Failures of Motorsports - Car Designs, Team Mistakes and More

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In 2015, two of the biggest stories in the motorsport world was the returning partnership of McLaren and Honda in Formula One and Nissan's entrance into the LMP-1 ranks with a radically designed prototype.

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Unfortunately both programs endured massive struggles to be competitive all year. McLaren suffered one of the team's worst seasons in their storied history due to reliability issues and power output on the new Honda powerplants. Nissan's radical GT-R LM Nismo program had many delays throughout the entire year. This resulted in the 24 Hours of Le Mans being the car's only race before Nissan pulled the plug on the program while progress was being made.

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These two events are just the latest in a long list of disappointments or bad decisions that was been seen in motorsports. From bad car designs, to team or driver performance that lead to poor results and sanctioning bodies making new regulations that later destroyed a series is the point for this thread.
 
Mini John Cooper Works WRC

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After all the fanfare of their return, the Mini John Cooper Works WRC stands out in my mind as a disaster. The decision to re-enter rallying seemed like it was drive more by a desire to capitalise on nostalgia rather than actually be competitive. The whole project was compromised from the start, but it could have been salvaged - were it not for Prodrive's mismanagement that saw Mini lose faith and pull funding.

Suzuki SX4 WRC

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Likewise the Suzuki SX4 WRC was another ill-conceived project. It was nice to see new manufacturers get on-board, and the SX4 certainly wasn't a bad car, but Suzuki clearly hadn't done their research and baulked at the idea of long-term investment. So the whole team was run on a shoestring budget and the car had limited development. It's a wonder the likes of Toni Gardemeister and Harri Rovanpera achieved anything with it.
 
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Another one from 2015.

HPD ARX-04B

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ESM ran 2 in the 24 Hours of Daytona where they were off the pace by some margin. For the next race at Sebring they switched to the older ARX-03b chassis before getting a Ligier. HPD has supposedly made quite a bit of progress but hasn't found anyone willing to run it in 2016.
 
I'll just get this one out of the way

2011 Aston Martin AMR-One - in some ways a bigger design failure then the GTR LMP1 but without all the press.

Its first sin was making the Nissan GTR LMP1 look like a beauty queen. But on the inside the tragic flaw was a straight six solution for the powerplant. A design choice Audi and others said it was something they looked at, but simply doesnt work. But they tried it.

2 cars completed a grand total of 6 laps at the 2011 24 hours of Le Mans

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In 1975, NASCAR and Le Mans decided to take two American stock cars, the Ford Torino and Dodge Charger and use those two for the 1976 Le Mans 24hr race. On the second lap, the Dodge blew its engine, leaving it as a no result. The Ford fared somewhat better, but finally gave up in the 11th hour. Le Mans is hell on transmissions; the NASCAR stocker’s four-speeds were charged with approximately 22 gear changes per lap.
 
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One more for today.

The ill-fated Lotus IndyCar engine.

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In 2012 Lotus returned to IndyCar with much fanfare. However the results didn't match the legacy and by the time the Indianapolis 500 came up they were down from 6 full time cars to 1. During that race the one full time driver, Simona de Silvestro and additional entry Jean Alesi were parked for being too slow after only 10 laps and were as much as 17mph off the leaders pace.

They pulled out of the series after the 2012 season, not that anyone would have used their engines in 2013 if they had stayed.
 

This is a high-profile brand in NASCAR who suffered with poor finishes over a very long amount of time.

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Being one of the first teams to test the Toyota waters in NASCAR, Red Bull Racing had set out with Brian Vickers in the 83 and AJ Allmendinger in the 84 car in 2007. They both failed to qualify for the Daytona 500, and the 84 car of Allmendiger would not qualify for at least 4 races. The 83 car was 38th in owner's points.

