What's the Best Race Engine of All Time?

The most wins, the finest engineering, or just the engine with the best sound.

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Who doesn’t love a good race car? Whether it’s a bone-stock street car or a top-tier custom prototype, every car looks better as it tears through a track. But as interesting as big wings and wide fender flares can be, the best part of any race car is its beating heart: Its engine.

Today, we’re talking about the best race engines of all time. They can be wholly unique race engines, tuned-up street motors, or even the bone stock powerplant from a car that’s just fun to drive on track — yes, your Miata’s one point six liters of fury are eligible.

Mazda 787B - Le Mans (wonderful sound) (HD)

That little Miata motor will face some stiff competition, however, and some of it from within Mazda’s own stable. See, that company also built my pick for the greatest race engine of all time: The 2.6-liter quad-rotor R26B, found in the 787B built for Le Mans.


Was the R26B unfalteringly reliable? It was not, no. Did it make four-digit horsepower, like nearly the entire Formula DRIFT field does today? Absolutely not. But it did make something else that was wholly unique, and that places it atop the race-engine rankings: That sound. The clip above has some great examples, but I’m told it’s even better in person, and one day I’ll find that out for myself.

That’s my pick for the greatest race engine in history, but what’s yours? Are you an adherent of the Church of the Almighty LS, with its long and storied history of whisking Corvettes across finish lines, or are you more interested in the absolutely absurd Toyota 2AR four-cylinder that makes 1,185 horsepower in Ryan Tuerck’s drift Corolla? Leave your top picks in the comments, and we’ll collect our favorites tomorrow afternoon.