A series taken from the 164-page Motor Sport special Great Racing Cars, which is available to buy 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.
Sports car star, 1997 Daytona 24H winner
The cars I really remember fondly are my first real racers: the Hawke D11 and Tiga FF79 Formula Ford cars, the Tiga SC80 Sports 2000 and the Chevron B36. But if I have to pick one it would be the Riley & Scott MkIIIA, because it was just such a remarkable design.
It actually started life as the Intrepid in 1990 and then morphed in to the MkIIIA when Bob and Bill founded Riley & Scott just afterwards. The longevity of it is remarkable, really, because the concept essentially still runs today in the USC. So it went from a roof, to no roof then to a roof again and the concept has been racing since 1990. Remarkable!
The DNA can be traced back to the Tommy Kendall car in the early 1990s. Of course the MkIIIA had a carbon tub, but if you look at the Intrepid with that shovel-nose and imagine the roof off it, it is a dead ringer. I first drove it in 1995 and one of the first wins we got was at Road Atlanta in that terrible race where Jeremy Dale and Fabrizio Barbazza were badly hurt.
The only thing that held the car back a little was that it was a bit draggy and was never the quickest in a straight line, but it made up for it in the corners because the downforce levels were astonishing. It was a great mechanical package, too, with good brakes. It was also a strong car and we had very few retirements. It was just a great car to qualify or race and holds wonderful memories for me and, I am sure, Rob [Dyson, team boss] too.
It really was a pleasure to drive and the best thing about it was that it would hold its settings through a whole 12 hours of Sebring. All the opposition would be shagged out after six hours but the Dyson Riley & Scott would really carry itself nicely.
We raced it right up until 2002, when Rob bought the Lola LMP675 – and that proved to be another fantastic car.