With the Formula One season well underway, Lewis Hamilton is still leading the charge and flying the flag for British racing at the top of the table. But what about the homegrown legends who paved the road for the high-speed stalwarts of the present day? Never ones to shy away from a lesson in sporting history, Teams on Tour have found the British Racing Legends who accelerated us to our present podium place in professional motorsports.
Hamilton. Button. Schumacher. Vettel. Alonso. All have tried and failed to top flying Scotsman, Jim Clark’s records for most Grand Slams, pole positions, fastest laps and race wins. Unbelievably, Clark also holds the record as the only driver ever to lead every lap of every race, for 8 races straight. However, Clark’s story took a tragic turn in Hockenheim, Germany in 1968, where he was killed in a freak Formula Two racing accident. He might be gone, but the immense legacy he left behind will never be forgotten.
50 years prior to Lewis Hamilton’s infamous F1 Championship win in 2008, Mike Hawthorn became the first ever Briton to lift the prestigious trophy. Not content with merely winning the 1958 World Title, three years prior, Hawthorn won the renowned 24 Hours of Le Mans race, suffering through one of the sport’s worst crashes in the process. A genuine racing hero of his time, it was a truly sombre twist of fate when Hawthorn passed away as the result of a road crash on an A-road near Guildford only months after clinching his F1 title.
SIR STIRLING MOSS
Often hailed as one of the greatest British drivers never to win a World Championship, Sir Stirling Moss was an absolute speed demon in his career, winning 16 GP’s between the years of 1955 and 1962. He was also second in the Drivers’ Championship four times in a row. Moss is even madder when you consider he only officially retired 6 years ago at the ripe old age of 81. Putting all those “boy racers” to shame.
Commonly known as the George Best of the racing world, James Hunt broke all the rules of F1 tradition, and he did it in style. Often refusing to dress properly for official occasions, turning up in t-shirts and jeans, sometimes with his pet German Shephard in tow, Hunt would even attend ceremonies barefoot. But Hunt is perhaps most famous for his intense rivalry with Niki Lauda, as well as his attacking style of racing. Both of which can be seen in critically acclaimed movie Rush.
Worth a mention for his glorious moustache alone, Nigel Mansell was a racing prodigy. He was the first driver in history to win the CART championship in a debut season, which becomes an ever more impressive feat when you remember that only a year prior he had won the F1 Championship, making him the only man ever to hold both those titles simultaneously. Mansell was known for his never-say-die attitude, and even got out of his car in the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix after his engine failed to push his vehicle across the line. Absolute. Bloody. Legend.
Jackie Stewart is a racing hero. And surprisingly, it’s not because of his THREE (yep, seriously) World Championships or his nickname of “The Flying Scot” but rather the legacy of safety that he left. After nearly going up in flames in 1966 after becoming trapped in his upturned car as fuel poured over him, Stewart became the sport’s biggest advocate for racing safety. It’s thanks to him that removeable steering wheels are a thing, as well as main electrical switches. Simply put, Jackie revolutionised F1 on, and off, the track.