A series taken from the 164-page Motor Sport special Great Racing Cars, which is available to buy here
To buy the lead image click here.
From the editor Damien Smith
How would you define a ‘great’ racing car? Race wins and championship titles are an obvious place to start – and admittedly, when we began the process of rounding up the ‘voices’ to fill this special magazine, published by the team behind Motor Sport, we had in mind the likes of the Lotus 72, Ferrari F2004, Porsche 917, Audi R10 and so on.
But as the interviews of familiar racing figures began, we realised greatness is often a very personal thing. Naturally, most – but not all – would pick cars they had experienced first-hand, as a driver, designer, engineer or team boss. And on occasion the cars that stood out in their minds as ‘great’ weren’t necessarily so in the grand scheme of history. That’s why you’ll find a Minardi here among Formula 1 cars from Lotus, Williams and McLaren.
Unexpected? Certainly. Wrong? Not to the man who chose it.
As the interviews accumulated, our magazine took on a life of its own, full of personal anecdotes about the myriad cars that made careers. Some of those we spoke to, such as Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney, couldn’t be tied to a single choice from multi-faceted lives at the wheel. Such heroes have earned the right to choose an F1, sports and Indycar, so we allowed them more than one bite.
Others refused to be confined by category. Hence the short ‘Odd ’n Sods’ chapter on cars that, by and large, are mere footnotes in lower divisions of racing lore.
Thus there is nothing definitive about the selection listed herein. Then again, there’s no claim that this compilation offers the ‘Greatest Racing Cars’ of history. It’s much more personal than that, much more quirky – and all the better for it.
1992 Lotus 107
1987 British F3 champion, 160 Grand Prix starts, 3 wins
Big fat tyres, big wings… This was my idea of a Formula 1 car and you had to be really aggressive to get the best from it. All drivers want a car that’s balanced and responds to changes, which the 107 did. It was quite sensitive to wing adjustments and that allowed you to dial it in as you wished.
We had a lot of reliability problems during the season, but it was a sublime car to drive and you could be really brutal with it on the way in to fast corners. You could stop and turn at the end of a long straight – into the Adelaide hairpin at Magny-Cours, for instance – and the car would just dig in and go. That actually suited me, because with the after-effect of my serious leg and foot injuries [sustained in an F3000 accident at Brands Hatch, 1988], I found things more difficult when a little sensitivity was required. That wasn’t an issue with the 107 – it was brilliant to drive and very satisfying to wring its neck.
One race that stands out is Silverstone 1992, for two reasons. Mika Häkkinen and I were running about fifth and sixth in the two 107s, with me ahead, and it was the first time I’d run in the points at my home Grand Prix. Gearbox failure eventually put me out, but to drive such a car at that mega-fast track was fantastic, with a huge crowd cheering on Nigel Mansell and the Brits. It was wonderful to be part of that.
The day’s other highlight? Mika was arrested on his way to the track, for driving on the wrong side of the road in an attempt to beat the traffic. While he was at the cop shop, I had to try both cars in the warm-up and went four tenths faster in his than I did in mine.