Motorsport is often the peak of technology, design and automotive engineering, with some of the best cars to ever race producing technological innovations that have revolutionised the consumer car market.
From semi-automatic motorsport gears to active suspension, launch control, traction control and venturi-based ground effect aerodynamics, motorsport innovation can be seen everywhere, except in some of the worst cars the world of motorsport has ever seen.
Ernesto Vita’s Life Racing Engines was not meant to be a Formula One team. The engineer Franco Rocchi had developed a W12 engine, which was as short as a V8 engine but could theoretically develop the power of a V12. Similar designs were seen with engines like the Bugatti Veyron’s W16.
In 1989, with a recent ban on turbocharged engines, a lot of different engine types were being attempted, from the flat-12 used by Coloni to the V12s used by Lamborghini and Ferrari and the V10s used by McLaren and Williams.
Mr Vita bought the rights to Mr Rocchi’s engine and after failing to sell the engine gave up and put it in an old chassis that had been described by its own designer as “an interesting flowerpot”.
The engine was so bad that on the rare times it didn’t immediately break down it was minutes slower than the competition.
Mercedes-Benz had returned to GT racing and Le Mans in 1996 and found almost immediate success with the CLK GTR. However, its follow-up, the ambitious CLR, had a critical flaw with its aerodynamics.
This means that when travelling down the straight after Mulsanne corner, the car infamously somersaulted backwards, crashing off the track in qualifying, warm-up and the race itself.
Nissan GT-R LM NISMO
One of the biggest failures in sports car racing, Nissan’s highly ambitious and radical LMP1 project that was supposed to be part of a huge years-long commitment to the World Endurance Championship lasted one race with zero official finishes and nothing but disaster to show for it.
It was a radical concept at first, with a front-engined car with a complex hybrid-drive system that meant that the car was four-wheel drive but with two different power systems controlling each set of wheels
The exhausts were at the front, effectively pointed at the windscreen, and the aerodynamics were beyond radical.
The problem, however, was that most of it didn’t work, with the hybrid system, in particular, being so unreliable that it was removed, halving the car’s performance, making it front-wheel drive and leaving them 20 seconds off the pace of the class.
Add to this brakes that ran so hot that they melted a hole in the floor when they were changed, and it shaped up to be a disastrous 24 hours at Le Mans which Nissan have been reticent to repeat.