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With the same driver line up, Red Bull Racing #84 with Allmendinger failed to qualify for the first three races of the 2008 season., being then replaced temporarily by Mike Skinner until the Aaron's 499. Allmendinger would part ways and go to Richard Petty Motorsports.

In 2009, Brian Vickers gave the Red Bull Racing outfit it's first win and qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but fell behind very quickly, falling into the dead last spot for the Chase. Scott Speed replaced Allmendinger, but produced the same paltry results (In 2009, Logano was simply uncontested for the Rookie of the Year award. Speed didn't even put a dent in his lead.). Things wouldn't go better in 2010 with Vickers suffering from blood clots and Speed being fired from the team at the end of the season. 2011 saw Kahne take up the missing seat with the 4, but would only finish 14th in points, with Vickers 25th in points. The remaining assets of the team were bought by BK Racing after closing in October 2011.​
 
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Yet another recent high profile Nissan Sportscar failure

2014 Nissan ZEOD-RC

While the car did complete the first all electric lap of Le Mans in a practice session, the race was disaster. On the 6th lap of the race, the car became the first retirement. Kind of sad retiring 15 minutes into a 24 hour race.

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c12_0606_02z-herschel_mcgriff_dodge_charger-front_view.jpg

c12_0606_04z-brooks_hutcherson_ford_torino-rear_view.jpg

In 1975, NASCAR and Le Mans decided to take two American stock cars, the Ford Torino and Dodge Charger and use those two for the 1976 Le Mans 24hr race. On the second lap, the Dodge blew its engine, leaving it as a no result. The Ford fared somewhat better, but finally gave up in the 11th hour. Le Mans is hell on transmissions; the NASCAR stocker’s four-speeds were charged with approximately 22 gear changes per lap.

These 2 cars were part of a interesting experiment that NASCAR, IMSA, and the ACO done to help boost ticket sales for Le Mans in 1976. The cars was put into a class called "Grand International" which 8 of the cars ran at the Daytona 24 hour earlier that year.

A familiar looking car with Purolator colors and David Pearson in the driving lineup won the class, even after a 3 hour stop to change a blown engine. Finishing 100+ laps down to the winning BMW CSL in 16th overall.

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McLaren suffered one of the team's worst seasons in their storied history due to reliability issues and power output on the new Honda powerplants.
I think McLaren's biggest problem was that they had to talk themselves up. They couldn't rightly go into the season saying "no, it will be terrible" because we all saw what happened when Red Bull started criticising Renault in public. So they ended up setting unrealistic expectations of themselves, and everyone held them to it.
 
I think McLaren's biggest problem was that they had to talk themselves up. They couldn't rightly go into the season saying "no, it will be terrible" because we all saw what happened when Red Bull started criticising Renault in public. So they ended up setting unrealistic expectations of themselves, and everyone held them to it.
Doesn't help the fact that their season was absolutely shocking for one of racing's most storied and successful teams. It was a horrible season any way you look at it.
 
Doesn't help the fact that their season was absolutely shocking for one of racing's most storied and successful teams. It was a horrible season any way you look at it.
Necessary struggle considering their ambitions. They're completely right when they said 2nd in the championship is the best they can accomplish with a customer engine. We won't remember this season if it pays off next year or after that and the Honda engine is a formidable force and they're title contenders again.

They just embarrassed themselves by pretending for a while that they'd be benefiting from their new engine deal immediately, and would be instantly competitive. It's only deemed a failure because of this, and isn't really a true failure unless their mediocrity continues.
 
Citroën BX4TC Evolution

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To say that this car was half-arsed is an understatement. It was quarter-arsed at best. Not only was it an ungodly eyesore, it was overweight, entirely too wide, underpowered, had the turning circle of an oil tanker and as a result, it was miserably slow. It was rushed through homologation with the bare minimum of forethought and was an embarrassment for all involved. It was a car that rallying never wanted, never needed, and was glad to see the back of.
 
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Andrea Moda Formula.

