Motorsports are fast and exciting, full of high-speed and high-adrenaline moments which the fans love. Speed may be king in these sports, but it is also important that competitors are going as fast as possible while still driving as safely as possible.
Some modifications to race cars may improve a vehicle’s handling or speed, but at the expense of the driver’s safety, leaving the authorities with no choice but to ban specific modifications, or even a vehicle altogether. Even technology designed to make regular cars safer is proving problematic on the race track; some sports have banned vehicles which have collision avoidance technologies, even when those features can be turned off.
Formula 1 may be one of the most technologically advanced motorsports, but even Grand Prix racers have had to deal with a whole raft of new rules and regulations, to improve safety and to stop some car manufacturers from gaining an unfair advantage over their competitors. At some time, every motorsport has had to deal with the issue of ensuring a level playing field for competitors – after all, fans don’t want to watch races knowing which driver is most likely to win!
And so, some of the greatest cars in history have found themselves banned from the race track, simply because they were too good – and too likely to beat their competitors without much of a fight.
19 1967 Penske Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
Racing driver Mark Donohue was the brains behind the 1967 Penske Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, and he was well known for pushing the rules to the limit in setting up his own vehicles, in order to get even the tiniest competitive advantages over his rivals.
In 1967, Donohue took his Chevy Camaro Z/28 and dipped the body panels in acid, apparently to reduce their weight and thereby increase his speed.
Despite the car being banned by motoring bosses, Donohue was cheeky enough to simply enter the same vehicle in the same competition the next year – and he got away with it!
18 1973 Porsche 917/30
This Porsche 917/30 from 1973 was another car that was created and driven Mark Donohue, also known as "Captain Nice" during his long and successful career. The turbocharged engine in the Porsche 917/30 racing car produced a jaw-dropping 1,300 horsepower – too much for the bosses of the Canadian-American Challenge Cup, who promptly imposed a fuel limit on turbocharged cars, forcing both the Porsche and Penske teams to pull out of the 1974 season. The Can-Am was a series of races which took place between 1966 and 1987, and which ended up producing some of the most memorable vehicles in motorsports history.
17 2001 BMW M3 GTR
In 2001, German car manufacturer BMW decided they wanted to take on some of the biggest names in motorsports by entering a car into the American Le Mans series – an endurance racing competition which was run with the same rules as the famous French 24-hour race. The rules stated that only production cars could race in the American Le Man series, which is why the specially developed 4-liter, 500hp BMW M3 GTR with a V8 engine was definitely against the spirit of the rules, if not the letter of the law. Porsche complained to the race organizers and the BMW M3 GTR was banned from the American Le Mans races.
16 1992 Nissan Skyline GT-R
The 1992 Nissan Skyline GT-R has always been a big hit with domestic Japanese drivers, and it went on to make an equally successful move to the world of the Australian touring circuits in the early 1990s.
This was a super powerful piece of motoring engineering with a turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive.
After a period of continuous Nissan Skyline wins, the Aussie organizers of the series decided that it was time to curtail the vehicle’s supremacy, and they proceeded to ban both turbocharged engines and cars with all-wheel drive, ending the Nissan Skyline GT-R’s dominance of Australian motorsports for good.
15 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona
The massive wing on the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona is one of the most iconic innovations in motorsport history. Coupled with the specially designed nose, it was a car that was made to win NASCAR races, and it even became the first car to break the 200mph barrier. Unfortunately, the NASCAR bosses felt that all these modifications and improvements gave the Dodge Charger Daytona an unfair advantage over other vehicles, and they made some dramatic changes to the sport’s rules, imposing power limits on cars with wings, which meant that the Daytona was no longer allowed to take part in NASCAR races.
14 1970 Chaparral 2J
Dodge, BMW, and Porsche may be big names in motorsports, but only real fans of the sport will have heard of car manufacturer Chaparral, which started making its revolutionary vehicles in the 1950s and went on to see its cars racing in the Indycar World Series between 1979 and 1996. It was the Chaparral 2K which finally made it to the race track, but earlier models didn’t quite make the grade as far as motorsport authorities were concerned. The Chaparral 2J, which was developed in 1970, used two fans powered by a snow blower to create incredible downforce even at low speeds.
13 1978 Brabham BT46B
In the 1970s, Formula 1 designer Gordon Murray was also playing around with downforce, attaching fans to the Brabham BT46B which were designed to make the engine more efficient at high revs.
An unexpected – or maybe expected – side effect of this innovation was that the fans also sucked the air out from under the car, creating an impressive amount of downforce.
The only problem is that in F1, anything that created downforce had to be fixed, and spinning fans are anything but that. Before Formula 1 bosses could ban the car, however, Niki Lauda did win the Spanish Grand Prix in his modified Brabham BT46B.
12 1997 Hendrick Motorsports T-Rex
After learning the ropes in his early NASCAR seasons, Rick Hendrick came to the conclusion that anything the major car manufacturers could do, he could do better, and he set about building his own NASCAR racer from scratch with his team.
The T-Rex nickname came from chief designer Rex Stump, who knew the NASCAR rule book inside out, including where you could push the rules to breaking point.
After winning the All-Star race, NASCAR bosses decided that they needed to tighten the rules which Rex Stump had bent but not quite broken, and the Hendricks car was banned from the sport for good.
11 1970 Plymouth Superbird
Like the banned 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona, the 1970 Plymouth Superbird was all about aerodynamics, with sleek and stylish bodywork and vast wings that helped the vehicle regularly hit 200mph in races. Along with the Daytona, and other aerodynamic vehicles, the Plymouth Superbird was banned by NASCAR for the 1971 season because of concerns about the high speeds the vehicles could reach, and the fact that designers had changed the appearance of the so-called stock cars beyond almost all recognition. The Superbird was created to win NASCAR races, and when they were banned, Plymouth ceased production of the stylish vehicle.
