Few American chase cars are as admired as the Ford GT, which becoming motorsports aeon acknowledgment to its belvedere ambit at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans (as depicted in the blur Ford v Ferrari). Its ability antagonism bequest was active with the barrage of the latest-generation, EcoBoost-powered Ford GT antagonism program, one that denticulate a blemish chic win at the 2016 Le Mans race—50 years afterwards Ford’s signature celebration in 1966.
Although it’s the best allegorical American Le Mans car of all time, the Ford GT is far from the alone one to attempt and win at the French ability race. The acreage of the red, white, and dejected has a affluent ancestry of architecture racers to chase in the added acreage of the red, white, and blue. Some were developed by boilerplate automakers, others by absolute outfits, with after-effects alignment from amazing failures to checkered-flag glory. Regardless, all apparent American ethics of accession and aggressive spirit. These cars ability not accept the Ford GT’s cachet, but anniversary is account remembering.
ATTENTION LE MANS FANS! MotorTrend is the EXCLUSIVE SPOT IN THE U.S. area admirers will be able to see all of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Sign up for our appropriate activity of alone $2 a ages for a year, and you’ll get all of the action, including condoning on Thursday, September 17, alive chase advantage alpha at 7:30 a.m. ET (4:30 a.m. PT) on September 19, and the checky banderole afterwards 24 hours of on-track battle. In addition, admirers will be able to appearance appropriate agreeable above-mentioned to and during the Le Mans weekend—part of a all-inclusive arrangement of added than 3,200 hours of agreeable accessible on the MotorTrend app.
One of the ancient American-built Le Mans entrants was additionally amid the best strangest. In 1950, the allegorical Briggs Cunningham entered his aboriginal of abounding Le Mans contest with two Cadillac Alternation 61s. Minor changes were activated to one of these vehicles, while the added was absolutely transformed—and became accepted as Le Monstre. It becoming this appellation acknowledgment to its barbarous bodywork, which amid the auto and did abroad with a roof in following of aerodynamics. Beneath the vented awning (with American flags proudly emblazoned on either side) was a five-carb, 5.4-liter V-8 authoritative 160 hp and enabling a 130-mph top speed—13 mph faster than the added Cadillac. Although Le Monstre bootless to abode competitively, it served as a alive analysis bed for approaching aerodynamic enhancements.
A absolute archetype of race-car-as-marketing, Cadillac created the Northstar LMP to attempt in the 2000 Le Mans race. The cast approved to position itself as a high-performance affluence automaker, and it acclimated the Northstar name to tie its alternation of V-8 engines to antagonism potential. Indeed, the Northstar LMP’s 4.0-liter assemblage was based on a assembly Northstar engine, but it additionally featured two turbochargers and heavily revised internals in an accomplishment to adapt it for the rigors of ability racing. (McLaren assisted with the engine’s development.) The Northstar LMP aggregate some administration cues with roadgoing Cadillac’s, too, such as the egg-crate grille that bore the brand’s crest. The activity bootless to accomplish at Le Mans, but Cadillac still competes in ability antagonism today.
America’s sports car has an illustrious history in ability racing. In the backward 1990s, Chevrolet apprenticed with Michigan’s Pratt & Miller engineering close to assassinate the Corvette’s Le Mans campaign. Its aboriginal artefact was the C5.R, a adapted and race-prepared adaptation of the fifth-generation Corvette. Using a V-8 acquired from the Chevy LS1 block, the C5.R accepted acknowledged and Pratt & Miller kept its arrangement with Chevrolet. Afterwards the C5.R, it went on to advance the C6.R and C7.R—all of which accept won chic victories at Le Mans. The close is additionally amenable for the mid-engine C8.R, a car that the 2022 Corvette Z06 will acceptable bassinet heavily from. Although the C8.R won’t arise at Le Mans in 2020, it will no agnosticism be a alarming adversary aback it allotment to the race, which should be in 2021.
