1. Mazda RX-7 Bathurst R - The world’s auto enthusiasts are still pining for a rotary Mazda sportscar to make a comeback ever since the Hiroshima carmaker stopped ‘Wankeling’ in 2012. Thankfully, Mazda has announced its intentions with last year’s RX-Vision concept car, but that doesn’t stop us reminiscing about the greats like the 13B-engined RX-7. We don’t have time to look at its entire racing career, but in Australia the car was highly successful and well campaigned in production-based motorsport winning loads of endurance races and getting podiums at the Targa Tasmania, the world’s longest tarmac rally. Ironically, only Japan got a special edition RX-7 Bathurst R to commemorate the car’s three consecutive wins at the legendary Mount Panorama circuit.
2. Lamborghini Jarama - Ferruccio Lamborghini was clear from the start when he founded his supercar company in 1963 that he didn’t want to dabble with racing at all and was only interested in road cars but one of his models still managed to bridge a link – even though it was purely a Grand Tourer with four-seats, or rather 2+2, the Lamborghini Jarama shared its name with a north Madrid district that hosted the Spanish Grand Prix nine times mostly throughout the Seventies. However, Jarama was also a place famous for bulls and bullfighting and that’s what piqued Ferruccio’s interest – Circuito del Jarama was a handy coincidence.
3. Volkswagen Nardo - In the Nineties the VW W12 was another mad-genius dabble with cars from then Group CEO Ferdinand Piëch. The car requested by Piëch to take a W12 engine and VW’s all-wheel drive system and eventually, in 2002, take the 24-hour speed world record at Nardo at an average speed of 322.891kph. The project was eventually killed by the next CEO, Bernd Pischetsrieder who went on a purge discontinuing the Lupo supermini, Audi’s revolutionary all-alloy but slow-selling A2, and tried his best to stop Piëch's Phaeton experiment too. VW Group did loads of these track ‘inspired’ concepts in the Nineties and 2000s, like the 1991 Audi Avus concept and even a blasphemous 2003 SUV concept they called the Pikes Peak quattro.
4. Willys Interlagos - Interlagos is one of the last remnants of traditional Grand Prix racing in today’s Formula 1 circus, and is a natural circuit following the topography outside a São Paulo neighbourhood. Located between two lakes its name is self-explanatory. Now, about the car… Since Brazil has always had a heavy tariff on imports, in the early Sixties a local Willys Overland operation struck a deal to assemble the fantastic Giovanni Michelotti-designed Alpine A108 as a Willys Interlagos for the domestic market and put the little rear-engined sportscars together for five years just a few kilometres away from the circuit.
5. Pontiac Bonneville - In the Fifties the Pontiac Bonneville was basically a land yacht, a Cadillac-priced convertible with all the bells and whistles and the most unlikely candidate for any race track. But its name has a cool story which dates back to a 1954 Motorama concept car: GM’s legendary designer Harley Earl drew up a stunning kind of Pegaso-slash-Facel Vega GT car and called it the Pontiac Special, but after a trip to Bonneville he returned to Detroit blown away by the hot-rodders and dare-devils he watched on Utah’s vast salt flats rocketing away into the heat haze at 200 miles an hour. The concept had a new name, the Bonneville Special, and it stuck until the Bonneville became a standalone Pontiac model in 1958.
6. De Tomaso Vallelunga - Vallelunga is a little-known four-kilometre circuit outside Rome in Italy, so it’s kind of perfect for a little know car. De Tomaso Vallelunga couldn’t have contrasted more the company’s iconic V8-engined Pantera, as a featherweight 725kg sportscar powered by a four-cylinder Ford-sourced engine. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro it is no surprise the compact car was pretty and seemed built for the twisting, tightly packed Vallelunga circuit itself…
7. Bentley Brooklands - ‘Brooklands’ is a word that you should sit down and put a monocle on, and light a pipe before saying. It evokes tradition and cucumber sandwiches and a cup of tea after an afternoon’s blasting around a deadly brick-surfaced oval at breakneck speeds. Brooklands is also the first race track ever built and the Bentley Boys in their Bentley Blowers were particularly successful there lapping at over 220kph some 80 years ago.
8. Nissan Skyline GT-R Nür - Anybody who has ever played Gran Turismo on the Playstation bows to the all-conquering R34 Skyline, and few were ever better than the 2002 run-out limited edition GT-R Nür, for Nürburgring Nordschleife naturally, with a race-derived version of the RB26 engine, upgraded turbochargers, and ‘276bhp’ as per the Japanese gentlemen’s agreement. In reality, the Nür had closer to 330 horsepower and could easily be boosted to beyond 400bhp with standard parts. Only 1,000 Skyline GT-R Nür editions were ever made.
9. Ford Torino Talladega - Back when Stock Car Racing was actually a bunch of stock cars racing, the Ford Torino Talladega was a true homologation special built to run on America’s superspeedways at over 300kph. The Talladega was so fast it dominated NASCAR throughout 1969 and 1970 totally obliterating its Dodge competition, which in turn motivated Dodge to go back to the drawing board and come up with its own race-track-named legend, the Charger Daytona… Oh and one more honourable mention: in 1997 Saab also did a turbocharged 900 Talladega model named to milk the Swedish carmaker’s record-breaking endurance runs at the Alabama race track.
10. Honda Prelude Motegi - For the last spot in our Top 10 list we had a five way battle between the M3 Lime Rock, Boss 302 Mustang, and Maserati Kyalami/Indy/Sebring and in the end a sixth wild card took it… The Honda Prelude Motegi is a special edition named after Honda’s own Twin-Ring Motegi circuit that hosts a load of international events including a MotoGP round. The car had some bits and special 17in wheels tacked onto it but it could shift some too, with a 200bhp VTEC engine affectionately known by the Honda community as the ‘red-top due to its red valve cover.