The Greatest Race Car of All Time?

The title immediately calls for an argument. You can nominate the MP4/4, and you would have a strong argument. You could talk about that Ferrari from 2004. Or the Alfetta that dominated early World Championship racing. The Silver Arrows. (modern F1 cars after the development freeze are not considered here; if the others can’t catch up, I’m not interested in your argument).

But if we’re talking about a car that won in different series over several years… then that car is the Porsche 956/962. In fact, I won’t even put that caveat in there. Any car that wins Le Mans six times in a row during the greatest era of sportscar racing, plus a seventh as a controversial GT car (the rules that year were described as having a loophole big enough to drive a Porsche 962 through) is a car that cannot be questioned.

So let’s remove the question mark. The 956/962 is the greatest race car ever built.

Motorsport magazine decided to track down what has to be the largest collection of these cars anywhere, including Le Mans winners and late-career versions for a wonderful cover spread.

The nice thing about Motorsport is that you don’t need to waste a bunch of time reading about 70s econoboxes or even the utter dumbed-down and sanitized tripe that is modern F1. Most of this magazine is dedicated to stuff 20 years old or older, which makes the reading a lot more interesting. And the modern stuff? Tom Kristensen is always worth reading about!

The highlight of this issue, to me, is the article about Giacomelli’s Alfa 182. What a wonderful, evocative, vehicle. When I first started watching F1, Alfas were the Marlboro cars near the front of the grid, while the McLaren’s were backmarkers (also Marlboro sponsored). The Alfas never seemed to last, of course–that iteration of the factory team appeared to be driven more by passion and genius than attention to the kind of detail that will bring a car to the end of a race in one piece. But then, passion and genius are what auto racing should mostly be about. Process compliance and detail refinement only come to the fore when society is going through a boring phase (and when the rules allow very little innovation).

This was an interesting issue.

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer from Argentina. His latest novel is a dark historic fantasy entitled The Swords of Rasna, in which Etruscan armies and black magic attempt to hold off the might of Rome. You can check it out here.

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