Car Racing’s Greatest Rivalries

Racing rivalries have been played out numerous times on the big screen in both fact and fiction, and in good films (“Senna”) and bad (“Days of Thunder”). This phenomenon is most recently showcased in Ron Howard’s superb film “Rush.” Here are some of our favorite racing rivalries ever:

James Hunt/Niki Lauda: James Hunt and Niki Lauda, whose McLaren/Ferrari rivalry throughout the tumultuous 1976 Formula One season is the subject of the new Ron Howard Film “Rush,” was truly one for the ages. Although the film plays up the mutual antipathy, in reality, it was far less heated than what was depicted. Hunt and Lauda were actually roommates in their early days. Three guesses as to who was the slob and who was the neatnik.

Richard Petty/David Pearson: This one might just be the purest and best rivalry ever in racing — maybe in any sport.  NASCAR has a history of big egos, petty jealousies and some truly infantile behavior between drivers. But the Petty/Pearson rivalry was based on respect for each other’s abilities. They brought out the best in each other and, at the end of the day, that’s what racing is all about, as well as being what the fans pay for.  For the record, Pearson was a Mercury man for much of his career a 1971 Mercury Cyclone and a 1976 Mercury Montego were among his most famous rides. Petty was of course a Mopar guy for most of his career, the shovel-nosed, outrageously winged 1970 Plymouth Superbird was one of the iconic Petty cars.

Cale Yarborough/ Darrell Waltrip: After Petty and Pearson, this was the gold standard for NASCAR rivalries in the 1970s. It was no mutual admiration society like Petty and Pearson, even Waltrip’s and Yarborough’s respective crews hated each other.

Alain Prost/Ayrton Senna: Prost and Senna, unlike Hunt and Lauda, truly hated each other.  Their bitter late-1980s through early-1990s rivalry was marked by fights and bids to have the other disqualified, although they did collaborate on driver safety issues.  The excellent 2010 documentary “Senna” showed it all through archival footage with no narration whatsoever. The rivalry was only put to rest with Senna’s tragic death in 1994 at the Grand Prix of San Marino. Prost attended the funeral.  As an aside, Senna was instrumental in the development of Honda’s famous Acura NSX sports car.

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