Five eye catching racing cars that never got to compete
As a general rule, racing cars are fantastic. Their the objects of many a petrolhead's fantasy and producing a list of drool worthy offerings isn't exactly difficult. That said, as iconic as names like the 917 and Delta Integrale are, a rummage down the sofa of history will reveal many a promising creation that never got to turn a wheel in anger. Be it because of last minute regulation changes or particularly sniffy accountants, none of these five racers ever got to serve their primary purpose. Here are five noteworthy racers that never raced.
1. The Jaguar XJ13
Quite possibly one of the most beautiful cars ever to see the light of day, the Jaguar XJ13 was concieved in the early 1960's and was Coventry's attempt to land a concerted punch at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a manner not do dissimilar to it's forefathers, the X120 and D Type. Jaguar's remarkable 5.0 litre V12 kicked out 502 brake horsepower and was wrapped in that angelic all aluminium body, which came courtesy of the great Malcom Sayer. The net result was a dry weight of just 998 Kgs, a theoretical top speed of 177 mph and a car that looked set for a place in the history books.
Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. While Jaguar's engineers put their collective heart and soul into the development of the XJ13, the companies higher ups were less than pleased. Interest in the car's development was never particularly high and the suits' skepticism only grew as Jaguar merged with BMC in 1966. To make matter's worse, '66 was also the year Ford finally got their act together. Fielding an armada of eight second generation GT40's each of which came with that almighty 7.0 litre V8, they dethroned the Scuderia and in doing so, rendered the poor XJ13 obsolete. Subsequent tests at MIRA and Silverstone reinforced Jaguar's plight as it became clear that comprehensive redesigns would be necessary if the XJ13 wasn't to be left in the dust. As a result, the car was shelved. It may have made several public appearances since, but the fact that we never got to see it thunder down the Mulsanne Straight, mere inches away from it's American and Italian counterparts remains nothing short of a tragedy.
2. The Mitsubishi Starion 4WD Rally Car
Spoiler alert, Group B's going to be cropping up quite a bit in this list. As we all know the fabled regulations swung into action in 1982 as the World Rally Championship lost it's collective mind. Ford, Lancia and Austin Rover gave us a torrent of bizarre technical innovations and remarkable eye candy, but it was Audi's bright idea that proved the most effective. The four wheel drive Quattro was imperious and promptly took the 1982 manufacturer's championship. Yes, the 037 mounted a heroic upset the following year, but Blomqvist regained the initiative in '84 and the situation was clear: 4WD was the way forward. Mitsubishi got the gist and decided to throw their hat into the ring ith this: a 4WD version of their Starion road car.
The car was powered by an early iteration of the now legendary 4G63 that was bored out to 2.1 litres instead of 2.0. 350 brake horsepower and a perfect 50:50 torque split was the result and the team, led by Andrew Cowan (The man with whom the team would later achieve their greatest successes with a certain Mr. Makinen), made preparations for a two car entry at the season ending RAC Rally. A debut that would never come to fruition. Joaquin Santos's tragic collision with a crown of spectators in Portugal, combined with the sad deaths of Henri Toivonen and Sergio Crest in Corsica would spell the end of Group B. Balestre put his foot down the the regulations were promptly banned at the end of the season. This of course meant that the Starion never got to try its hand on the world age but don't be too disappointed. It's 4G63 engine and four wheel drive system would find a new home in the the form of the Group A Galant. A car that would serve as the precursor to an extremely successful followup...if I could just remember its name.
3. The Lancia ECV
Told you. Little did anyone realise at the time, but when Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto's Lancia Delta S4 flew of the road on the fateful Corsican on the second of may May 1986, it triggered the death of not one but two sets of racing regulations. Group B's end of year banning was confirmed within 24 hours with the FIA's proposed Group S plans following it out the door.
