Great Rivalries: Racing's Best Rivalries

Getty Images The Cahier Archive
Sean McCabe

We can all savor the spectacle of the quickest driver in the fastest car majestically disappearing from the field - Jim Clark crushing all comers at Indy in 1965 or Cale Yarborough winning by two laps at Bristol in 1973. But great drivers are defined by their rivals. Michael Schumacher is a case in point. Although he won ninety-one times in F1, often unchallenged by his competition, the races that we remember best are the ones that involved tête-à-têtes - with Damon Hill at Adelaide in 1994, with Jacques Villeneuve at Jerez in 1997, with Mika Häkkinen at Spa in 2000. Or what about Imola in 2005, where he spent the last part of the race desperately trying, but failing, to slip past Alonso's slower Renault? More than the championship Alonso would earn at the end of the year, this was the race that identified him as the rightful heir to Schumacher's crown.

In racing, unfortunately, rivalries tend to be relatively short-lived. Drivers move up or on. Cars and teams become uncompetitive. Technology and personnel change. But every now and then we're blessed with a rivalry so rich and well-matched that it transcends the conflict between two great drivers and speaks to a larger clash between cultures - old versus new, sport versus commerce, us versus them. In Indy cars, it was Foyt and Andretti. In Formula 1, it was Prost and Senna. And in stock cars, it was Earnhardt and Gordon. In each case, these rivalries were the visible evidence of tectonic shifts that were transforming the sport.

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