The cars that went from racetrack to road

Ford built its new road-going GT supercar to win Le Mans. Last year, at the first time of asking, it did just that, scooping GTE Pro class honours. But in doing this, Ford was only following a tried and tested path – many manufacturers have, over the years, built race-winners that also have road-ready conversions. Call it a sort of reverse engineering. 

Sometimes, racing regulations even forced car manufacturers to make road-going models – homologation rules mean a car can only race if a certain number of road-going versions have been made. All of which makes for a rich back catalogue of road-going racers. Here, we pick out 10 of our favourites. 

 

Ford GT (2017)

Of course, the Ford GT makes our list. It won Le Mans, for heaven’s sake! And the £420,000, 647bhp road-going version isn’t too shabby either: our testers deemed it an unqualified technological marvel. 

 

Ford GT40 (1964)

The latest Ford GT is the continuation of the car that defined the road-going racing supercar for Ford, 1964’s GT40. Spurned by a failed takeover of Ferrari, Ford set out for retribution – and four straight Le Mans wins in the 1960s did just that. The road car was a 335bhp model capable of 164mph. 

 

Porsche 911 GT1 Strassenversion (1996)

This is about as extreme a homologation special as you can get – the GT1 racing car ‘street version). It won Le Mans in 1998 and the road-going version used the same 3.2-litre twin-turbo engine, detuned to pass emissions regulations. It’s an extreme example of a road-going racing car conversion.

 

Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR (1997)

(Daimler AG)

Here’s another extreme road-racer: to enter the FIA GT Championship, Mercedes-Benz had to produce 25 road-going versions. The CLK GTR was born, compete with 6.9-litre 604bhp engine (and a tiny boot)…  

 

BMW M3 GTR (2001)

BMW wanted to run the M3 GTR in sportscars, but needed a 4.0-litre V8 version of the contemporary M3 to do it. So it made 10 of them, just for homologation purposes: each 200kg lighter than the normal M3 and detuned from the racecars 493bhp to ‘just’ 380bhp.

 

Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II (1990)

(Daimler AG)

A fantastic homologation version of the regular 190E built to help Mercedes-Benz dominated DTM German touring car racing. Suspension was overhauled, the rear spoiler was enormous, wheelarches were widened – 235bhp doesn’t sound much these days but it allowed the race engineers ample…

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