Racing for everyone has always been about the edge, go along it hard enough and you’ll see a chequered flag, some champagne and a lot of passion, too hard and you will see the tail end of a miserable last place. Racing fans debate the greatest all the time, for some it remains those who hold on the longest, for others it is the impact despite their terrible fillings and some crave a larger-than-life impression. This is our list of the best racing drivers ever to live.
The GOAT – Jim Clark – The Unparalleled Across Formulas and Tours:
Jim Clark, the Scottish racing virtuoso, etched his name in motorsports history by dominating Formula 1 with Team Lotus. Steering the iconic Lotus 25 and Lotus 33, he clinched two World Championships (1963, 1965). Beyond F1, Clark showcased his unparalleled talent by conquering the Indianapolis 500 in 1965. His touring career was equally illustrious, securing victories and championships in various series. Tragically, his untimely death during a Formula 2 race at Hockenheim ring in 1968 marked a profound loss. Despite the brevity of his career, Clark’s enduring legacy underscores his extraordinary skill, versatility, and the mark he left on racing’s golden era.
- Juan Manuel Fangio – Formula 1 Maestro: The Original Speed Racer
Fangio achieved his greatest success in the 1950s, primarily driving for Scuderia Ferrari and the Mercedes-Benz team. His pivotal 1957 German Grand Prix victory, securing his fifth World Championship, came behind the wheel of a Maserati 250F, showcasing his adaptability across different manufacturers.
- Richard Petty – The King of NASCAR: Petty’s Highway to Victory
Richard Petty, synonymous with the iconic No. 43 car Dodge 1969 Daytona, raced predominantly for Petty Enterprises. His car, perhaps a legend among legends spun a franchise just based on this car’s legacy. His historic seventh Daytona 500 win in 1979 came driving a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The victory highlighted the enduring partnership between Petty and the family-owned team.
- Sébastien Loeb – Rallying daredevil: Loeb’s Off-Road Symphony
Sébastien Loeb’s unparalleled success in rallying was with Citroën. The Frenchman’s nine consecutive World Rally Championships (2004–2012) were achieved behind the wheel of Citroën Xsara WRC and later the Citroën C4 WRC, solidifying Citroën’s dominance in the WRC during that era.
- Kenny Roberts – Motorcycle Racing Maverick: Born to Ride, Knee-Down Style
Kenny Roberts, a Yamaha legend, rode the iconic yellow and black Yamaha YZR500 during the late 1970s. His groundbreaking knee-down riding style, showcased during his first 500cc World Championship win in 1978, forever changed the landscape of motorcycle racing.
- Dan Gurney – Versatility Personified: Gurney’s Grand Prix Odyssey
Dan Gurney’s versatility extended to car manufacturing, and his landmark F1 victory at the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix was achieved driving the Eagle-Weslake, a car developed by his team, All American Racers. Gurney’s triumph showcased the potential of independent teams in Formula 1.
- Lewis Hamilton – Modern Formula 1 Orchestrator: Hamilton’s Furious Odyssey
Lewis Hamilton has been synonymous with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team since 2013. His record-tying seventh World Championship in 2020, sealed at the Turkish Grand Prix, underscored the unparalleled success of the partnership and the dominance of the Silver Arrows in the turbo-hybrid era.
- A.J. Foyt – American Racing Legend: Foyt’s Four Corners of Victory
A.J. Foyt, an American racing icon, achieved his greatest successes with the Coyote chassis, a car developed by Foyt and his team. His historic fourth Indianapolis 500 win in 1977 came driving the Coyote/Foyt, showcasing the prowess of American engineering in motorsports.
- Alain Prost – Professor of Formula 1: Prost’s Tactical Grand Prix Lectures
Alain Prost’s storied career saw him drive for several prominent teams, including McLaren, Renault, and Ferrari. His tactical brilliance was particularly evident during his time with McLaren, where he secured two of his four World Championships (1985, 1986) driving the McLaren MP4/2.
- Jeff Gordon – NASCAR’s Rainbow Warrior: Gordon’s Colorful Victory Lap
Jeff Gordon’s illustrious NASCAR career was closely tied to Hendrick Motorsports. His win at the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994 was achieved driving the iconic rainbow-coloured No. 24 Chevrolet Lumina, establishing the beginning of a long and successful partnership between Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports.
- Michael Schumacher – Formula 1’s Seven-Time Champion: Schumacher’s Red Baron Legacy
Michael Schumacher achieved most of his success in Formula 1 with Scuderia Ferrari. His pivotal 2000 Japanese Grand Prix victory, securing his third World Championship, came driving the Ferrari F1-2000. This marked the beginning of an era of unprecedented success for Schumacher and Ferrari in the early 2000s.
Now, one will raise the question, where are the other legends? Aryton Senna, Valentino Rossi, Joey Dunlop, Bruce Mclaren, Ken Miles, Carrol Shelby, Colin McRae, Phill Hill, Stirling Moss, Graham Hill and others.
As difficult as it was, they are all legends in their own right and our list while subjective to us here at Motoring World is also indicative of what motorsports always was, a proving ground for greats and champions all over the world. They showed us their greatness and our memory dare never forget.