Who is the greatest race car driver of all time? This is an argument that has raged ever since the first automobile race. There are many types of racing from different time periods. It would be like comparing apples and oranges. First, an examination of the different types of racing and the top drivers from each field should be considered.
The Greatest Formula One Drivers of all time as voted on by other Formula One Champions:
- Ayrton Senna
- Michael Schumacher
- Juan Manuel Fangio
- Alain Prost
- Jim Clark
The Greatest NASCAR Drivers based upon winning, career length and fan popularity:
- Richard Petty
- Dale Earnhardt Sr.
- David Pearson
- Jimmie Johnson
- Jeff Gordon
The Greatest Sport Car Drivers Endurance Racers based upon number of wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Daytona:
- Hurley Haywood
- Jacky Ickx
- Al Holbert
- Marco Werner
- Phil Hill
Each of these drivers and many more excel in their field, but who is the greatest? We must look at crossovers, those that have raced in multiple types of cars and have proven themselves successful. Here are three top candidates listed alphabetically.
- Mario Andretti is one of two drivers to win races in Formula One, Indy Car, NASCAR and World Sports Car Championships. Andretti had a long career spanning four decades. Highlights include winning the Indianapolis 500, the Formula One World Championship and the Daytona 500. In a vote by 217 Formula One champions, Andretti was chosen as the 20th greatest Formula One driver of all time.
- A.J. Foyt is the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500 (4 times), the 24 hours of Le Mans and the Daytona 500. Foyt’s accomplishments are almost too numerous to mention, including 12 USAC Championships, induction into multiple halls of fame and winning the Triple Crown of Endurance Racing. All his success came after surviving 3 major crashes with injuries including a broken back and multiple compound fractures of the legs and arms. At his victory at Le Mans he drove 18 of the 24 hours.
- Graham Hill won the Triple Crown of racing, the Indianapolis 500, the 24 hours of Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix. In addition, he twice won the Formula One World Championship. Hill broke into racing by first signing on as a mechanic before talking his way into the cockpit. During his career he suffered a crash in 1969, which broke both his legs but he overcame the setback and returned to racing. Hill was ranked 21st on a list of the greatest Formula One drivers as voted on by 217 Formula One champions.
*Photo courtesy of 1964 – 1969 Ford GT40 by George Sanders at Flickr’s Creative Commons.