QotW: Who’s your favorite race car driver?

Ernest Hemingway once said, “There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.” That’s because these were the only ones where one could lose one’s life. Last week we lost one of the greats, Kunimitsu Takahashi. Today, March 31, also happens to be the birthday of Ayrton Senna, who would be 62 today if he were still alive. These legends did things behind the wheel that no one thought was humanly possible. It seems a good a time as any to ask:

Who’s your favorite race car driver?

The best comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s the dumbest thing a car company has offered?

Many of you chose actual cars, which is totally fair. Among the most hated were Bryan Kitsune‘s Pontiac Aztek, Taylor C.‘s Chevy Avalanche and Escalade EXT, Lee L.‘s Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, BlitzPig‘s new Integra, and (ouch) dankan nomination of the entire Infiniti brand. Others chose non-car items like CycoPablo‘s branded wristwatches or Broetto Navarro‘s Integra NFT, which we almost gave the win solely on his utter agreement with us.

However, the winner this week was BMBardier‘s rant about fake engine sounds in modern cars:

By far the dumbest thing a car company has ever offered is fake engine sounds. Whatever you call it, BMW Active Sound Design or VW Soundaktor or Acura Sound Control or any number of branded systems for fake engine noise. It’s dumb, takes extra effort to create and makes things just worse overall. I knew the ICE jumped the shark when automakers started putting this lying software in cars. The worst part is because BMW started it all the other luxury car brands had to copy it. Would you want your wife to fake an orgasm? Then why would you want your car to fake rev?

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

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12 Responses to QotW: Who’s your favorite race car driver?

  1. RainMeister says:

    This is like asking “What is your favorite food”? So many different varieties from different eras and series. Growing up, Bob Sharp was my favorite as I watched him race Datsun Zs and 510/610s to multiple victories at Lime Rock Park. Niki Lauda was my earliest favorite F1 driver for his brilliance and bravery. Ayrton Senna came along and I feverishly cheered him on as he dominated in the Honda-powered cars, only to be crushed by his untimely death.

    But my all-time favorite may be Mark Donohue. He looked more the part of a race car engineer (which he was to brilliant effect), which belied his extraordinary skills, speed and bravery as a racer. I never got to see Mark race in period, as he died in practice at the ’75 Austrian GP. However, I’ve gotten to know him through his autobiography (The Unfair Advantage), Youtube race videos and a growing collection of 1/43 scale miniatures of his various race cars. And varying they were. Driving mostly for Team Penske, Mark won races in all forms of series (*champion): SCCA*, USAC (including the Indy 500), Trans Am*, IROC*, Nascar, and Can Am*. The last was won in the legendary Porsche 917/30.

  2. dankan says:

    Lots of favourites (and I really should be naming Alex Zanardi), but given the venue, I think I must name Noriyuki Haga. Who? Good question. In the late 1990s production-based motorcycle racing (the World Superbike Championship) had hit a sort of late 1960s Trans-Am moment as the Japanese Big 4 and Ducati proceeded to go at it hammer and tongs with full factory efforts. It was way more fun than the same era of Grand Prix racing (and is partly why that series switched to 4-strokes), and featured tons of great riders with truly epic personalities (Carl Fogarty, Troy Bayliss, Colin Edwards, (the very weird) John Koscinski, Pier Francesco Chili).

    And into the peak of this sport strode a wildcard Japanese rider on an ancient Yamaha called Noriyuki Haga. Haga had been doing very well in the domestic All-Japan championship, and won the 1996 Suzuka 8-hour with Colin Edwards; so got the chance to do some wildcard World Superbike outings. And on a very past-it Yamaha that was due to be replaced he blazed out of the gate with great results and an absolutely insane riding style. This man was sideways everywhere, and more aggressive than Max Verstappen at Abu Dhabi. And his off-track personality was the complete opposite of the very buttoned-down corporate soldier that most Japanese riders were. He partied harder than the mechanics. So, instant fan favourite, race winner, but never a title winner. Definitely the kind of racer worth getting nostalgic over. And as an example of his work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5qy9wPB80s

