This is the 23rd installment in RACER’s ongoing 25th anniversary celebration during which we share the 25 most important issues from our first quarter century.
In stark contrast to today’s era of spec cars, restrictive rules and “balance of performance,” one central founding principle of RACER Magazine has been that great racecars are competitors, too. We believe that they create meaning and storylines that generate an equal amount of emotional appeal relative to the great drivers, tracks and races that define the history of the sport. So, it was natural that RACER editor-in-chief Laurence Foster (an aerodynamicist in his previous life) chose to make this an enduring issue theme only four months into the RACER 3.0 era.
What better car to represent the concept of the RACER Great Cars Issue than perhaps the greatest of them all? Foster chose the mighty Porsche 917/30 SCCA Can-Am championship-winning ride of Team Penske’s iconic first driver, the late Mark Donohue, as Issue No. 244’s cover subject and he commissioned talented Portuguese artist Riccardo Santos to create one of RACER‘s most popular covers of all time.
The other cars that made the RACER Great Cars short list were McLaren Honda MP4/4, the Porsche 956/962, the Johnny Lightning VPJ Colt Ford, Lotus 72 Ford, Williams FW07 Ford and McLaren M23 Ford.
RACER‘s editors asked some great racers: What was the best racecar you ever drove and which car do you wish you had driven? Marcus Gronholm, AJ. Foyt, Tony Stewart, Richard Petty, Dario Franchitti, Niki Lauda, Rubens Barrichello, Scott Pruett, Mark Webber, Gil DeFerran, Tom Kristensen, Bobby Rahal and Mario Andretti delivered insightful and in some cases, surprising answers.
Some of racing’s most respected designers shared which cars they admired most. The insights of Gian Paolo Dallara, Gordon Murray, Bruce Ashmore, Patrick Head, John Barnard and Adrian Reynard celebrated some of the most revolutionary cars ever created. RACER‘s editors also looked at some of the sport’s greatest head-to-head battles: Maserati 250F versus the Vanwall VW5, Mercedes versus Auto Union and Lancia Stratos versus the Ford Escort.
An engine is the heart of any great racing car, and RACER examined three of racing’s greatest and longest-lived powerplants: the legendary Offenhauser, the Ford Cosworth DFV and its IndyCar cousin, the Cosworth DFX. Writer Edd Straw explored the greatness of recent racing cars in a feature titled “Modern Classics.”
IndyCar veteran Oriol Servia and RACER‘s Richard James examined the then-new McLaren MP4C sports car that translated decades of McLaren engineering excellence into a winning formula for the road.
RACER editor David Malsher’s interview with the dynamic duo of Dale Coyne and the late Justin Wilson reminded all of us why we love underdogs. The RACER In Focus by Rick Graves featured the Muscle Milk Acura HPD ARX-03a IMSA American Le Mans Series P1 Prototype straight off the racetrack and a victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca only a few days before. The car was deliberately not cleaned before the shoot so its scars of battle could remain on full display.
RACER 244 also marked RACER‘s return to newsstands across America with distribution in Barnes & Noble bookstores and other premium outlets. The economic damage from The Great Recession and Carpocalypse was still being felt, but this was an important next step in rebuilding RACER‘s brand and reputation.