Favorite Racecars - picks by JR Hildebrand, Tristan Vautier, Justin Wilson and Stefan Wilson

Favorite Racecars - picks by JR Hildebrand, Tristan Vautier, Justin Wilson and Stefan Wilson

Insights & Analysis

Favorite Racecars - picks by JR Hildebrand, Tristan Vautier, Justin Wilson and Stefan Wilson


As we reach the final week of our survey results, before revealing the Top 10 Favorite Racecars of RACER readers, we will bring you some fine selections from such as Mike Hull of Chip Ganassi Racing, former IndyCar ace and current NASCAR pro Sam Hornish Jr, and race engineer Michael Cannon – whose shortlist may be the most varied of the lot.

While sifting through the replies to the Favorite Racecars survey, we found four 2013 IndyCar drivers with race fuel in their veins and an awareness that racing existed before they did…. Dale Coyne Racing’s Justin Wilson replied swiftly, while the other three – JR Hildebrand, Tristan Vautier and Justin’s brother, Stefan – had to make ride-chasing their priority but then got turned their attention to cars that originally got them hooked on racing in the first place. 

Pictured above is Justin Wilson on his way to second at Monterrey, Mexico, in the 2006 Champ Car race. JWil does have a 21st-century Indy car in his list, but it’s not his Lola B2K. However, another of our drivers in this list does single out the last of Lola’s active U.S. open-wheel cars as one of his top-five favorites…




“My selections are based pretty much on the cars that influenced me since I was a kid, reading stories in magazines and books about the heroes of the era just before I was truly aware of my Dad being a racer.

“Then when I got onto the racing ladder, they were the cars that really stood out to me up until the point I joined Champ Car in 2004.”




Lotus 49. “What else do I need to say? Jim Clark will be a racing legend forever, and this car – the most powerful that he raced in Formula 1 – helped display what a genius he was. It is also, to me, the defining racecar of the era before wings were introduced. And then Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt showed the Lotus 49’s qualities by working even better with wings added.”

BELOW Our picture shows Clark in action at the Canadian Grand Prix in Mosport in ’67. He took pole but the conditions soaked his electrics and he suffered ignition failure. LAT photo


Porsche 962
“I had a slot car as a kid and always loved the lines and the Rothmans paint scheme. It just looks fast. I hear that 962s are not the best to drive but I’m trying not to let reality ruin my love of the car.”

BELOW Hans-Joachim Stuck and Derek Bell drive their works Porsche 962C to second place in the 1985 Silverstone 1000km. Perhaps predictably, they were beaten only by the sister car of teammates Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass. LAT photo


Lola T93/00 Indy car
“Cool looking and very sleek. And of course Nigel Mansell in 1993 used it to wake up the Europeans to how great Indy car racing can be. That year in Autosport, I think we saw this car pictured just as much as any F1 car, which sort of says it all.”

BELOW Mansell drives his Newman/Haas Racing Lola to third place and Rookie of the Year honors in the Indianapolis 500. As reigning F1 champ, Nigel was quite accomplished for a rookie. LAT photo


McLaren MP4/8
“Another 1993 car, and to me, this car just looks right, even though it was not really the quickest  that season. It doesn’t have a bad angle and of course with Ayrton Senna at the wheel, it was often going faster than it should have been, especially on tracks when its power deficit didn’t matter so much.” 

BELOW Senna broke Graham Hill’s record of Monaco wins here in 1993. This sixth win in the Principality was one of Ayrton’s luckier ones, for it took a penalty for Alain Prost and engine failure for Michael Schumacher to get the McLaren in front. LAT photo


Reynard 02i Indy car
“Had slightly more elegant swooping lines than the Lola of the same year [200], and looked great in a variety of color schemes. Of course, the Lola was ultimately the car that got more development work and it was the better handling one from what I’ve been told. But the Player’s cars of Forsythe looked great, didn’t they?”

BELOW It’s Mid-Ohio and Patrick Carpentier is about to score his second win of the season in the Reynard-Ford of Forsythe Racing. The Canadian finished the year third in the championship. LAT photo






Rather than picking out my five favorite racecars, I actually decided it might be slightly more of a task to select the five best-looking racecars that I can think of. I generally find it quite difficult to ignore the innovative achievement or power output of a racecar, so I actually found it quite refreshing to strictly consider shape, lines, dimensions, and overall sex appeal.

