x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Top Five: Road racing cars

Motoring's favourite five cars built purely for road-racing speed.

The 1984 Audi Sport Quattro.
The 1984 Audi Sport Quattro.

Porsche 911 2.7RS

We could fill this entire page with a list of classic 911s but the Carrera 2.7RS of 1973 is undoubtedly the most important. Built so the 911 could be homologated for racing, the original RS showed just what the venerable Porsche design was capable of: raw, visceral thrills thanks to its unique design and the fact that, depending on what trim level it had, it could weigh less than 1,000kg. Five hundred needed to be built yet the figure ended up totalling 1,580, and they're highly prized by collectors. Drive one and you'll understand why.

 

BMW M3

To get BMW's 3 Series into Group A Touring Car racing, the company developed one of the greatest driver's cars of all time with the E30 generation M3. Its straight-six engine may have only pumped out 200hp (less than half that of the latest M3s) but it weighed a substantial 400kg less. The competition cars ruled the Spa and Nürburgring 24-hour races during the 1980s and, to this day, the roadgoing car is an absolute blast. Driver involvement doesn't normally come anywhere near these levels.

 

Audi Sport quattro

The R8 has recently put Audi back on the supercar map but, in 1984, they were there with the Sport quattro, built so the car could compete in the ill-fated Group B rallying. Just 164 road cars were made, with a further 50 used as prototypes or competition cars. The roadgoing Sport was quicker than a Lamborghini Countach and the rallying versions, despite Group B's untimely demise, have gone on to obliterate competition in some of the world's most extreme sporting events. It makes the R8 look a bit feeble.

 

AC Cobra MkIII

Possibly the most macho car ever to turn a wheel, the Cobra was developed into a fearsome racing machine for American team boss Carroll Shelby who wanted a "Corvette beater". The MkIII, which combined light weight with huge levels of V8 grunt, slayed competition from not only Corvette, but also Jaguar, Porsche and Ferrari. Roadgoing Cobras are a real handful which, combined with their pumped-up looks, has been responsible for the MkIII becoming the most replicated car in history.

 

Ferrari 250 GTO

If ever one model embodied all the key attributes of Ferrari, the 250 GTO is it. It's rare, with only 39 being produced, and every single one has competed in top-level motorsport at one time or another. So they all have provenance aplenty. Stunningly beautiful, its masterpiece of a V12 engine produced 300hp, which was a lot in 1962. UK radio presenter Chris Evans wanted one so badly he sold part of his car collection to raise the required £12 million (Dh72m) when the one pictured above was auctioned last year.