Indy 500 Cars That We Would Love To See In Sim Racing

Indy-500-Cars-We-Would-Like-To-See-In-Sim-Racing.jpg
Image: Reiza Studios
The greatest spectacle in racing has been taking place for over 110 years, and that means plenty of iconic cars have competed in the Indianapolis 500. We have picked out a few that we would love to drive in sim racing.

It is the 2024 Indianapolis 500 weekend, undoubtedly the more exciting of the two major racing events held traditionally on the last Sunday of May. Having first taken place in 1911, the race sees 33 drivers, both full-timers from the IndyCar Series as well as one-off entries try to cross the yard of bricks first and drink the milk.

The history of this race is vast, and many incredible cars have spawned from the various eras that the event has taken place in. Unfortunately for us sim racers, there are not that many options for us to drive officially in sims. There are a few modern IndyCar chassis in iRacing, rFactor 2 and Automobilista 2 (sort of - the Formula USA 2023 is a fictional adaptation), the latter of which also houses three generations of classic IndyCars.


But overall, there is very little in the way of official Indy 500 cars across the sim racing space. Of course, there are mods for many sims, but regarding first-party content, the choice is not exactly plentiful. So we compiled a number of classic Indy 500 cars that we hope to see in sim racing in the future.

March 86C​

Competing in the 1986 and 1987 seasons, the March 86C was the second title-winning design by a certain Adrian Newey, who was relatively unknown at the time. The car would go on to take 14 wins and 13 poles across the 17 races in 1986. Bobby Rahal took six of those victories, including the Indianapolis 500 on his way to the first of three championships.

The car used a variety of engines, but it was perhaps most notably powered by the Ford-Cosworth DFX turbo V8, generating about 700 horsepower. Newey-designed March cars were the ones to have, as only five of the 1986 full-time teams even entered another car, sometimes even changing to a March 85C or 86C later on.


The 86C's perfect balance of over and under aerodynamics made it the go-to car on both ovals and road courses. In fact, the car took wins in all but three events of the 17-race schedule in 1986 - only Mario Andretti (at Portland and Pocono) and Al Unser Jr. (at Miami) managed to break the 86C's stranglehold in their Lola T86/00s.

The March 86C's influence extended beyond the wins and championships, impacting the design philosophy and technological advancements in the years that followed, solidifying the March 86C's legacy as one of the iconic cars in Indy 500 history.

With all this in mind, it would be the perfect car to represent Indy's mid-to-late 80s era when the series was rising rapidly in popularity.

Lola T90/00​

Apart from the iconic, race-winning Domino's livery on Arie Luyendyk's car, the Lola T90/00 is also famous for another thing: For 23 years, it held the record of being the car to have completed the Indy 500 at the highest average speed, with the Dutchman having finished the race at an average of 185.981 mph (299.307 kph).

Similar to the previous era of March dominance, teams needed a Lola if they wanted to compete. Except for a few March and Penske chassis, the vast majority of entries in the 1990 season ran Lola cars. Coupled with an Ilmor-Chevrolet engine, the car powered series champion Al Unser Jr. to six wins, four of which came in succession from Toronto to Vancouver.

1280px-Luyendyk_Lola_Chevrolet.jpg

Image: Carey Akin via Wikimedia Commons, available for free distribution under CC BY-SA 2.0 License

Despite the car's evolution, the T91/00, being run by top teams like Newman/Haas, Hall Racing or Galles-KRACO the following year, 1973 and 1982 Indy 500 winner Gordon Johncock managed to finish sixth with the year-old car in 1991 - despite starting in 33rd position and suffering flu symptoms before the race.

1992 marked the final Indy 500 for the T90/00, with John Paul Jr. finishing the race in 10th while the only other model driven by Éric Bachelart retired after four laps with engine problems.

Reynard 99i​

Next up is a car that does not technically qualify as an Indy 500 car - but it should have. Due to the IRL/CART split between 1996 and 2008, the Reynard 99i never raced at Indianapolis, with fans never being able to see this rocketship unleash its potential at the iconic 2.5-mile Speedway. The 99i was driven the likes of eventual champion Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti and the late Greg Moore, among others.

By the late 1990s, the package of a Reynard chassis, Firestone tires and Honda engines had become the go-to in the CART World Series. It swept all driver's titles from 1996 to 1999, with Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi and Montoya reigning supreme for Chip Ganassi Racing.


Being from the Split era on the wrong side of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, it does represent a very important part of IndyCar history. It is such a travesty that the 99i never got to take part in the Indy 500, as this was the era of the fastest open wheeler oval racers in history - and some of the most talented racers in American open wheel racing never got to race at the Brickyard as a result.

Plus, this era of car is fun to drive in sim racing, too. Automobilista 2 has the previous and following season's 98i and 2KI, but with the 99 car being the last one Moore drove, it would be fitting to have that year's Reynard as well to try and get the #99 Forsythe car to the front of a virtual, fictional Indy 500 with the cars that should have raced there.

The 99i was able to exceed 240mph on superspeedways like Michigan, and showed great versatility by being highly competitive on road and street circuits as well.

McLaren M16​

The world renowned marque is an ever strong presence in motorsport, having been founded over 60 years ago by Bruce McLaren which now races in Formula One, Formula E, Extreme E and also IndyCar. 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi lines up fourth for the McLaren IndyCar team gunning for the win on Sunday, but it would not be McLaren's first victory at the Brickyard.

Three times over five years, the M16 took victory in the hands of Mark Donohue in 1972, then with Johnny Rutherford behind the wheel in 1974 and 1976 for two of his three wins. In the '74 race, Rutherford achieved this despite starting all the way back in 25th place, the furthest back the winner had started since Louis Meyer in 1936, who began in 28th.


