Whether or not it has improved motor racing is debatable, but the adoption of aerodynamics has given the sport some totally wild creations.
1. Chaparral 2JIt might look like a bathtub made love to a pair of clothes dryers, but the Chaparral’s bizarre exterior hid a secret weapon: fan-assisted aerodynamics. Big rubber skirts sealed the body to the ground while a pair of fans mounted behind the driver sucked the car onto the road. It was enormously fast, but plagued with mechanical issues and quickly banned.
2. Peugeot 208 T16The crazy T16 has about as much to do with a regular Peugeot 208 as Sebastien Loeb does with a regular driver. Essentially Peugeot’s 908 Le Mans racer with a 652kW twin-turbocharged V6 in the middle, what really allowed the T16 to obliterate the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 2013 was its enormous wings, which generated F1 levels of downforce.
3. Audi S1 E2 QuattroAudi’s wild E2 Quattro was one of the first rally cars to really embrace aerodynamics. With the power of air pressing it into the ground, Walter Röhrl described wrestling this flame-spitting monster as like “driving a tank”. It mightn’t have handled very well, but its crazy looks and incredible noise endeared it to a generation of rally fans.
4. Nissan DeltawingCombining Batman styling with genuine left-field race car engineering, the Deltawing is one of those ideas that shouldn’t work, but does. The radical triangle layout gets the headlines, but the Deltawing’s aero is equally clever, forgoing ugly, drag-inducing wings for downforce-generating channels in the sides and underbody.
5. Lotus F1 Type 49B When Lotus introduced wings to F1 in 1968, they were mounted high above the car on struts to take advantage of the cleaner air. However, numerous breakages, which led to some enormous accidents, caused the high-wing concept to be banned. Attaching the wings directly to the bodywork made them much safer and no less effective.
6. Brabham BT46BWhen you think of outrageous aero, Brabham’s ‘fan car’ springs immediately to mind. The brainchild of legendary designer Gordon Murray, it was officially an ‘engine cooling device’. After winning on debut, the car was withdrawn by Brabham as a political ploy by team owner Bernie Ecclestone, who was beginning to take control of F1.
7. Mclaren P1Not a race car, but the incredible P1 brings race car levels of downforce to the road. Its peak load of 600kg is roughly equivalent to that of a Formula 3 racer, enough to break the suspension on a regular car. Key to this is the amazing active rear wing, which extends at speed to boost downforce yet has an F1-style DRS flap to shed drag on straights.
8. Ferrari F2008F1 may have been at its fastest in 2004, but in terms of aerodynamic complexity, the zenith came in 2008. Triplane front wings, engine cover fins and massively convoluted exhaust chimneys generated good numbers in the wind tunnel, but also made the cars as ugly as sin. Thankfully, a change in regulations led to a cleaner look for 2009.
9. BMW M4 DTMOriginally a touring car series, Germany’s DTM racers have now evolved to the point where they are virtually single seaters with more bodywork. The resultant downforce makes the cars incredibly fast, but unfortunately – just like F1 – the racing is often processional due to the cars not being able to follow each other closely.