Before you start reading you should know that this rather small article showcasing what is in my opinion, the best sounding race cars ever, will take up a lot of your time. Once you start you will not be able to stop!
I also recommend that you watch the clips either on a big surround system or, if your wife is watching some cooking show, with headphones. In both cases I suggest your crank the volume up to 11!
Although I believe that sound doesn’t improve racing, I do appreciate a proper soundtrack.
As Lemmy used to say: “Only way to feel the noise, is when it’s good and loud!”
Which brings us to the first contestant in the ‘best sounding race cars ever’ debate. I shall do these in no particular order. Firstly, because I, however opinionated I am, won’t choose which is the actual best. I leave that up to you in the comments. Secondly, because however big I make this list I’m sure some of you will feel I left the best one out. In that case I’d also like to know which you prefer. And thirdly, this is a celebration rather than a competition.
The first one will be the most controversial, just to get it out of the way. To stay with Lemmy, this first one is the autosport version of Motorhead, you either love it or you hate it. There is no in-between.
The Corvette C6R GT2 has a 5.5L v8 engine that produces something best described as the American interpretation of how thunder must sound like if you are simultaneous inside the clouds and on the ground. In my opinion they captured it pretty well.
On we move to a car that will be the first of many in this list: It’s the first that looks as sexy as it sounds. It’s the first Italian car in my best sounding race cars ever list. It’s the first Ferrari engine. It’s the first Group C car It’s the Lancia LC2.
From one Italian soundtrack to an other. This time the glorious sound of a proper v12. The Lamborghini Murcielago 670 R-SV GT1 was not the best GT car I ever saw, by far. But if you don’t like this 6.5l v12 soundtrack you’re either dead or too much of a hardcore Ferrari fan. I remember the first time I saw it drive up the Raidillon. Its floor hit every bump it possibly could, sparking up to the sky, but my god… the hair on my neck stood up.
Back in the late 40s British Racing Motors designed the BRM V16, a supercharged 1.5l engine with 16 cilinders. That’s a set up which sounds incredible by itself, and you haven’t even heard the engine yet. The car was considered ‘the best he ever drove’, by the great Juan Manuel Fangio himself stating:” I consider it to be, basically, the best Formula One car ever made. All it needs is improvement in certain details. No car has ever given me such a thrill to drive, or a greater sense of absolute mastery.” Back in ’53 it produced 585bhp. So not only one of the best sounding race cars ever, but also endorsed by one of the best racing drivers ever.
On to the oldest entry in this list. The Mercedes Benz W25, and its supercharged 3.4l straight 8, from 1934. The clip is quite short, but it says more in one minute than a whole year’s worth of MTV crap.
What do you get when Ferrari takes its 1990 F1 3.5l v12 engine and modifies it to become a 4.0l v12, for a sportscar? The Ferrari 333 SP. Leaving this car off this list would simply be blasphemy. The next clip demonstrates the only thing better than a 333 SP: three 333 SP’s.
When one says sportscars it’s hard not to mention a Porsche. So why not two in a row? The first is a Porsche 917K, with a flat 12 cilinder 5.0l engine. And the second is a Porsche 908 LH 3.0l flat 8. Surely both are candidates for being some of the best sounding race cars ever?
Now it’s time to up the revs again. There was a time when F1 used four more cylinders than today. And personally I think it never sounded better than when the noise came from the BMW 3.0l v10, which sat in the back of the 2004 Williams. This clip might be the best F1 related thing you’ll see today! Spa and two BMW’s, chasing each other. Without any commentary.
As mentioned before there would be a multitude of Group C cars in this list. And who can blame me? Just listen to the 7.0l v12 engine that pushed the Jaguar XJR 12 to the win at Le Mans in 1990. And while we’re at it I might as well share the Jaguar XJR 14 too, which tried to win Le Mans a year later, but failed. But this on-board clip is too good not to share.
By now we had the British, the Germans and the Italians (and even one American), surely it must be time for the guys who invented Grand Prix racing. And who better to represent the French but Matra? And believe me Matra made some incredible sounding engines. There’s the V12 3.0 litre of the Matra MS670C, used by legends like Henri Pescarolo and Jacky Ickx.
In F1 they made an engine best described by Jacques Laffite: “The sound of the Matra engine was just… spectacular. It just… sounded like power!” The Ligier JS9 might not have been successful but goddamn it might just be top of the pile for best sounding race cars ever.
Or was it?
Only if Matra hadn’t made the 3.0l MS9 engine that powered the Matra MS11 car. Which they did :p
By now you’re probably complaining why I only used sportcars and F1 cars, and you would be right of course. So here are some of the best sounding Rally cars of all time. The Lancia Stratos HF used a Ferrari engine and it has the honor of being the first v6 in this list. However, the 2.4l Dino sounds better than the current F1 engines… Hell, it even sounds better than the Lancia 037, and that’s one of my all time favourite cars!
But however sweet that Lancia sounds, it has nothing on the Audi Quattro S1. The straight 5 cylinder can do nothing less than put a smile on your face.
From rally it’s a rather small step to Pikes Peak hillclimb. Back in the day Peugeot knew how to build a proper car, and they did so with the Peugeot 405 turbo. Ari Vatanen, in the best motorsport clip ever, shows us how it sounded.
And what would a list like this be without an Alfa Romeo? Incomplete of course. This Alfa Romeo 155, used for hill climbs in the alps has a soundtrack I could listen to for hours…
Time for some Japanese then? All right.
How about the Toyota TS010?
Or are you more of a Honda fan? The Honda RA272 had a 1.5l v12 that just sounded bonkers.
But let’s be honest, that Honda has nothing on the next Ferrari. That it’s the car which gave Jean Alesi his only win makes it even sweeter. The Ferrari 412t2
One other example that a v6 can sound good is the Renault in the back of the Lotus 97T. The 1.5l v6 turbo was the engine that gave Senna his first win, and it will be the only Renault in this list.
To finish this list I’ll give you two more Group C cars. The first one is the incredible sounding Sauber Mercedes C291, which looks absolutely stunning. And the last one is the car that won Le Mans in 1991, because no list involving engine noise would be complete without it! Earlier I said I couldn’t chose the the winner of the best sounding race cars ever title… Well, I lied. This absolutely is.
Until today the Mazda 787B is the only Japanese car that was able to win Le Mans. And 27 years later it’s still as bonkers as it was back then.
As it turns out this will be my last article for TJ13, as I embark upon a new adventure. It has been great fun to be a part of TJ13 and I thank you all for reading my nonsense throughout the years!
I guess we should be thankful that the Lotus 56 never became the benchmark for the way a race car sounds………….
Wut? No love for the meat-and-potatoes BDA? You have exotic tastes, my friend. Excellent taste, but exotic.
My first car was a ’72 Escort, so I’m a bit biased, I confess. I strapped twin Webers and a sports exhaust on that fundamentally gutless 1300cc Eski – thrashed it silly on the gravel back roads around my home town. No BDA, but great memories.
I’m sad to see you “go”, mate. You’re a man with an opinion who’s prepared to say it out loud and argue his corner. Bravo. Hat tip, my friend.
I wish you the best of luck with your new adventure.
Thank you very much! The best compliment I can get 😁
Sad to see you go Bruznic. Although it is a progression we see here often. Best of luck and thank you for all the hard work at TJ13. You were one of the few who stepped up and became a damn good writer.
Thank you very much!
Great compilation. I have a soft spot for the Honda V10 in the MP4-5B.
Since you’re partial to engine sound check out the RC166. I also like the current engines on MotoGP bikes, all of them.
Never heard that bike. That sounds awesome!