The Group S regulations were meant to succeed Group B in 1988. Unlike it's outlandish predecessor, all Group S cars were to have their power outputs capped at 300 horsepower, but instead of mandating the construction of 200 road cars for homologation purposes, Group S required a mere ten. A decision that was made to encourage technical innovations. At least four Group S prodotypes are known to have been built with Toyota, Opel and even Lada coming up with contenders of their own. But of the quartet, it's the Lancia that's given us the clearest insight into what the regulations might have been.
The ECV sported a 1.7 litre twin turbocharged engine (I can't find a confirmed cylinder count) which had the ability to produce over 600 horsepower, a figure that was eventually halved due to the Group S regulations. Said engine was ensconced in an all new body that was fabricated in both carbon fibre and kevlar, making for a dry weight of just 930 Kg. Couple that up to a particularly racy variation of the iconic Martini pain scheme and one can't help but think: Lower speeds, less fragile constructions, copious eye candy and several attributes that have bled into the rally cars of today, why exactly was Group S scrapped?
4. The Ferrari F50 GT
Having poked the F40 with a stick to create the terminally unhinged LM, Ferrari turned their attention to what many regard as the ugly duckling of mid engined Fezzas: The F50. Their field of choice was the GT1 class of the BPR Global GT Series and with rivals like the Lister Storm and McLaren F1 all chomping at the collective bit, Marnello knew that they would have to go to town on their prospective challenger. Out went the standard car's removable roof and on went a new front splitter, firmer suspension and a medium size cocktail bar that they insisted on calling a rear wing. Oh, and the 4.7 litre V12 recieveved a thorough going over as well. 740 horsepower in a car weighing 860 kilograms.
When tested in 1996, it appeared as though Ferrari's laboured had produced results. When tested in 1996, the reworked F50 proved quicker than Ferrari's proposed entry into the World Sportscar Championship, the 333 SP. Annoyingly, this most alarming of F50's never got to hit the track. The team expressed particular dismay at the FIA allowing homologation specials such as the Porsche 911 GT1 to compete and the project as a whole was decidedly cash strapped towards the end. As a result, the F50 GT never turned a wheel in anger, with three chassis being converted to road use and sold to a highly select group of customers. Disappointing it may have been but hindsight is a great thing. And looking back, the team's withdrawal might have been a blessing in disguise. You see, the BPR Global GT Series they planned on entering would eventually morph into the FIA GT Championship in 1997. The same series that saw the Mercedes CLK GTR dominate to such a degree in 1998 and '99, that they effectively chased the competition out of the series entirely. Think about that for a second.
5. The McLaren MP4-18
Remember Kimi's mighty 2003 campaign? The one that yielded ten podiums, a debut win and an unlikely championship challenge? Yeah, that came at the hands of a year old car. The mechanical misadventure you see before you, never saw the start of a Grand Prix. The brainchild of Adrian Newey, the MP4-18 had a constriction which was, to put it very lightly, 'extreme'. Key setup changes actually required an effective dismantling of the car as well as the installation of new carbon fibre components. It was meant to drag McLaren back to the front of the grid after a woeful 2002 that was Ferrari reduce the rest of the competition to veritable sideshows.
Unfortunately, the MP4-18 would have a difficult gestation.
Preliminary testing at Paul Ricard revealed a tendency for the car to shake itself to pieces, while cooling was hampered by the unusually narrow side pods, whatsmore, the car would go on to fail the FIA's official crash tests twice. Ally that to a massive shunt for test driver Alex Wurz and you could forgive McLaren for making their way to Melbourne with an updated version of the previous year's MP4-17. But the team pushed on with the 18, intending to debut the car during the European leg of the season. More self induced dismantling meant that that debut never came and contingency plans to field the car at Monza were scuppered by the summer testing ban. It was at this point that Kimi Raikkonen was mounting a convincing title challenge in the old MP4-17 and with it's successor nowhere in sight, the team arrived at the last race in Japan, where Kimi's second place would see him fall just short as the imperious Scumacher retained the title by two points.
Such was the 18's woes that it wouldn't make it's debut until 2004 as the "debugged" MP4-19. A car that would, once again, spend much of the season with it's pants firmly round its ankles courtesy of the rampant Scuderia.