If there's one thing that we're thankful for, it's definitely the race car. Some represent the pinnacle of technology, some are simply fun to drive, and others are so insane that we're simply glad they exist. Here are ten of the race cars we're thankful for in 2014.
There are many reasons why the appropriate response to this car is gratitude. Ignore the Gonzo nose for a second. The FW36 not only meant the return of the beautiful Martini livery to a purpose-built race car, but it meant the return of Williams as a force to be reckoned with.
Few cars gave the all-too-dominant Mercedes cars as much grief this year as that Williams FW36, whose cars would often be found right behind the Mercs towards the end of the season.
For years, we've seen Williams languish in the middle of the pack—a competent also-ran, but not anyone you'd get particularly excited about. Long gone were the glory days where they were one of the best funded, most competitive cars on the grid.
That changed with this year's all-pwning PU106A Hybrid power unit from Mercedes. Williams may have merely chosen the right engine at the right time, but boy, did they ever benefit from it. Having a quick power unit in a competent package catapulted the team back to where they needed to be, and gave drivers Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa the spotlight they deserve.
I don't think it's possible to mention how lovely the clean stripes of the Williams Martini Racing livery are enough, either. I am a "white cars are boring" hater and still fell in love.
Mazda Global MX-5 Cup
Miatas always look better in race trim. It's just where they belong. When the stunningly beautiful new Mazda MX-5 came out, everyone was wondering how long it would take for one to appear in race trim.
Answer: not long.
Mazda is now setting their sights on an international series that all uses the same car, very similar to the successful incarnations of the Porsche GT3 Cup that take place all over the world.
Identical cars, all professionally prepared by the same shop. A Tudor United SportsCar prototype test date up for grabs as a prize for winning the Global Shootout at Laguna Seca.
I can't wait to see these race in person. Luckily, they'll be racing all over the world now.
Nameless Performance Toyota GT-86
The Toyobaru was meant to be a fun sportscar to tackle all kinds of racing: drifting, track days, etc., etc. What no one expected was for one to be made into a rally car, even though people rally just about anything nowadays.
This is a car that geeks everywhere hailed as the modern-day return of the hachiroku, the drift car made insanely popular in Initial D.
You know what makes sweet drifts better? Dirt.
Toyota may be preparing their own World Rally Championship R3-class GT-86 for rally shenanigans, but the Oregonians of Nameless Performance beat them to the punch. We're thankful not only for the insanity of a rally Toyobaru, but the fact that it's reviving interest in two-wheel-drive, and specifically, rear-wheel-drive rallying.
Chevrolet Corvette C7.R
Thanksgiving is somewhat of a uniquely American holiday, so it's only proper to include a uniquely American screaming yellow missile of domination on the list of race cars we're thankful to have in motorsports.
Endurance racing fans everywhere were deeply saddened to hear of SRT's departure from TUSC this year, so we're thankful that one team still flies the stars and stripes high for all to see (often from behind): the C7.R.
The #3 C7.R finished second in TUSC's GT Le Mans class this year, only being beaten by the #93 SRT Viper. The car also proved to be competitive at Le Mans, where the C7.R finished second among GTE Pro-class cars from all around the world.
Without SRT, a team championship is surely in the C7.R's grasp for 2015.
Good luck, Corvette Racing. America is counting on you.
Ford Fiesta RS WRC
If there was ever a car that defined the meat 'n' potatoes of the World Rally Championship, it would be the savior of privateer efforts everywhere: the Ford Fiesta. There are so many of these plucky little Fords rallying now that we can't just give thanks for one, but rather the entire Fiesta WRC platform.
Ford has enabled countless professional and amateur teams to get into rallying through this particular vehicle, and it's proven to be a decent competitor. This is the car that piloted by the privateer one-off who almost won Rallye Monte Carlo this year, after all.
Even Ken Block runs a Fiesta nowadays, and he's certainly proven that it's a tough beast of a rally car.
Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT America
Sometimes we're thankful for a car based on who's running it. The Magnus Racing team makes us laugh year after year.
I get the feeling that Magnus loves what they do and that's why I love seeing their car on track. The merger between ALMS and Grand-Am to create TUSC was a rocky one to say the least, with many teams not feeling comfortable with the merged series.
Grand-Am veterans Magnus Racing are in for the long haul, though. This week, they released a "shocking announcement" (akin to the announcements of teams who've left TUSC) that they're going to stay in the series and keep doin' what they're doin'.
The Magnus crew brings much-needed levity into a series that's taken itself a bit too seriously this year. For that, we give thanks.
Tuthill Porsche 997 RGT
Like the Nameless Performance Toyobaru, the Tuthill Porsche is a car you'd expect to see at all kinds of track events, but not necessarily a rally.