With that said, I quickly came to the realization that once 1970 rolled around, the function of things rapidly began to outweigh the form, an interesting consideration, although there were certainly exceptions. As such, my top 5 were all pre-1970.

Coincidentally, all 5 are fendered cars, although they are split between front- and mid-engine design. As you’ll see, in my view the muscular curvature but sleek and simple look of mid- to late-1960s endurance racing sports cars just can’t be beat.

Oddly, another era that I just couldn’t justify cracking the top 5 – but once I began doing some digging really stood out – was the Group C and F1 cars in a two- to three-year period from about 1989-1992. The Sauber-Mercedes C11, the Jordan 191 – similarly very, very simple designs with distinct attitudes.

Cars like the Lotus 49, Lotus 79, Ferrari 312, etc. are undoubtedly some of the best looking racecars around, but for me, they just don’t arouse the same feeling as their full-bodied counterparts.

ABOVE The Mercedes W196 made its F1 World Championship debut at Reims in the French Grand Prix. The streamliner bodywork was perfect for the track, with its long straights and just two hairpins. Here Karl Kling leads Juan-Manuel Fangio, but it was the Argentine who won. The pair of them lapped the field. LAT photo

BELOW One of the cornerstones of the Ferrari legend for making breathtakingly beautiful cars that with supercar peformance. The 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO had an aerodynamic body designed by Bizzarini and Scaglietti, and contained a three-liter V12 that pushed out 300hp. Yet the car weighed just 2,000lbs. It could top 170mph, and could accelerate from 0 to 60mph in less than 6 seconds. Pictured is Graham Hill on his way to victory in the 1963 Tourist Trophy at Goodwood, UK. LAT photo

BELOW It’ll be no surprise to hear that JR Hildebrand’s high opinion of Ferrari 330 P3s / P4 is shared by many of you, andi it abides by the Ferrari tenets mentioned above. This is John Surtees and Mike Parkes heading for victory in the Monza 1000kms in a 1966 P3. LAT photo

BELOW Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful sports cars America ever made, the Ford GT40 has also gained fame for the story of how it ended Ferrari’s reign at Le Mans, and won the the 24 Hours for four straight years, 1966-’69. The John Wyer-run Gulf-colored GT40s remain particular favorites. Here NBC pundit David Hobbs and Paul Hawkins drive to fourth in the 1968 1000kms of Spa-Francorchamps. LAT photo

BELOW: Lola’s T70 dominated the 1966 Can-Am championship in open-top MkII form with John Surtees, Mark Donohue and Dan Gurney scooping five of the six races, the latter driving a Ford-powered variant, the other two using Chevrolet power. Donohue, partnered by Chuck Parsons, would go on to win the 1969 Daytona 24 Hours in a Penske-entered variant. Pictured is the Jo Bonnier/Sten Axelsson-driven entry in the ’68 Sebring 12 Hours. LAT photo


BELOW: “Honorable mention,” says Hildebrand, “needs to go to the XJ13. Technically it can’t be included because it never raced, due to rule changes. But…it’s stunning.”
It’s shown below at the 2007 Goodwood Festival of Speed. LAT photo






Toyota GT-One “I love it – its shapes were different from the rest of the field, a good mix between sharp and smooth lines. It looked futuristic and unique, and I loved the red and white livery.”

ABOVE The GT-One is a classic case of ‘If it went as fast as it looked, it would have the field beat from the start.’ In fact, the Toyota was very fast, and the entry piloted by Ukyo Katayama, Toshio Suzuki and Keiichi Tsuchiya was catching the race-winning BMW in the closing stages of the 1999 Le Mans 24 Hours, but a puncture forced an unschedule pit stop and the Japanese drivers had to settle for a runner-up finish. Pictured is the Thierry Boutsen/Allan McNish/Ralf Kelleners entry. LAT photo

Mercedes CLR “Another car from the 1999 Le Mans 24 Hours. I love the mix between the car being a prototype but still blending in the headlights and rear lights of the CLK road car to make the link. Too bad these cars spent most of their time flying!”

