’s easy to think only of the Veyron and Chiron when talking about Bugatti. Yet back in the early 20th century, there was no rival to the Type 35 on the track.
Between 1924 and 1930, the Type 35 won a jaw-dropping 2000 races thanks to its impressive (for the time), top speed of 125 mph.
Long before the Ferrari F2004, the Lotus 72 ruled the F1 roost. From 1970-1975, the Lotus 72 competed in a staggering 75 Grand Prix races and won 20 of them. Its drivers had to step up onto the podium 39 times.
The most amazing part about the Lotus 72 is that it was barely modified during its run. The original design was that good.
If you were an impressionable lad in the early 1970s, the Steve McQueen film Le Mans could convert anyone into a huge fan of cars. Part of that was down to the irresistible charm of the Porsche 917.
Yet as well as looking great, this car was a legend out on the track. In 1970 it won its first title at Le Mans, and in 1971 it would win a whole host of silverware.
McLaren F1 GTR
As race cars go, they don’t get any more iconic than the McLaren F1. For a long period, the fastest car in the world, it’s no surprise that this car was sensational at Le Mans. The GTR version stormed to victory in 1995 and went on to win a further 38 races.
We can’t think of a better tribute to big man McLaren himself than his namesake being such an incredible vehicle.