Failed to finish a single race in the 1992 season, qualified for only one race and team owner was arrested at the Belgian GP for allegedly forging signatures also FIA refused them into the paddock of the Italian GP and banned them from the series for putting the sport into 'disrepute'.
 
I'll just get this one out of the way

2011 Aston Martin AMR-One - in some ways a bigger design failure then the GTR LMP1 but without all the press.

Its first sin was making the Nissan GTR LMP1 look like a beauty queen. But on the inside the tragic flaw was a straight six solution for the powerplant. A design choice Audi and others said it was something they looked at, but simply doesnt work. But they tried it.

2 cars completed a grand total of 6 laps at the 2011 24 hours of Le Mans

1024px-AMR-One.JPG
What was worst, was that Pescarolo Team decided to use the chassis for their Pescarolo 03 which failed just as bad.
 
Yet another recent high profile Nissan Sportscar failure

2014 Nissan ZEOD-RC

While the car did complete the first all electric lap of Le Mans in a practice session, the race was disaster. On the 6th lap of the race, the car became the first retirement. Kind of sad retiring 15 minutes into a 24 hour race.
I don't think it was too bad at all. It set out to complete an all-electric lap and did it rather convincingly. It only retired due to a random fault with the gearbox, and barring that it looked pretty solid, and not too shabby on pace - I think it could've made it a long way into the race.

If we're talking failures, let's talk championships:

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Set up to cash in on the satellite TV boom of the late 90s, they planned live coverage, plus shorter highlights packages on terrestrial TV throughout 2001. The races were nothing special, but the selling point was a live telemetry gimmick (which included team radio, heart rates and onboard footage) with a view to enhancing the fan experience.

However, a brand new made-for-TV championship was always going to be a hard sell, so they needed some kind of incentive for the teams. This came through a rather large cash prize fund, which could go up to a six figure sum if the team was successful enough.

The first and only ISC race was held at Donington. 21 cars were entered, a grid not too dissimilar to a British GT lineup of the time, but by the time all the teams had pitched up there was a mere 13 cars. The race start saw just nine cars, and one DNF and a disqualification brought it down to just seven.

If things weren't looking bad enough for the series, the final nail in the coffin came when the teams went looking for their prize money - it turns out the organisers didn't have it. In short, the whole thing was a sham.
 
Porsche's glorious return to Formula One with Footwork Arrows in 1991 with an overweight and underpowered lump of iron which only raced three or four times.

Michael Andretti's three-quarter season at McLaren in 1993.

BAR and Reynard claiming they would win their debut race in 1999 and going on to score 0 all season.

The 1999 Mercedes-Benz CLR.

The 2005 United States Grand Prix.

Jonathan Palmer's entire BTCC stint in 1991.

Round 25 (of 26) of the 1998 BTCC where Anthony Reid needed to finish ahead of Rydell to win the title and instead recklessly T-boned James Thompson on lap one, putting him down and out.

Take your pick.
 
Andrea Moda Formula.

Failed to finish a single race in the 1992 season, qualified for only one race and team owner was arrested at the Belgian GP for allegedly forging signatures also FIA refused them into the paddock of the Italian GP and banned them from the series for putting the sport into 'disrepute'.

On top of that, they sent Perry McCarthy out onto the track at Spa with a faulty steering column, and it seized up through Eau Rouge! http://en.espn.co.uk/f1/motorsport/story/32421.html
 
Super Aguri F1,

Started life with a 4 year old Arrows chassis,
One was bought from a private owner, the other was painted in Minardi colours and held on display in Melbourne airport,
 
Peugeot 908 Le Mans 2010 disaster

Everything was looking so good for the Peugeot team. The four 908s qualified 1-2-3-4. When they wanted to be they were 2 seconds a lap faster then the Audi R15s.

But Peugeot decided to run a new type of connecting rod in the engine of the cars to improve performance. It turns out they underestimated the furious pace of the race and the connecting rods in 3 of the 4 cars failed. The fourth car failed early in the race due to a suspension failure.

