NOV 25th 2015

Famous Five... High‑Powered Heroes

The very recent announcement of the ‘Full Throttle – The Endless Pursuit of Power’ theme for the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed, got the Goodwood Road & Racing team thinking about some of its favourite high-powered racing cars that graced the racetracks and rally stages of the world.

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We don’t profess to know the five with the most power – it’s a bit of a grey area, of course, depending on quoted figures – but we do have a shortlist of favourites. And, of course, we’re fond of the ones that have graced us with their presence at FoS. We’ve limited this week’s Famous Five to racing cars, even though we know there are top-fuel dragsters and tractor-pullers out there that qualify, and we’ve stipulated a minimum output of 500bhp. Let us know which cars would make it onto your list…

5 Benetton B186-BMW

It’s widely believed that BMW’s 1.5-litre, four-cylinder M12/13 engine, fitted with a massive KKK turbocharger and Bosch electronic management, was the most powerful unit ever seen in Formula 1. Bolted into the back of Benetton’s first chassis, the B186, after it had taken over the Toleman team, it powered Teo Fabi to pole position at the Osterreichring and Monza, and his team-mate Gerhard Berger to victory in Mexico. With the boost cranked up for qualifying it kicked out more than 1,350bhp, and a more modest 850bhp in race mode.

4 Mercedes-Benz W125

Built by the German giant to contest the European Championship in 1937, the W125 was considered to be the most powerful of the pre-war Silver Arrows. Its 5.6-litre, eight-cylinder, supercharged engine reportedly pushed out almost 600bhp in race trim, enough for Rudolf Caracciola to lead team-mates Manfred von Brauchitsch and Hermann Lang to a Mercedes 1-2-3 in the final points, vanquishing the rival supercharged V16-engined Auto Union C-type. Just imagine having to tame that sort of grunt through skinny treaded tyres, with no proper helmet or harness to ‘hide’ behind.

3 Audi Quattro Sport E2

The last, most outrageous and bewinged of the Group B Audis, the E2 version of the short-wheelbase Sport Quattro, first appeared in Rally Argentina in 1985. The 2.1-litre, five-cylinder, 20-valve beast, that kicked out 550bhp, was entrusted to reigning World Champion Stig Blomqvist, but the Swede retired with engine trouble. He took second next time out, in Finland, before Walter Röhrl gave the car its first and only World Rally Championship victory – in Sanremo after thrashing the hitherto dominant Peugeot 205 T16 of Timo Salonen by six-and-a-half minutes. The car played a bit-part role in early 1986, the final season of Group B, with Hannu Mikkola and Röhrl taking third and fourth in Monte Carlo. Thereafter, the WRC’s most lairy machine was confined to the Pikes Peak Hillclimb and European Rallycross.

2 Sauber-Mercedes C11

Powered by the 5-litre, twin-turbo, V8 Mercedes M119 engine, Sauber’s C11 first appeared at the opening round of the 1990 World Sports-Prototype Championship at Suzuka, although it only ran in practice. Mauro Baldi and Jean-Louis Schlesser stepped back to the older, more reliable C9 and won the race. Next time out, at Monza, the C11 was wheeled out again and cleaned up, Baldi and Schlesser leading home the sister car of Jochen Mass and Karl Wendlinger. After mechanical failure at Silverstone, the C11 then went on a victory rout, taking six straight wins. It was the last of the great turbo Group C cars, with prodigious power and looks to match.

1 Porsche 917-30

Is there a more potent mix from motorsport history than Mark Donohue and the Roger Penske-run, Sunoco-liveried Porsche 917-30?

After the World Sportscar Championship regulations were changed to limit cars’ capacity to 3-litres for 1972, Porsche switched its attention to the popular, and frankly outrageous, Can-Am championship for monster Group 7 prototypes. They bolted two turbos to the successful 5-litre flat-12 and dubbed it 917-10. George Follmer won the championship, thanks to five wins from the nine races, but Porsche wanted to up the ante for 1973. Enter the 917-30, now with 5.4-litres and revised bodywork. It was one of the most powerful racing cars ever created and, in Donohue’s hands, cleaned up in 1973. The American ace won six races in a row to clinch the title. A favourite at FoS for many years, the massive, blue-and-yellow beast developed up to 1,300bhp and, more than 40 years later, has to be seen to be believed.

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