  3. Sammy B says:

    So, so many absolutely amazing drivers that I love and admire. But I’m going to try and narrow it down to three:

    Mario Andretti: Absolute GOAT. Raced and won pretty much everything. IndyCar/CART, dirt, NASCAR, sportscars, and F1. He’s won pretty much everything too, with the exception of overall win at LeMans [best result when he was 55 (!) yrs old of 1st in class; 2nd overall]. His name is more or less synonymous with speed (“who do you think you are, Mario Andretti?!”).

    Dan Gurney: Another amazing driver, engineer, and team owner. He was a founding member of CART. Won LeMans & Spa F1 race a week apart! Invented spraying champagne on the podium and has a friggin piece of IndyCars named after his invention (Gurney Flap). His 80s dominance in IMSA with Toyota also amazing & inspiring. A shame Toyota abused them as test mules in 90s CART and dropped them right before it all came together.

    Samir Thapar: of “You’re breaking the car, Samir” fame. This one is near to my heart since we share first names 🙂

  4. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    Paul Newman was probably my favorite driver. Not only in the Nissan livery but everything I’ve read says he’s just an outstanding gentleman who sheds his stardom at the front gate.

  5. f31roger says:

    Drift King himself. I know it’s typical, but I loved watching Drift Bible (and I am not a drifter).
    His video battles on the touge, track and even him coming to the US for the American Touge series..

  6. Kevin H. says:

    I have two:
    Peter Cunningham made me have pride in my own DC2. Yes my Integra was nothing like his but seeing him do what he and his team did on the track is what truly ignited my passion for Japanese cars. I grew up in Charlotte, N.C. aka NASCAR country in the 80s and 90s. Most people looked to V8, RWD, domestics for the ideal sports car. Yeah there were the guys in Cali and NJ (Englishtown) making big HP fwd Hondas, but straight line racing didn’t do it for me. Watching Peter Cunningham drive was like listening to a symphony performing a masterpiece. That was the first time I appreciated the apex, late braking, left foot braking, chassis control, etc… in car that looked like my own!
    The second driver has little to do with his driving but more with just him as a person, Dale Earnhardt Jr. I meet Junior at a bar in downtown Charlotte years ago. I was with a group of friends that identified him. One of his posse overheard us and made a rude statement to my friend. Dale overheard his friend, took him to the side, asked him to leave, and paid for my group’s drinks. He hung out with us and invited us to his house, but we did not take him up on the offer. He sat next to me and we talked about cars and growing up around the area. Years later, while I was still living in Charlotte, I saw him driving his Vette. We caught eyes, I was driving my Corona Wagon, and he gave me a thumbs up. My head exploded, I was approved!

  7. Johnny says:

    I never owned an Audi and wasn’t even born by the time Group B met its end but there is just something about Michèle Mouton’s crazy maneuvers around a rally stage contrasting with her elegant hair and persona that makes me really wish a documentary was made about her.

  8. Nigel says:

    Carlos Sainz … rally car drivers who can pilot a car at the limit between the “tree fences” on a gravel road.

  9. Ian G. says:

    Colin McRae. The Flying Scotsman was my absolute hero and the reason i fell in love with Subarus and deemed the 22B as the ultimate car. He was the World Champ in ’95 and he was the youngest person to do so. He helped Subaru win the Manufacurer’s title in ’95-’97.
    He was fun to watch and was so gutsy and had no fear. I wish i had guts like that.
    But idolizing him led me to picking up a ’99 GC Impreza RS, an ’03 WRX and a ’98 which was set up for road events and auto-x duties.
    He was gone too soon. His battles with Tommi Makinen are engrained in my head. RIP.

  10. Mitsuman says:

    Nikita Mazepin 🤣.

  11. RayZ says:

    Mario Andradeti, Paul Newman,
    Dale Earnhardt, John Morton.
    All great drivers in their field of driving.

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