TAKE A LOOK at our countdown of the top 10 greatest racing drivers, ever.
The other week we listed our top 10 racing car liveries. Well now it’s the turn of those behind the wheel; so here is our 10 greatest racing drivers of all time.
10. Tom Kristensen (Le Mans)
The Le Mans 24 hours is widely recognised as the most prestigious race on the planet and Tom Kristensen has won it eight times, making him the most successful Le Mans driver of all time. The Dane won F3 championships before moving on to race touring cars throughout the 90’s, eventually moving to the Le Mans Series where he’s raced very successfully ever since.
9. Juan Manuel Fangio (Formula One)
Robbed of the chance to be the first F1 world champion, Fangio won the title a year later in 1951 before winning another four titles on-the-trot from 1954 to 1957. For 46 years, the argentine held the record for the most championship wins, until a certain German came along, but still has the highest winning ratio in Formula One history, 47.06%, and is the only man to win titles with four different teams. Fangio died in 1995, aged 84.
8. John Surtees (Formula One)
Yet another record holder; John Surtees remains the only man to win world championships on two-wheels and four-wheels. Surtees started his racing career with motorcycles, winning four Motorcycle Grand Prix championships between 1956 and 1960. He then switched to cars where he quickly became a winning driver, picking up the 1964 F1 world championship in only his fourth year in the sport.
7. Walter Röhrl (WRC)
According to the statistics Walter Röhrl is not the greatest World Rally Championship driver of all time, with only two titles to his name, but there must be a reason why many experts and fellow drivers say he is. Röhrl drove during the fearsome Group B years, driving the Lancia 037 and Audi Quattro before moving on to circuit racing and then becoming chief test driver for Porsche, developing the likes of the Carrera GT supercar.
6. Sébastien Loeb (WRC)
Having won eight consecutive World Rally Championships, Sébastien Loeb couldn’t not be on this list. There are those who argue that he’s had it easy in terms competition and has had a car advantage thanks to the speed and reliability of his Citroëns but you still can’t argue with the numbers and the methodical way he wins rally after rally without ever throwing the car at the scenery. It turns out he’s also pretty handy on a circuit too.
5. Michael Schumacher (Formula One)
With seven Formula One world championships and 91 race wins to his name, Michael Schumacher is statistically the most successful F1 driver of all time and he, along with Ross Brawn and Jean Todt, is widely credited for resurgence of Ferrari over the last 15 years. However, numerous (and some serious) controversys and some questionable driving ethics push him off the top places in this list.
4. Colin McRae (WRC)
He may not statistically be the best rally driver in the world, but sometimes greatness can’t be calculated. McRae won the WRC title in 1995, making him the first British driver and the youngest driver to do so, a record he still holds. McRae increased the popularity of rallying in the UK and won fans around the world with his “If in doubt, flat out” driving motto. Colin McRae was killed in a helicopter crash in 2007, aged 39.
3. Jim Clark (Formula One)
Jim Clark won the Formula One world championship twice, in 1963 and 1965, but is probably the most versatile racing driver of all time, competing in: F1, British Touring Cars, NASCAR, rallying, sports car racing and IndyCar where he won the Indianapolis 500 in 1965. Clark was, and still is, regarded by his peers as one of the most naturally gifted racing drivers ever. Jim Clark was killed in a F2 race at Hockenheim in 1968, aged 32.
2. Ayrton Senna (Formula One)
One of the most famous names in sport, let alone motorsport, Ayrton Senna won three F1 world championships. Much has already been written about Senna and there is a fantastic documentary out there too so not much needs to be said, but Senna’s driving style, speed, domination in wet conditions and epic battles with main foe Alain Prost have made him a legend. Ayrton Senna was killed at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994, aged 34.
1. Sir Jackie Stewart (Formula One)
Sir Jackie Stewart has undoubtedly saved hundreds, if not thousands, of driver and spectator lives all over the world. During his F1 career, drivers who raced for at least five years had a two in three chance of being killed on track and Sir Jackie realised that this was unacceptable.
He worked hard to get even the most basic safety measures, including barriers, approved helmets, fireproof overalls and medical equipment at the tracks. He was lambasted by the press, the circuit owners and some other drivers but, having lost friends including François Cevert and Jim Clark, he continued to demand improved safety measures. Safety did improve and no drivers have been killed in F1 since Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at the ill-fated San Marino Grand Prix 18 years ago.
Not only did Sir Jakcie Stewart survive during the most dangerous period in Formula One but he won the world championship three times, ran the race-winning Stewart Grand Prix team with his son Paul, and has coached many young F1 drivers. He was a brilliant driver, a safety advocate, an excellent role model and a wonderful spokesperson for motorsport. It is because of all this and much more that Sir Jackie Stewart is our greatest racing driver of all time.