These are the most successful American racing cars of all time
America is no stranger to motorsport. They are home to some of the fiercest national motorsport competitions in the world. Championships like NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA SportsCar Championship and individual events like Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb draw huge crowds and have become deeply rooted in American culture. So it’s pretty safe to say that Americans know a thing or two about building sick race cars and how to make them run. However, even with such a strong national culture, manufacturers seem to ignore international racing series.
American manufacturers or teams are not very interested in racing in series like Formula 1 or the World Rally Championship. While they are currently racing at Le Mans they are not here to win which is weird. But every now and then an American team or manufacturer decides to show it to the great dogs of Europe and Japan and build something so phenomenal that it inspires movies and books. It’s the story of the cars that have dominated the world circuits. They are the most successful American racing cars of all time.
Ford GT40 Mk IV
Ford’s iconic battle with Ferrari is the business of legends at this point. Widely regarded as one of the best rivalries in motorsport, it was very well documented and inspired Oscar winning books and film. So we’re not going to tell this story anymore. However, we have to talk about the Ford GT40 Mk IV.
The blue oval on the nose of early GT40s is as American as it gets, but the Ford GT40 itself was not very American. The first generations were designed, designed and built by Lola in England. On the other hand, the Mk IV was as American as apple pie and built almost from scratch at Ford’s Wixom assembly plant. Unfortunately, he only spun a wheel of anger in two races in 1967, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, winning both. The latter was, and still is, the only all-American overall victory in Le Mans history.
The Corvette is the American sports car. But until the C5-R, it was only successful in domestic competition. However, when GM wanted to race internationally, they wanted to do it right, with a factory team and a capable car. That’s when their eyes caught the Corvette C5. It was a nice car with a lot of promise, so they kept going.
The Corvette C5-R was introduced in 1999 and competed in its first race at the Daytona 24 Hours, but it had to wait until 2000 to secure a few category victories. But once these arrived, they never stopped. In 2001 it won the Daytona, outdoing prototypes and other cars in its class, and a class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for good measure. During his stint of 55 races, he scored 31 class and overall victories and three Le Mans class victories. After the C5-R Corvette has never stopped winning and has at least one victory at Le Mans, not counting the new C8, but we are sure that it will join the club as well.
Eagle Mk 1
Eagle Mk 1 was an American-built Formula 1 car that is forever etched in American motorsport and Formula 1 history. Built by the Anglo-American Racers team of legendary racing driver Dan Gurney, it was a beautifully designed runner, but he was never very successful.
Still, it is a car worthy of being included in this list because it is an impressive car. Powered by a 3.0 liter V12 and with a design that looked like a shark, it looked and sounded mean. On the track he was not as quick as Gurney would have liked, but he won the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix even after suffering some mechanical problems during the race. This victory is very special because it makes Dan Gurney and Eagle Mk 1 one of three drivers to win with a car they make and the first and only American-built car to win in Formula 1.
Chrysler Viper GTS-R
The first generation Dodge Viper was a difficult car to control with all the power Dodge could muster under its long hood, which was probably a bit too much. A little too much for street use, that is, because the Viper was a natural on the track, once Dodge put a roof over the driver.
The Viper’s early attempts at racing were not very successful, as the chassis was not stiff enough to be quick around the corners. However, the second generation Viper had a roof, which meant it could be a good racing car. The road and race versions of the Dodge Viper GTS were developed simultaneously, with help from Oracle. The Dodge Viper GTS-R topped its class and won 149 races, including 3 wins at Le Mans and overall wins at Daytona, Spa and Nürburgring with 5 FIA GT championships.
Carroll Shelby’s dream of seeing his own cars race on European circuits came true with the Cobra. Arguably one of the most recognizable cars in motorsport history, almost every gearbox knows the history of the Cobra and its importance.
While Shelby America’s Ford-powered Cobras ate Corvettes and other hapless foes in national breakfast races, it was a very light and agile car with a powerful small-block V8 under the hood, this which was a bit of a stretch for American tracks, so naturally Shelby America turned to international competition. As the Cobras raced to support the Daytona Cobra, they scored many important class victories to help Shelby American win the Manufacturers’ Championship for GT cars, a first for American teams.
Chaparral 2 Series
Chaparral was an extremely innovative and equally controversial manufacturer. The Series 2 cars were designed by Jim Hall and Hap Sharp. These cars were sometimes so advanced that it was not fair to race against them. Therefore, they were banned from participating in most championships.
The Series 2 cars were originally designed for the Can-Am series. However, Chaparrals sometimes found themselves racing Ferraris and Jaguars, and they won. Different Chaparrals have won international events such as the Nürburgring 1000 Km, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the BOAC 500.
Once Ford announced that they would be back at Le Mans, 50 years after their dazzling 1-2-3 at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world was looking forward to it. Ford has delivered on its promises with arguably the most memorable and iconic GT car of the modern era, the Ford GT. This exceptional machine was developed to pay homage to the GT40, but it eventually became an endurance racing car that marked the era.
As promised, Ford took part in the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans with the new GT. And they were victorious with a 1-2-4 finish, not as iconic as their previous win, but it served its purpose. Ford maintained the factory racing program for four years, winning 19 IMSA and FIAWEC races along the way.
Shelby Daytona Coupe
What Carroll Shelby and Pete Brock achieved with the Daytona Coupe is no small feat. Building a racing car with exceptional aerodynamic advantage in the dark ages of aerodynamics is a feat in itself. But doing it as a bunch of hot rodders makes it more impressive.
The Daytona Coupé was based on the Shelby Cobra and shared its chassis and engine. Pete Brock designed a gorgeous elongated body with a Kamm tail to maximize top speed, and Shelby American was off to the races. As well as being one of the most beautiful American racing cars, it was also one of the most successful. Shelby beat Ferrari in his backyard with the Daytona and won the GT class at the 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans, a year before the Ford GT40. It also won the 1965 Manufacturers’ Championship for GT cars with the help of the Cobra.
NASCAR is expected to feature hybrid race cars after 2021 with electrified NASCAR racers on the tracks in 2022.
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