10 1988 Toyota Celica GT-Four
By the mid-1990s, the people in charge of the World Rally Championships were becoming increasingly concerned about the ridiculous speeds which some of their vehicles were reaching on off-road tracks around Europe.
They decided that any cars fitted with turbocharged engines would also need restrictor plates, which would limit the air passing through the turbos.
Instead, Toyota decided to place their restrictor plate in a position where it would actually have no impact on the performance of the turbocharged engine. Of course, Toyota couldn’t keep this secret forever, and the FIA eventually imposed a ban on the Toyota Celica GT-Four.
9 1966 Chaparral 2E
We have already met the unusual Chaparral 2J, one of the later creations by the U.S. auto manufacturer responsible for many of the most impressive innovations in modern motorsports. However, the company had been creating unusual vehicles since the 1950s, including the Chaparral 2E, which was built in 1966. The vehicle featured an unusual spoiler, which was on raised legs, towering high above the body of the car. This spoiler could actually be moved into different positions, depending on whether the car was cornering or on the straight. This was too much for motorsport bosses, who banned the curious looking Chaparral 2E from races on several grounds.
8 Group B Rally Cars
So far, all the vehicles on this list have been individual cars which motorsport bosses deemed too good to take part in races. However, a whole classification of rally cars, Group B, were banned in 1986, just four years after their introduction to the sport, after a number of serious accidents were attributed to the cars’ high speeds. It still took the authorities some time to actually respond to these incidents, many of which were fatal, but it was the loss of Henri Toivonen and his co-driver Sergio Cresto in Corsica which was the final straw for Group B rally cars.
7 1992 Williams FW14B
Williams is one of the most respected Formula 1 teams, and some of the biggest names in motor racing have driven for Williams, such as Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, and Jacques Villeneuve.
Mansell even won the 1992 Drivers’ Championship driving a Williams FW14B, which was later banned by FIA for being simply too good.
The team, which had significantly more cash than other F1 teams, developed an active suspension system, which adapted to the track thereby reducing the load on the tires. The other teams couldn’t afford such advanced technology, and FIA ended up banning the whole system.
6 1998 Tyrell 025
The Tyrell Formula 1 car from the 1998 season was a pretty standard vehicle, as far as Grand Prix cars go, and didn’t even win any races. So why did FIA end up banning it? Well, the Tyrell was an incredibly light piece of kit, with a carbon fiber body and a V8 engine compared to the V10s used by most of its competitors. The team decided that more downforce was needed on some tracks, and added X-wings on the bodywork near the cockpit. This innovation was soon copied by other teams, much to FIA’s concern, and the Tyrell and its X-wing invention were soon kicked off the course.
5 1992 Dauer Porsche 962
The 1992 Dauer Porsche 962 was a little unlucky when it came to rule changes in the World Sportscar Championships. Nothing changed as far as the car was concerned, but the rules of the sport did, which meant that the Dauer Porsches simply couldn’t keep up with the technological innovations employed by the other teams.
Cars which had been winning every race in 1991 soon found themselves at the back of the grid.
When Dauer Porsche tried experimenting with a modified 962 with a larger fuel tank – meaning the car could stay out on the track longer – things improved for the team, though even this innovation was soon banned.
4 1985 Consulier GTP
Consulier is probably one of the least well-known car manufacturers on this list, and yet the company’s revolutionary and radical set of wheels managed to win race after race in IMSA competitions for about six years in the 1980s, beating better-known names like Corvette and Porsche. Eventually, the IMSA authorities – and the fans – grew tired of the Consulier GTP dominating the sport, and saddled the innovative vehicle with a 300-pound weight penalty to counter its super-light bodywork. When even that didn’t hold back the Consulier GTP in racing competition, IMSA decided they had no option but to ban the car.
3 1987 C4 Corvette
In the late 1980s, the C4 Chevy Corvette was all dominant in U.S. stock car racing, dominating the Escort Endurance Championship between 1985 and 1987, and beating the usually all-victorious Porsche vehicles 29-0 in races. The authorities decided enough was enough and kicked the Corvette out of the competition.
Unlike other manufacturers, Chevrolet decided they had the pulling power to set up their own racing series, which would only feature cars made by the iconic company.
The Corvette Challenge may have only run for two years in the end, but it was hugely popular with Chevy fans who enjoyed the fact that drivers were being tested in vehicles which were nearly identical mechanically.
2 2018 Dodge Challenger Demon
Drag racing is a hugely popular sport, in which two cars or motorcycles compete against each other over a short distance. Success is all about quick acceleration and a fast top-line speed, which is why cars like the 2018 Dodge Challenger Demon should have been a big success in the sport. However, if you want to race your 2018 Dodge Challenger Demon in a drag race, then you will need to invest in some extra safety equipment before the authorities will let you on the track, as the National Hot Rod Association has decided the car is too fast to race safely as produced.
1 1968 Lotus 56
The turbine-powered Lotus 56 only made one appearance in the iconic Indy 500 race in 1968 before it was promptly banned by race bosses for being too fast and too powerful. The stylish race car, designed by Andy Gratanelli and driven in 1968 by British motorsport legend Graham Hill, didn’t even win (in fact, Hill crashed out of the race just a few laps before the end of the race) but the authorities had seen enough in qualifying and in the race itself to decide that the Pratt & Whitney turbine engine was way too powerful for Indy car racing.
Sources: digitaltrends.com, roadandtrack.com, engagesportmode.com, ultimatecarpage.com, grandprixhistory.org