BELOW The No. 5 car of Christophe Bouchut, Nick Heidfeld and Peter Dumbreck was the one infamously captured on TV lifting off and flipping into the trees along the Mulsanne straight during the race, while Dumbreck was at the wheel. This followed two similar accidents for Mark Webber in a sister car during practice. No one was injured in any of the incidents but the third car was withdrawn as a result of this incident. LAT photo

Lola B2K Champ Car “To me, this is the perfect definition of American-style open-wheel cars. I wish Indy cars still looked this good…”

BELOW With some year on year bodywork tweaks, the Lola B2K lasted seven seasons, 2000 through ’06, and in its final season, it was the only car used by Champ Car teams as Reynard went under. This is Bruno Junqueira’s Newman/Haas Racing entry heading for victory at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2004. LAT photo


Porsche 917 “Hard to describe why I love it, but it just brings a special feel of speed and danger when I look at it.”

BELOW Vautier’s sentiments would be amply verified and understood by those who drove early versions of Porsche’s iconic 917. It became more civilized in time, but it still took a genius – a brave genius – to wring the most from it. One such was Vic Elford, shown here in the car he shared with Gerard Larrousse for the 1971 Monza 1000km race. LAT photo

McLaren MP4/4 “This car brings back the Ayrton Senna memories. I love the simplicity and straightness of the lines, as well as the livery.”

BELOW The Honda turbo-powered MP4/4 would win 15 races of the 16 grands prix in 1988 and deliver Senna his first World Championship. Pictured here in Rio, Ayrton would drive to the first of his 13 pole positions that season. LAT photo


STP-Paxton Turbocar “The STP colors look amazing on all of Andy Granatelli’s Indy 500 cars, so I could have put any of them on this list, but I chose this ‘almost Indy 500 winner’ because I think the innovation behind this car is just so incredible.”

ABOVE There’s no other word for it – sensational. Ken Wallis’ creation emerged from a workshop in Santa Monica, Calif., exploited the engine loop-holes in the USAC rules at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and then also threw all-wheel-drive into the mix. A.J. Foyt didn’t like it, neither did Mario Andretti, but then they were fighting against it…. Parnelli Jones loved it, right up until lap 196 of the ’67 Indy 500. IMS photo

McLaren MP4-23 “I had the opportunity to drive this car in 2009.  It was the final year that all the fins and extra aero pieces were allowed, and McLaren delivered a beautiful car, winning the Formula 1 World Championship with Lewis Hamilton.”

BELOW What Stefan modestly omits to mention is that his chance to drive this car came as a reward for winning the 2007 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award. The MP4-23 came out second best to Ferrari’s F2008 in the 2008 F1 Constructors’ Championship, but most people remember this car for Hamilton’s final lap of the final race of the season… LAT photo

Porsche 917 “I’m a big fan of Steve McQueen and the film Le Mans and I think the Porsche 917 in the Gulf livery is such an iconic car.”

BELOW Pedro Rodriguez, Le Mans 24 Hours, 1970, hammer down. Enough said. LAT photo

BMW M3 E30 Simply watch this video and you’ll see why I picked this car (http://youtu.be/Gw-AxiVqihM). So distinctly German, right amidst the peak of the DTM series in the late 1980s. There was lots of technology for the era, and from the clips I’ve seen, the racing looked intense!

BELOW The first iteration of the BMW M3 is, for many people, the most outstanding touring car of the ’80s and early ’90s. In a five-year span, the E30 won one world title, two European titles and nine national championships in Germany, Italy, Britain and Australia. Pictured is Joachim Winkelhock in the Schnitzer-run M3 at Hockenheim in 1991. LAT photo


Williams-Renault FW14B “I love the look of the 1990s F1 cars and this as good as they come! The Adrian Newey-designed machine took Nigel Mansell to his World Championship in ’92. The FW14 and 14B won 17 of the 32 races they were entered into between 1991 and ’92.”

BELOW The Williams FW14 had been the fastest car of 1991, but early-season reliability issues had allowed Senna’s McLaren-Honda to take four straight wins in the opening races, building enough of a cushion to hold off Mansell for the championship. The FW14B, complete with active suspension and solid reliability, matched and raised the stakes, Mansell winning the first five races of 1992. He finished the year with nine victories, 14 poles, the World Championship – and a contract with Newman/Haas Racing for ’93. LAT photo

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