The M16 is the most successful IndyCar of the 1970s and saw several evolutions, the final one being the M16E. 1976 marked the final start of the car for McLaren, but other teams continued to field the car until 1981 - an incredible 10-year span in which the model actually ran at the Indy 500, too.

As the 1970s saw rapid technological developments in IndyCar, having the M16 represented in its various steps of evolution would be a great opportunity to reflect this in sim racing.

Penske PC-23​

Perhaps the ultimate one-off weapon - kind of. The Penske PC-23 was raced for the entire season, but its bespoke Indy 500 engine is the stuff of legends. As CART sanctioned all races except the Indy 500, which was still run by USAC, the rulebooks differed ever so slightly - and Penske, together with Ilmor and Mercedes-Benz, turned up the power dial to 11.

A bespoke stock block pushrod engine was developed in secrecy and only unveiled in late April of 1994 - too late for any of the other manufacturers to build their own engine of this kind. Naturally, the monster motor and the PC-23 blew everyone else out of the water, with Al Unser Jr. winning that year's 500.


Reportedly, the car was capable of hitting the 250 mph top speed mark, although lap speeds were lower than today's due to the less sophisticated aerodynamics and slower cornering speeds. Still, getting to drive this engineering marvel at full boost would be a thrilling experience, particularly in VR.

1961 Trevis-Offenhauser​

Roadsters were synonymous with Indianapolis for a long time. Its era is considered to have started in the early 1950s and ended in 1964, when AJ Foyt took the final win with one of these front-engined brutes of a car. Afterwards, the mid-engine revolution set in motion by Lotus took over, and the concept prevails to this day.

However, for many, a classic Indy 500 car means a roadster. And since there were countless designs by teams and drivers in that era, it is tough to settle for one. We are going with Foyt's 1961 Trevis Offenhauser, the car that powered the Texan to his first Indy 500 victory.

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Image: Doctorindy via Wikimedia Commons, available for free distribution under CC BY-SA 3.0 License

It was sporting a version of the legendary Offenhauser engine, which incredibly was at the top in American open-wheel racing for over 40 years. An 'Offy' was part of an Indy 500 victory 27 times, its final one taken by Rutherford in 1976 in the aforementioned McLaren M16E - a whopping 41 years after its first triumph with Kelly Petillo at the wheel.

Which Indy 500 cars that are currently not in sim racing as first-party content would you like to see? Let us know your choices on Twitter @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!
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Luca [OT]
Biggest sim racing esports fan in the world.

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The STP Turbine powered cars, the Vels-Parnelli X-wings. Mclaren's Indycars, Gurney's Eagles...Foyt's Coyotes. so many cars could be included. Oh, the first Indycar Ground Effects car, the Chaparral 2K. (a little better engine cooling it's first year and Al Unser Sr would have been a 5 time winner!)
 
A lot of older Indycars cars available for Automobilista 1. The 1973, 1974 and 1978 seasons are available as are 1987 and 1988.
 
I personally think Indycar is severely overlooked in simracing. Only Cheifwiggum has come close with 85' and 90's. I know there is an 87' i think for Rfactor and AMS1, which are all good. I would love to see more of those mazing mod groups go this way. Not modern, we've plenty of that. Old school.
 
Lots of neat cars listed, but in a way, I disagree with the premise of the article, because I wouldn't want any one car. Please give me a full grid of cars (models and paint schemes) from a particular year's Indy 500. And ideally, a period-correct track model to go with it. Huge immersion! :inlove:
 
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Lots of neat cars listed, but in a way, I disagree with the premise of the article, because I wouldn't want any one car. Please give me a full grid of cars (models and paint schemes) from a particular year's Indy 500. And ideally, a period-correct track model to go with it. Huge immersion! :inlove:
Using F1 as a metaphor, would you be as eager for example to have a Super Aguri 2006 car as well as the Renault car from that year?

With respect, I don't think enough people would care for the anonymous cars, not to the extent to get the licencing for it.
 
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Using F1 as a metaphor, would you be as eager for example to have a Super Aguri 2006 car as well as the Renault car from that year?

With respect, I don't think enough people would care for the anonymous cars, not to the extent to get the licencing for it.
Fair point that I might not want a backmarker car like that on its own. :roflmao:

Even so, as a single player racer who loves racing AI with the driver names, cars, and paint schemes of a given season of a series, I would get very little enjoyment out of any individual car (regardless of which one). The complete season (following your example, of the 2006 F1 season) would be what I'd really enjoy! Just my personal preference. :)

EDIT: A reasonable compromise is (of course) a couple of generic models (like in AMS 2) where people can add paint schemes and AI names.
 
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Using F1 as a metaphor, would you be as eager for example to have a Super Aguri 2006 car as well as the Renault car from that year?

With respect, I don't think enough people would care for the anonymous cars, not to the extent to get the licencing for it.
It's something worthy of a poll. I am one who prefers a full grid of a given season, but I'm usually a salmon against the stream :p
 
Someone needs to make a proper CART generations title...

Going from the early days of the Indy 500 right up to the split...

Many drivers, like Scott Dixon has in the modern era, drove for decades in Indycar, many entering their 50s before retirement... Making such a vast section of time feasible for a career mode within it... Especially if it started in 1960 as an 18 year old...

Whilst I'm sure it wouldn't be as popular as a similar licensed title on F1 or even sportscars, there would definitely be a market for it... More so than a modern Indycar game that mimicked the F1 series titles of today...
 

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