That's silly, as all that engine weight above the drive wheels makes it a fairly decent rally car. Of COURSE a 911 belongs in rally.
That's why we're thankful for the Tuthill Porsche, a 997 GT3 Cup that's been homologated for use in the World Rally Championship's RGT class.
Not only is it one of several rear-wheel-drive cars out there at the moment proving that rally doesn't all have to be done in FWD or AWD cars, but it's opened up the RGT class for more 911 GT3 Cup cars to participate in.
WRC races with Porsche 911s? These are two of my favorite things.
Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype
I'll admit this one is a bit of a stretch since I'm personally more of a fan of the more varied P2-style ALMS prototypes, but hear me out. Much like the Magnus Racing Porsche, you know that the guys behind this car are having fun with it.
I'm thankful that one of the silliest looking race cars on the track this year could bring us a crew who likes to make music videos for fans' amusement, grow rad mullets and overall lighten the mood surrounding TUSC.
As mentioned earlier, it's been a rough year trying to blend the two American endurance series into something that makes sense, and I feel for any team who's along for the bumpy ride. As highly esteemed Chevy racers, it is the Wayne Taylor Racing team's solemn duty to America to bring the lulz.
I never thought I'd say this about a Daytona Prototype, but I'm thankful every time these guys are out on track.
(It also sounds quite nice. 600-hp 5.5-liter V8s tend to do that.)
Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Baja Truck
"It's not what you have, it's how you use it." Owners of Tundras everywhere, give thanks. Toyota just proved that you can modify an off-the-showroom-floor Tundra, take it to the Baja 1000, and have it finish one of the most grueling races in the world.
The Baja is a true desert endurance race, testing both man and machine for 849 miles on some of the most challenging terrain in existence. A truck must be incredibly tough just to survive the washed-out roads and varied lands of the Baja.
Toyota took a huge risk when they entered their Tundra in this year's race. Luckily, they didn't suck. They finished 69th out of 131 finishers overall, and first in the Full Stock class.
This is the kind of real-world performance tests manufacturers should do more of in racing. I don't want a 911 just because it looks pretty. I want one because I know the race car's fast. The same logic should apply to trucks.
"Of course this is a worthy tow beast! It survived the Baja!"
While the Toyota TS040 deserves at least a mention on this list for proving to be a worthy nemesis to upend years of Audi LMP1 domination, no car has done quite as much to make people care about the World Endurance Championship as the Porsche 919.
You see, geeks like me are always going to gravitate towards the WEC because it's like a full year of mini-Le Manses and bringing the same cars I watch run for a continuous day in June to race all around the world is simply wonderful. Until this year, though, the WEC has always seemed like an also-ran in the world of racing, despite being featuring crazier technology than Formula One and being the highest echelon of sportscar endurance racing.
Enter the Porsche 919, and the wave of publicity it brought with it. Endurance racing is simply where Porsche belongs, and by making their highly publicized return, they've brought a newfound wave of enthusiasm with them.
The 919 gave popular ex-Formula One driver Mark Webber a place to run, bringing much of his fanbase with him to WEC. We finally got to see Webber unfettered by Red Bull's team orders and given the chance to succeed on his own merits.
Furthermore, the car was good. Porsche led Le Mans for much of the race this year, only to have a heartbreaking mechanical problem drop both cars out of contention at the very end. Still, having another on-pace LMP1 team in the mix made the entire race a nail-biter from start to finish.
What once was an under-publicized series now has the attention of manufacturers like Nissan and Ferrari who are floating around the idea of entering an LMP1 prototype, both at Le Mans and for the whole season. Some teams who didn't feel as if they found a home in the ALMS-Grand Am merger have jumped ship to the WEC as well, and now we've got Patrick Dempsey and Patrick Long making a high-profile commitment to run the series.
Toyota may be the OG nemesis to the dominant Audis at this point, but the 919 got the world to take notice.
We may soon see a full schedule's worth of races where multiple manufacturers are contending for the top prize in Le Mans prototype racing, and the world is a better place for it. I don't think the WEC's going to stay an also-ran for long.
Also, Your Race Car
Technically, this would be an eleventh car on the list, but I don't care. It's the most important one.
I don't care what you have or how you race it. It doesn't matter if you're one of the lucky professionals reading this article or a kid who autocrosses your mom's Corolla. I'm thankful that you're out there racing. You enterprising nuts keep our vehicular playgrounds open by participating in and volunteering with race events of all kinds across the globe.
I'm glad you're here.
What race cars are you thankful for? Let us know in the comments below.
Photo credits: Getty Images (Williams top shot, Williams livery, 919 motion shot, Corvette C7.R, Fiesta RS WRC, Wayne Taylor Racing DP), Mazda (MX-5 Cup), Nameless Performance (GT-86), Toyota (Baja Tundra)