In my book, the McLaren MP4/6 is among the most iconic Formula One cars ever. It was the last V12 to win a championship, the last H-pattern gearbox to win a championship (before semi-automatic transmissions took over) and, perhaps most importantly, it was the ride for Ayrton Senna's last championship.
When I think "F1 car," the image of this McLaren screaming around immediately comes to mind.
When I was a boy I had a toy Porsche. To me it was the most beautiful car I had ever seen, and its shape became my standard for what a cool car should look like. But this was no 911, it was a 959.
The 959 was intended to be Porsche's entry into the notorious world of Group B rallying. The same motorsport that gave us the Audi Quattro and led to the Ferrari F40 pushed Porsche into developing a car that, to me, is simply the most attractive racing car the German manufacturer ever built. Not only that, the road car that came from it to satisfy homologation is still one of the best-looking road cars ever. Although it never made it into Group B, variations raced at Le Mans and at the Paris-Dakar rally.
Why is the Lancia Stratos HF my favorite racer of all time? I could start with the fact that it's arguably the first car explicitly designed for rally racing. I could mention its sonorous V6 borrowed from the Ferrari Dino. I could trumpet its domination of World Rally, bagging the Championship in 1974, 1975 and 1976. I could cite its knee-trembling Marcello Gandini-penned bodywork.
Instead, I'll just note that as a young enthusiast, my love of fast cars was cemented at a very early age, in part thanks to a hand-me-down toy R/C car resplendent in Alitalia livery.
The Shelby Daytona is an American hot-rodding David that was built and designed in a garage for the sole purpose of taking down Italy's Goliath. Behind the car is the late Carroll Shelby, an icon synonymous with American muscle cars and motorsports, as well as Peter Brock, who designed the slipstream bodywork that fit over the AC Cobra chassis to improve high-speed performance.
Just six coupes were built, and in 1964 and 1965, the Daytona was an endurance-racing juggernaut, registering class wins at the 12 hours of Sebring, 24 Hours of Le Mans and 12 Hours of Reims.
The Jaguar D-Type earned wins at Le Mans and Sebring endurance races in the 1950s, but more importantly, it pioneered modern race car construction. The D-Type used a monocoque center tub with front and rear suspension components bolted on. The construction and design relied heavily on aviation principles from the time, as designer Malcolm Sayer came to Jaguar from wartime work at the Bristol Aeroplane Company.
Acura NSX chassis No. 0003 debuted in race trim in 1991 for a one-off race at Sonoma Raceway, but didn't see full-time action until the 1996 season in the Pirelli World Challenge series. Campaigned by RealTime Racing out of Saukville, Wisconsin, the orange-and-white racer netted 14 race wins by the time it was retired after the 2002 season, and took home the GT Driver's Championship in 1997 with Peter Cunningham driving.
The first time I saw this beauty in person was at Portland International Raceway in 2001. By then it had a supercharged engine to battle high-powered cars like Corvettes, Vipers and Ferraris. As a young Honda/Acura enthusiast freshly graduated from high school, seeing the NSX, fleet of Integra Type Rs and meeting the RealTime crew was a dream come true.
Since then, I haven't gone a year without making it to at least one World Challenge race to cheer on the RealTime boys.
Insert coin to play. The Mazda MX-5 Cup Car gets a nod for being one of the easiest points of entry and best values in the racing world. Seriously, where else can you buy a brand-new, turnkey race car with its own global racing series for just $53,000?
Improving over the street 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata's sublime performance, the Cup Car loads up with track safety equipment and racing upgrades while stripping down, removing almost everything not necessary for speed.
My favorite race car of all time is the Porsche 917. Throughout its many iterations, it's been responsible for some really awesome things. It kickstarted Porsche's dominance at Le Mans, it had a ludicrous flat-12 engine with up to 1,100 horsepower in Can/Am trim, and it led to the greatest race-car-with-a-name of all time -- the 917/20 Pink Pig.
My favorite race car is, of course, the one I own and drive in desert endurance races. No. 1617 is powered by an air-cooled Volkswagen 1,600-cc engine, which means she's not fast; 90 horsepower on a good day. She's a bit older and heavier than most of her competition, but she's always up for a good time.
Our race motto: JFF, baby. Just f##king finish.
Back in 1976, I was learning to work on my first car, a Datsun 510, and Frank Leary was something of our local Silicon Valley racing hero, driving a 240Z in Frog Line Racing livery. We had Datsuns in common, and his sponsor was F.A.R. Performance, a legendary Datsun performance shop down the street from my house.
I could watch Frank race at nearby Laguna or Sears Point on Sunday, then visit F.A.R. on Monday to buy whatever go-fast parts race day had inspired me to install -- not a lot on my bike shop wages, but I learned a lot about fast cars by watching a local guy race and reading his sponsor's uniquely instructive catalog like literature, wishing I could afford dual Webers or a custom-ground camshaft.
The Jaguar C-Type (or XK120-C) gave Jaguar its first Le Mans victory in 1951 and changed the race car game by being the first car to use disc brakes in 1952. In '53, it won Le Mans again with two very hungover drivers and saw its last in '54.
I got the chance to drive one on the 2015 Mille Miglia, and even though it melted my shoe (no lie), it was one of the most intoxicating, responsive drives I've ever had. A landmark car in its day, and still rapid today.