Certain race cars gain a cult popularity that belies their on-track success. One of the best examples is the Volvo 850 Estate that contested the 1994 British Touring Car Championship. It never even scored a podium, but I would wager the Swedish racer is better remembered than Gabriele Tarquini’s Alfa Romeo 155 TS title winner.
The reason why is obvious: it was different, standing out in a pack of comparatively svelte saloons. And while it is an extreme example, others too have stood out for their design. The Benetton B192 is remembered now as the car that Michael Schumacher used for his first Formula 1 win, but in the 1992 season it was also notable for having a high nose at a time when most of the grid featured drooping low ones.
As with road cars, diversity is always welcome – and yet it has become increasingly rare. The reasons why are clear: increasingly restrictive regulations are robbing designers of freedom and advanced design tools further shepherd concepts down similar narrow roads. There are also an increasing number of series using spec chassis (such as Formula E), while road car design convergence affects production-based series.
It’s a real shame, because it steals some of motorsport’s appeal. Thankfully, some series are working to allow room for variety, and a fine example is the new Peugeot 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) that’s due to contest next year’s World Endurance Championship.