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Off the racetrack and onto the road: More and more car builders are launching supercars with a generous proportion of racing DNA. These limited series are mainly aimed at motorsports fans – and nearly all of the racing cars that acted as templates won the iconic endurance race at Le Mans
The engineers tweaked only the bare minimum in order to make these cars street-legal, as indicated by top speeds that nudge just north of 300 km/h. Ultimately, though, these cars are designed for relaxed cruising – chances are, anyone with a unique set of wheels like this will want to flaunt them. Thanks to strictly limited numbers, the danger of passing the same model on the road is negligible.
Most people are familiar with Aston Martin as the company car of the world’s most famous secret agent: James Bond. It may come as a surprise to learn that the British car company also builds vehicles without rear-mounted machine guns and revolving license plates. This model was originally going to be called GT3, which is the name of the vehicle category in long-distance races, but rights-owner Porsche objected. The Brits solved the problem by putting the number of cylinders in the name.
A mere 100 of the Vantage GT12 rolled off the production line at Gaydon, England. Lower and broader than its siblings from the Vantage family, the GT12 weighs only 1565 kilograms, 100 kilograms less than the Vantage S, thanks to carbon-fiber components and a polycarbonate rear window. The 6-liter 600 PS engine accelerates the car to a top speed of 330 km/h. In our ranking, that puts the GT12 up there at the top alongside the McLaren 650S – with the Vantage GT12 also being one of the priciest cars in the list.
Audi only started competing at the historic Le Mans race in 2000, but the German carmaker has already notched up 13 victories. The experience that Audi’s engineers gathered during the endurance race has shaped the Audi R8 V10 plus Coupé. Although not officially a limited edition, the fact that the car is hand-built indicates that we won’t be seeing very many of them on the roads.
The V10 central engine is visible underneath the rear window, and can be optionally illuminated. The laser lights at the front have a 600-meter beam, providing greater safety at high speeds. All controls are integrated in the leather-covered steering wheel, thus ensuring that the driver’s eyes stay fixed on the road. The 12.3-inch LCD display behind the steering wheel is individually adjustable.
The most comfortable way for drivers and passengers to take a long journey (Gran Turismo in Italian, Grand Touring in English) is undoubtedly in a Bentley Continental. Compared with the other models, the GT3-R may seem more comfortable than sporty. But although the interior is softly upholstered with Alcantara and leather, this is still a serious racecar, and its 580 PS easily propels the two-seater to top speeds of over 300 km/h.
This special model sees Bentley revisiting its 95-year racing history. The British brand has won the 24-hour race at Le Mans a total of six times, including with the Bentley Speed 6 and Speed 8. The Continental GT3-R has no direct link with Le Mans; it started at the Pirelli World Challenge in North America, at the ADAC GT Masters and the Blancpain GT Series with dates in Europe. This series of races will be coming to the Nürburgring at the beginning of July and in mid-September.
The A stands for Aperta, which means open. While the car does come with a roof, the best way to drive this Spider is with an open top. Punching out 605 PS, the mid-rear engine is the most powerful naturally aspirated V8 ever built in Maranello and also sets a new specific power record (135 PS/l) for a road-going power unit of this type. On the company’s own race track in Fiorano the two-seater completed the course in 1:23.5 minutes, the best time ever, an achievement that was also the result of the car’s active aerodynamic elements at the front and rear. The 458 was up amongst the top three at Le Mans, Daytona and the 12 hours race at Sebring in Florida.
In 2016, Ford is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its legendary Le Mans victory with a new version of the GT. In 1966, three Ford GT 40 cars took the first three places at the 24-hour race in France. For the U.S. carmaker from Dearborn, Michigan the Ford GT is the first in a series entitled GT Heritage. By 2020, a dozen of these new, old sports cars will roll off the production line, including the F-150 Raptor, Shelby GT350 and the Shelby GT350R.
The chassis of the Ford GT uses aluminum and lightweight carbon-fiber components. The sports car features a twin turbocharger EcoBoost V6, with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The parallel clutch minimizes traction interruption when the driver shifts from one gear to the next. Although most sportscar drivers love manual transmission, nothing beats the speed of the gearshift paddle on the steering wheel and the integrated chip. Ford unveiled the car at the Detroit Auto Show but has yet to announce the official price.
Although the British car builder no longer competes in endurance races, the Project 7 was inspired by the brand’s Le Mans legacy: The number stands for the seven victories that Jaguar notched up between 1951 and 1990 at the 24-hour race. The F-Type Project 7 is the successor to the Jaguar D-Type – a model that won a staggering three Le Mans races. A hump behind the driver pays visual tribute to this famous predecessor.
The open-top two-seater is the fastest car in the British brand’s portfolio. The Supercharged V8 engine with 5.0 liters cubic capacity accelerates to 300 km/h, and cuts smoothly through traffic thanks to a satnav and automatic transmission. Out in the open, the driver uses the gearshift paddle to effortlessly shift through the eight speeds, and the seat belt is replaced with a belt harness. The moment you press the button to open the exhaust pipes, this predator sounds and feels like a real racing car.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the victory at Le Mans, in 2015 McLaren Special Operation launched the model 650S Le Mans. Only 50 of these cars were produced, making it the stuff of collectors’ dreams. In 1995, McLaren competed in the Le Mans endurance race for the first time – and immediately came first in the GT1 category with the No. 59 McLaren F1 GTR. A victory in the very first race is a record that McLaren still holds.
The interior of the edition is finished in Alcantara and leather, the Le Mans logo is stitched into the headrests. British designer Peter Stevens, who was also responsible for the look of the McLaren F1, helped to develop this limited edition. With a roof-mounted “snorkel” as an eye-catcher, the 650 PS engine accelerates the car to a top speed of 330 km/h – the highest speed in our list alongside the Aston Martin Vantage GT 12.
Very few other car brands are as closely associated with motorsports as the car maker from Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. And even fewer are as successful: With a staggering 17 victories in Le Mans to its name, Porsche also uses the French race course for development and testing. In the LMP category (Le Mans prototypes) the team won in 2015 with a Porsche 919 Hybrid: Alongside the combustion engine that drives the rear wheels, the car also uses two energy generation systems. One transforms kinetic energy generated during braking into power; in the other, exhaust fumes drive a turbine which also generates power. The experience of many races is tangible in the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. With 500 PS, the sports car has the most powerful aspirated engine in the maker’s portfolio. The limited 911 comes with a matching smartphone app which lets the driver record and evaluate track times, distances and other motoring data.
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