Should Race Cars Look Like Real Cars?

Illustration for article titled Should Race Cars Look Like Real Cars?

Automobile L'Ouest, the sanctioning body for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has announced that by 2010 all cars in the top prototype LMP1 class must feature both a closed cockpit and bodywork resembling actual production cars. The thinking is that the LMP1 cars are "dream cars" and that fans should not be able to tell Peugeots apart from Pescarolos. On the one hand we are totally for this move, as win on Sunday, sell on Monday is one of our favorite mantras. Also, despite knowing all about the bleeding-edge tech that goes into the top cars, we find the GT1 class so much more interesting. But on the other hand, have you looked at the top Le Mans racers lately? They're gorgeous. From Bentley's beautiful yet butt-whooping Speed-8 to Audi's devil in the diesel back to back Le Mans champ R10, these cars look fantastic. And as Automobile's Robert Cumberford argued a few months back, passenger car designers should be looking to the future (Le Mans prototypes) instead of slavishly clinging to the past (ala J Mays style retroism). What sayeth you?

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DISCUSSION

I did like the old roadsters where you could actually see the driver at work. Things evolve. Racecars should be cutting edge, mechanically, aerodynamically and from a styling viewpoint. I hate where Nascar has gone, all the cars look the same, slap some graphics on there and you have a Fusion. To Cumberford's point the auto companies should be looking for breakthroughs in design thinking. It's not that a designer can't look at what was successful in the past for inspiration. The new Mustang is a styling success, the last Thunderbird was not, the retro application doesn't always work. Not really a good analogy but I'll say it anyway; look at a '55 Chevy and then a '65 Chevy, ten years, but a big advance in styling (well, they're really different anyway). Now think '97 Camry, '07 Camry; get my point. Don't strangle the sport with needless regulations. The R10 is one of my favorite cars, sitting still or on the track it is an elegant design. And if you have been at the track, it is by far the quietest racer out there.