When the C8.R eventually rolls on to the Circuit de la Sarthe, it’ll be the aboriginal mid-engine Corvette to attempt on that track—right? Not quite. In the mid-1980s, Chevrolet developed the Corvette GTP, a mid-engine ancestor aggressive by the road-going Corvette. Although it entered calm ability contest such as the 24 Hours of Daytona, it never performed able-bodied abundant to attempt on the apple stage. Chevrolet canceled the Corvette GTP affairs in 1988, but in 1990, the anatomy was acquired by a California accouterments alleged Eagle Performance. Aggregation Eagle had its architect set on Le Mans and aching calm a account to get the car—renamed the Eagle 700—in chase shape. That action basic utilizing a absurd 10.2-liter V-8 engine, which was said to aftermath some 900 hp. Once in France, the Eagle 700 suffered mishaps at every step. Pre-race inspections begin it out of compliance, and during qualifying, it overheated and failed. Still, it’s the abutting a mid-engine Corvette has anytime appear to antagonism at Le Mans. Hopefully, the C8.R will book better.
Certainly the best characteristic (and arguably the best controversial) Le Mans car in contempo years, the DeltaWing looked abundant like a four-wheeled fighter jet. Designed by Ben Bowlby and congenital by Dan Gurney’s All American Racers, the DeltaWing abstraction started out as a accessible IndyCar architecture backed by IndyCar aggregation buyer Chip Ganassi, and again after Bowlby formed with agent and ability car architect Don Panoz to acreage the Le Mans entrant. The DeltaWing took aerodynamics to the acute with its narrow, acicular advanced end that badly cone-shaped to a added accustomed amplitude at the back. That resulted in a huge abridgement in drag, which meant it could run competitively with abundant beneath power—at least, in theory.
It took to the Circuit de la Sarthe in the 2012 Le Mans chase as a “Garage 56” beginning ancestor chic aspirant with a Nissan powerplant and accumulated backing, but unfortunately, it ashore aboriginal on and could not continue. (Later the car’s architecture and who endemic it became the accountable of a accusation amid Panoz and Nissan and Bowlby.) However, the time it spent on clue at Le Mans adumbrated that it could accumulate clip with added P2 Chic prototypes, and its acquainted Nissan Juke-derived agent accepted efficient. The car would run in several added contest with assorted configurations and engines through the 2016 season. Added than abounding added cars, the DeltaWing showed American adeptness and alertness to angle the norms to succeed.
American agent Don Panoz was active in avant-garde ability racing; he was amenable for establishing the American Le Mans Alternation in 1999. Above-mentioned to founding that series, Panoz created his namesake sports car cast with a focus on motorsport. Its consummate accomplishment was the Esperante GTR-1, which bankrupt from assemblage by agreement the agent in advanced of the disciplinarian instead of the added accepted rear-mid-engine layout. The GTR-1’s acute ambit ability assume to impede drivability, but the blueprint had merits. Although it never succeeded at Le Mans, it did able-bodied in added European ability races. Of accurate absorption was the Q9 variant, which added an beginning amalgam abetment arrangement to the GTR-1’s 6.0-liter V-8. Highly abnormal in the backward 1990s, it was a augury for the amalgam powertrains begin in today’s top-level ancestor chase cars.
The Dodge Charger is accepted for its accomplishment on egg-shaped advance and annoyance strips, but it additionally showed up to represent the United States in the 1976 active of Le Mans. A accord amid European chase organizers and NASCAR’s Bill France resulted in the Charger—successful at the 24 Hours of Daytona—earning an allurement to Le Mans. It accustomed packing a 7.0-liter Hemi V-8 and emblazoned with logos for Olympia Beer, its sponsor. The Charger was absolutely out of abode amid the Porsches and BMWs it competed adjoin but managed to acme 200 mph on the Mulsanne straight. Appear chase day, it DNF’d about anon due to agent abortion brought on by low-octane European fuel. Nonetheless, there could accept hardly been a added American agent to represent the United States at Le Mans in the mid-1970s.
Sometimes derided as a simple beef car, the Viper accepted itself as a track-ready American exotic—never bigger exemplified than with the Le Mans-tuned GTS-R version. Unmistakably a Viper, the GTS-R acquired aerodynamic aids, a beyond ammunition cell, and upgraded lighting to adapt it for the rigors of ability racing, but it retained a adaptation of the alley car’s massive V-10 engine. The GTS-R affairs ran through three ancestors of Viper, from 1996 to 2014. Over that period, it denticulate chic wins at the 1998, 1999, and 2000 24 Hours of Le Mans, solidifying the Viper as a accurate American sports car—not aloof a straight-line beef machine.
Behind the Wheel: Jonny Lieberman Drives Ford’s Ultimate Supercar
Click to expand
Gallery: McLaren Speedtail Top Speed Run (motor1)