RACER Oct/Nov 2021: The Great Cars Issue

We usually come up with a loose theme when we start to put RACER’s annual Great Cars Issue together. This time around, and for reasons that escape me, we were taken with the idea of machines that enjoyed brief, but spectacular careers. Short, sharp and (mostly) successful…

Leading the way in RACER No. 312 – and gracing the cover, courtesy of in-house artist Paul Laguette – is the Brabham BT46B “Fan Car.” Conceived by Gordon Murray in a bid to counter the dominance of Lotus and its ground-effect 79 in the 1978 Formula 1 World Championship, it’s a fascinating tale of finding a loophole and exploiting it in an ingenious way.

The principle wasn’t wholly original (1970’s Chaparral 2J Can-Am car also used fans to suck itself to the ground), but the execution was impeccable. One grand prix start, one win, and then – contrary to popular myth – not banned, but withdrawn by Bernie Ecclestone to keep his fellow team owners onside as he put in place the pieces for his F1 commercial empire.

The BT46B might be the ultimate in “one, won and done,” but other short-lived racecars we’ve put under the spotlight include Bentley’s 2003 Le Mans-winning Speed 8, the turbine-powered Indy 500 racers of 1967 and ’68 that came frustratingly close to victory at the Brickyard, and 2009’s Brawn BGP 001 – another F1 car that exploited a technical loophole, but in this case saw out the season and earned Jenson Button a world championship.

And the issue doesn’t stop there. Check out an exclusive interview with newly-crowned NTT IndyCar Series champ Alex Palou, insight on why today’s F1 drivers are extending their careers to unprecedented lengths, NASCAR’s Busch brothers homing in on a longstanding record, Valentino Rossi’s impending MotoGP farewell, and lots more.

Sadly, this issue of RACER is missing the brilliant storytelling of Robin Miller. We and the racing community as a whole lost one of the all-time greats when Robin lost his long fight with cancer and leukemia in late August. As a racing journalist, he was the best there’s been. As a friend and a colleague, his loss is a hard one to take. Marshall Pruett’s tribute is both heartfelt and funny, and a poignant reminder of what made our man Miller such a one of a kind.

Godspeed, Robin.

Click here to purchase the new issue of RACER, and check out the gallery below for a preview of what’s inside. Interested in having RACER delivered to your mailbox?  Click here to find out more about print and digital subscriptions.