The real question is, which would win the gold?
Badminton. Canoe slalom. BMX racing. Table tennis. Rhythmic gymnastics. Trampoline. I would happily nix all of these Olympic sports in exchange for the inclusion of motorsport as an official event.
There’s precedent, too. The second modern Olympiad, held in Paris in 1900, had both automobile and motorcycle racing. More recently, there was the short-lived A1 Grand Prix in which the teams competing represented their home nations instead of companies or themselves. Lastly, the X Games, an Olympics for adrenaline junkies, currently includes Rallycross, Moto X, Gymkhana, and Stadium Super Trucks as official events.
So if car racing were an Olympic sport, what would it look like? First, we’d have to pick what kind of motorsport to make an official Olympic event. For me, it came down to a choice between Figure 8 School Bus racing and GT endurance racing. I chose the latter because my home country would be unfairly good at the former, which we invented by the way. U-S-A!
GT endurance racing it is, then. I like that GT race cars are based on road-going production models; it gives fans a connection to the cars, and unlike a formula or spec series, allows for lots of variation in the design and mechanicals of each one. Plus, endurance racing means that in addition to speed, durability and strategy are also factors; the fastest car doesn’t always win these races.
Since each country participating would have to choose one car to race in Olympic Motorsport (that’s what I’m calling it), they would each have to create governing bodies to decide on the car that best represents their nation and then coordinate the effort. Thus, what follows is what we imagine the first field for Olympic Motorsport would like if it were being held at this year’s 2016 Rio Olympics.
Olympic Carthlete: Bugatti Chiron
I can think of no better car to represent France on the world stage of motorsport than the new Bugatti Chiron, but the company would have to change some things in order to make it eligible; we would have some rules, after all. The Chiron is way too powerful out of the box. In order to make things fair, the French would have to detune the car’s 1,437-horsepower, quad-turbo, W16 engine. Maybe they can toss two turbos and reduce the boost to get power somewhere in the range of 500-700 horsepower.
Olympic Carthlete: Mercedes-AMG GT R
You could make a strong case for picking the Audi R8 to represent Germany in the 2016 Games, but I like the Mercedes-AMG GT R for this inaugural race because it comes from the world’s oldest surviving automaker. Mercedes deserves to race in the Olympics for the contributions it’s made to civilization over its 90-year existence (actually, it’s 133 years old if you go back to the first car with a “Benz” name on it). Be it through advances in technology, the employment of millions, or the beauty it’s given the world through some of its car designs, this elder statesman of autodom gets a free pass from me to take a starting block. Better luck in four years, Audi.
Olympic Carthlete: McLaren 650S GT3
The U.K. has a surprising number of worthy candidates from which to select its standard-bearer. Jaguar, Aston Martin, and Bentley all have good options, but McLaren should be the one to represent Her Majesty’s kingdom on this most auspicious occasion. Unlike those other names, it’s remained purely British, from its current ownership to where its headquarters is located to where its cars are built. As for the car, it would be fun to use the range-topping P1 GTR, but like the Chiron, its power is too much for this class of race cars and would need to be dialed back. Why bother when the 650S GT3 is right there and ready to go?
Olympic Carthlete: Ferrari 488 GTB
Italy has an embarrassment of high-powered cars to choose from. For GT endurance racing, though, the choice is obvious: the Ferrari 488 GTB. The obvious reason is that it’s already competing in endurance racing around the world, and its predecessor, the 458 Italia, was very successful in this type of motorsport. It would be simple for Ferrari to find an experienced and successful team already fielding a 488 GTB that wants to go to Rio.
Olympic Carthlete: Nissan GT-R
There were some guffaws when I told the Motor1 team I was choosing the GT-R to represent Japan. Some thought the new Acura NSX should be chosen. I don’t envision a rule for this Olympic event that requires a car be built in the country it’s representing (the Ford GT is built in Canada, so that would be weird). But free trade and a strong dollar led Acura to choose Ohio for production of the NSX, while the GT-R is not only made in Japan, it also has a well-established lineage of being the country’s emperor of all things speed. It’s just… more Japanese than the NSX, and thus it’s been given the nod to wear the country’s colors in Rio.
United States of America
Olympic Carthlete: Ford GT
Sorry Chevy. If this event were held any other year, your Corvette Z06 C7.R would’ve been the obvious choice, but this is the 50th anniversary of the Ford GT40 winning 1-2-3 at Le Mans in 1966, and the Blue Oval commemorated the occasion with the new GT, a road-going and racing supercar that has already visited the top step of the podium at Le Mans this year. It’s easily America’s best chance at winning gold in this event. Maybe in 2020, Chevy.
Now, which country to do you think will win the gold?