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Super Aguri F1,

Started life with a 4 year old Arrows chassis,
One was bought from a private owner, the other was painted in Minardi colours and held on display in Melbourne airport,
For a completely new effort, they weren't a failure at all. At least compared to the latest bunch of new teams that are hopelessly off the pace and extremely unlikely to score points.

When you consider the fact that they scored twice in their second season (back when you had to be top 8), with solid but unspectacular pace, while being faster on occasion than their senior team (Honda), and an upward trend of improvement, they were far from being considered a failure.

They only collapsed in the end due to Nick Fry pulling the plug.
 
2008 NASCAR Brickyard 400 Tire Debacle

All you need to know about this race was that the tires would not last longer then 15 minutes before exploding. The result was NASCAR having to put the field under caution every 10 laps for the entire race to allow the teams to change tires. To make matters worse, this is a marquee NASCAR event, further elevating the embarrassment.



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This is a high-profile brand in NASCAR who suffered with poor finishes over a very long amount of time.

83redbull-new.jpg


Being one of the first teams to test the Toyota waters in NASCAR, Red Bull Racing had set out with Brian Vickers in the 83 and AJ Allmendinger in the 84 car in 2007. They both failed to qualify for the Daytona 500, and the 84 car of Allmendiger would not qualify for at least 4 races. The 83 car was 38th in owner's points.

83redbull-speed-miami.jpg


With the same driver line up, Red Bull Racing #84 with Allmendinger failed to qualify for the first three races of the 2008 season., being then replaced temporarily by Mike Skinner until the Aaron's 499. Allmendinger would part ways and go to Richard Petty Motorsports.

In 2009, Brian Vickers gave the Red Bull Racing outfit it's first win and qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but fell behind very quickly, falling into the dead last spot for the Chase. Scott Speed replaced Allmendinger, but produced the same paltry results (In 2009, Logano was simply uncontested for the Rookie of the Year award. Speed didn't even put a dent in his lead.). Things wouldn't go better in 2010 with Vickers suffering from blood clots and Speed being fired from the team at the end of the season. 2011 saw Kahne take up the missing seat with the 4, but would only finish 14th in points, with Vickers 25th in points. The remaining assets of the team were bought by BK Racing after closing in October 2011.​


I've long thought Mateschitz held the stereotypical view that NASCAR is easy and figured they could easily win with minimal effort and money. It didn't help that they only had above average drivers during their short time in the series.

I wish they would have done what they did with the V8 series and just buy naming rights to an already established team as I always liked their liveries.
 
A couple from V8 Supercars:

Ford's accounting division

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At the end of the 2010 season, Ford decided that it wanted to stay in V8 Supercars, but money had to be saved. Their solution to this dilemma was to pull funding from the most successful team, Triple Eight, and Australia's oldest team, Dick Johnson Racing, and put it all into Ford Performance Racing and customer team Stone Brothers Racing. Their rationale was pretty sound - they justified it by saying Triple Eight's success and DJR's history meant that they could sustain themselves without factory support. While Johnson stayed out of sheer loyalty, Triple Eight immediately jumped ship and defected to Holden, undercutting all of the teams that were loyal to Holden the way DJR was to Ford in order to get a generous cut of manufacturer funding that they didn't really need.

Erebus Motorsport V8

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When the Car of the Future regulations were introduced, the Stone Brothers decided that the time was right to sell the team. SBR was sold to Betty Klimenko, heir to the Westfield shopping centre fortune and a bona fide lover of all things motorsport whose team, Erebus Motorsport, had successfully campaigned the Mercedes SLS in Australian GT. Klimenko immediately moved to introduce the Mercedes AMG C63 to V8 Supercars, which was positively received - and from that point on, it was all downhill. The team never got support from Mercedes-Benz Australia, and struggled with developing a competitive package. They started losing drivers almost immediately with Shane van Gisbergen's controversial retirement from motorsport, and have since lost Lee Holdsworth, Tim Slade and Will Davison. The team has been a revolving door for sponsors, and took a hit when they lost satellite team James Rosenberg Racing.

