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Motorsport icons gathered to celebrate 70 years of Autosport

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15 Jan 2020

Credit: Dominik Wilde

A selection of some of the most iconic cars were assembled at the 2020 Autosport International show last weekend to celebrate 70 years of Autosport Magazine.

The 20-car collection stretched right the way from 1950 all the way to more recent times, and featured machinery from Formula 1, IndyCar, touring car racing, sports car racing, rallying, and Formula E. Here are some highlights;

 

Credit: Dominik Wilde

El Maestro’s Maserati

The Maserati 250F isn’t just one of the most beautiful Formula 1 cars ever made, but one of the most successful.

During a six-year tenure that spanned the 2.5-litre formula the car won eight races and claimed two world championship crowns – both with Juan Manuel Fangio, who won the second and last of his five titles behind the wheel of the car.

Overall 28 were made and all are thought to survive, although the whereabouts of a handful of the cars is currently unknown.

After competing in the first eight seasons of the world championship Maserati departed at the height of its success, continuing as an engine supplier for a few more years. The manufacturer’s most recent high profile motorsport programme remains its MC12 GT1 effort of the 2000s which yielded multiple championships.

 

Credit: Dominik Wilde

Porsche’s 917 gets the ball rolling

The Porsche 917 is arguably the most famous sports prototype in history, and gave Porsche the first two of its record 19 victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

A number of iconic liveries adorned the 917 over its lifetime, including the Martini and ‘Pink Pig’ colours, but perhaps none were as famous as the legendary Gulf colours seen here.

Between 1969-1975 variations of the 917 won 33 races all over the world, making it one of the most successful sports cars ever. It also had a starring role on the silver screen in the Steve McQueen hit Le Mans.

 

Credit: Dominik Wilde

Ground-breaking Lotus

The Lotus 79 of 1978 ushered in the phenomenon of ‘ground effect’. The car made use of the low-pressure area underneath, sealed by deployable skirts to keep the car stuck to the track.

The car helped Lotus dominate the 1978 season, with Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson locking out the top two spots in the standings, despite Peterson missing the final two races of the season after being killed in a violent crash at the Italian Grand Prix. At the Monza race the Swede was driving the Lotus 78 which the team began the year with after he damaged his 79 in practice.

Andretti’s 1978 triumph was his Formula 1 title and came after he won six races, five in the 78 – at the time the second-most wins in a season for a driver. Peterson also won twice in 1978, once in the 78, before his fatal accident.

The car continued to race in 1979 but with considerably less success. Andretti failed to win in the car, while Carlos Reutemann could only notch up four podium finishes, but still no wins.

 

Credit: Dominik Wilde

The (almost) perfect season

The McLaren MP4/4 is one of the most successful F1 cars of all time and has the unique distinction of winning all but one race it entered.

In 1988 a promising youngster called Ayrton Senna was signed by McLaren to partner two-time world champion Alain Prost. Senna won eight races that year, including four in-a-row, while Prost claimed seven victories. It would’ve been a clean sweep for the pair had Senna not collided with a backmarker while leading in Italy, a race where Prost’s car also developed a misfire.

McLaren’s haul of 15 wins in a season remained an outright record until 2002 when Ferrari equalled it, albeit in a season that was a race longer than 1988. Ferrari again equalled the record in 2004 (an 18 race season). Come 2014, McLaren’s record was beaten by Mercedes which won 16 of 19 races. It repeated the feat a year later, before winning a staggering 19 races out of 21 in 2016.

Despite its wins in a season record being beaten, no team has managed to go a season winning all but one race like the MP4/4 did.

 

Credit: Dominik Wilde

 

The Big Cat’s big year

The third iconic tobacco brand-liveried car on show, one that is synonymous with sports car racing and the legendary Group-C era.

Jaguar’s XJR-8 won the 1987 World Sports Car Championship, winning eight races from 10. The car missed out on a historic win at Le Mans that year when two of the three XJR-8s entered retired and the third dropped out of podium contention after being hit by mechanical trouble. Nevertheless it triumphed at Jarama, Jerez, Monza, Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Nürburgring, Spa-Francorchamps, and Fuji.

Its success on track led to it being crowned Autosport’s Racing Car of the Year in the same year, and it went on to be developed into the XJR-9 which carried on Jaguar’s title-winning form in 1988.

 

Credit: Dominik Wilde

Mansell Mania

After many a near miss, Britain’s Nigel Mansell finally won the Formula 1 world championship in 1992 behind the wheel of the Williams FW14B.

The technological marvel was the class of the field that year, helping Mansell to nine wins (five of them consecutively – a record that went on to stand for 12 years) and team mate Riccardo Patrese to another.

A public disagreement over Williams’ signing of rival driver Alain Prost led to Mansell leaving the team at the end of his title-winning season. Form there he moved to America to race in IndyCar for Newman/Haas.

As in F1, Mansell enjoyed quite the success story in American open-wheel racing, winning five races to become champion in his debut season. With the US series ending before the 1993 F1 season, Mansell would briefly hold the unique distinction of being both the reigning F1 champion and the reigning IndyCar champion.

2006-Sadly, Mansell would be unable to repeat the feat in 1994. He failed to win a race that year and eventually returned to F1 for an end of season cameo in place of the late Ayrton Senna.

 

Credit: Dominik Wilde

Diesel done good

Audi was the star marque of the 2000s at Le Mans, winning the French Classic all but twice in the decade (one of those tw going to sister brand Bentley).

The R10 TDI was Audi’s second Le Mans winner, but unlike R8 that preceded it, the R10 was diesel-powered. In fact, it was the first diesel-powered car to win at Le Mans, something it did three times between 2006-2008.

The success of the R10, which won four championships across America and Europe, led to rival brand Peugeot also entering a diesel-powered prototype at Le Mans. The French brand didn’t enjoy the same level of success, winning just once.

Audi retired the R10 in 2009, and its successors the R15 TDI plus, the R18 TDI, and the Audi R18 e-tron quattro added to the Four Rings’ Le Mans legend before Audi departed sports car racing at the end of 2016.

 

Credit: Dominik Wilde

Racing into the future

Brawn’s fairytale triumph during the 2009 season ushered in a new era of F1, which was recovering from the mass-exodous of manufacturers following the 2008 recession.

A few years later manufacturers would flock to start-up series Fomula E in their droves. The all-electric series presented the ideal platform to carmakers who looked to present their green credentials on a global stage.

Formula E is only in its sixth season, but has already proven itself to be a major player in the motorsport world. The city racing series has gone from strength-to-strength and now boasts 12 different manufacturer teams racing in 13 different countries. In 2019 it obtained World Championship status from the FIA, making it the world’s first world championship electric racing series.