Ask a bunch of motorsports enthusiasts what defines a great car, and you’ll get a whole range of replies. Many may go for “one that dominates,” but is it really so simple? There are so many factors, so many intangibles involved, that greatness really is in the eye of the beholder.
In the August issue of RACER magazine, we wanted to focus on cars whose greatness – and, yes, that would be greatness in our opinion – comes from the people behind them daring to be different, defying convention and refusing to be boxed in by the fear of failure.
Take Gordon Murray and his Brabham-BMW BT52 (RIGHT) of 1983, for example. The genius of designer Murray and his fearlessness in pursuing an unconventional path were clearly the deciding factors in Nelson Piquet winning that season’s Formula 1 drivers’ title, overcoming the might of Renault and Alain Prost.
Fact is, Murray pulled a proverbial rabbit from a hat. Last-minute, but fundamental F1 regulation changes – which his team owner Bernie Ecclestone had promised him wouldn’t happen – forced him to craft the dart-like BT52 in a manner that relied on instinct, talent and outside-the-box thinking. One shot at it, and no Plan B. The result was a true classic.
Given that, five years earlier, Murray had penned the won-and-done Brabham BT46B “fan car,” his innovative ideas shouldn’t have surprised anyone. But even he’d concede that the idea of a racecar that glued itself to the pavement by use of skirts and a fan was far from new. Jim Hall’s Chaparral 2J of 1970 sucked asphalt and blew away rivals – at least in terms of pace. Had it not been outlawed from Can-Am before Chaparral had time to make it reliable, it would have been near-impossible to stop.
So the Chaparral 2J never got the chance to dominate; the Brabham BT52 won just four of its 15 races. But are they great cars? Unquestionably. In our opinion…
-David Malsher, Editor
Also on tap in the August 2013 issue of RACER:
< Mario Andretti’s five favorite racecars
• The story behind Audi’s revolutionary all-wheel-drive Quattro rally car
• One of racing’s great what-ifs: Chaparral’s revolutionary 2J “fan car” Can-Am
• Dario Franchitti’s Fab Five: The Scottish ace picks his favorites
• The RACER Interview: IndyCar’s James Hinchcliffe and Josef Newgarden, two of the sport’s most promising young stars
• F1’s strategic dilemma over tires: How much degradation is too much?
• The lasting influence of the mid/rear-engined Auto Unions
• Porsche’s magic moment: 1973 Targa Florio
• Slithering around Le Mans: SRT Viper squad’s 24 Hours diary
> In Focus: Audi R8 LMS