Jacques Villeneuve

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When Greg Murphy injured his back in an accident at the Clipsall 500, Kelly Racing were at a crossroads - Murphy was out for at least six months, and they needed a replacement. Someone hit upon the idea of recruiting 1997 Formula One World Champion Jacques Villeneuve to drive the car. It sounded great on paper, even if Villeneuve's career had stalled, but he was consistently at the bottom of the time sheets. Villeneuve was one of several international drivers who tried to join the championship full-time, only to struggle horrendously once he got here.
 
A couple from V8 Supercars:

Ford's accounting division

Holden_VE_Commodore_of_Jamie_Whincup_2012.JPG


At the end of the 2010 season, Ford decided that it wanted to stay in V8 Supercars, but money had to be saved. Their solution to this dilemma was to pull funding from the most successful team, Triple Eight, and Australia's oldest team, Dick Johnson Racing, and put it all into Ford Performance Racing and customer team Stone Brothers Racing. Their rationale was pretty sound - they justified it by saying Triple Eight's success and DJR's history meant that they could sustain themselves without factory support. While Johnson stayed out of sheer loyalty, Triple Eight immediately jumped ship and defected to Holden, undercutting all of the teams that were loyal to Holden the way DJR was to Ford in order to get a generous cut of manufacturer funding that they didn't really need.

Erebus Motorsport V8

Tim_Slade_2013_V8_Supercars_Test_Day.jpg

Lee_Holdsworth_in_Erebus_Motorsport_car_4%2C_departing_pitlane_during_the_V8_Supercars_Test_Day.jpg


When the Car of the Future regulations were introduced, the Stone Brothers decided that the time was right to sell the team. SBR was sold to Betty Klimenko, heir to the Westfield shopping centre fortune and a bona fide lover of all things motorsport whose team, Erebus Motorsport, had successfully campaigned the Mercedes SLS in Australian GT. Klimenko immediately moved to introduce the Mercedes AMG C63 to V8 Supercars, which was positively received - and from that point on, it was all downhill. The team never got support from Mercedes-Benz Australia, and struggled with developing a competitive package. They started losing drivers almost immediately with Shane van Gisbergen's controversial retirement from motorsport, and have since lost Lee Holdsworth, Tim Slade and Will Davison. The team has been a revolving door for sponsors, and took a hit when they lost satellite team James Rosenberg Racing.

Jacques Villeneuve

Jacques_Villeneuve_V8_Supercars.JPG


When Greg Murphy injured his back in an accident at the Clipsall 500, Kelly Racing were at a crossroads - Murphy was out for at least six months, and they needed a replacement. Someone hit upon the idea of recruiting 1997 Formula One World Champion Jacques Villeneuve to drive the car. It sounded great on paper, even if Villeneuve's career had stalled, but he was consistently at the bottom of the time sheets. Villeneuve was one of several international drivers who tried to join the championship full-time, only to struggle horrendously once he got here.
I would also put Nissan's new involvement in V8 Supercars in here.
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While they are handling better than Erebus, we can cut Erebus a little bit of slack since they had no Manufacturer support. For Nissan, sure they had some moments with a few podiums (majorityvia luck) and a single race win but it has been pretty laughable. They are like the comic relief in a story about Holden and Ford. Todd Kelly's career has pretty much over the more and more he stays with Nissan. The worst part, was that when Volvo joined after Nissan had 1 year of experience, Volvo totally broke the door down and crushed them with only 1 driver needed.

Fun Fact: Erebus has actually won more races than Nissan since 2013 (2 - 1) and Nissan hasn't won a race since the season they debut in.
 
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