QOTD: Trying Something New?
Whether it’s a job, car, or food, trying something new often takes a dose of courage. It’s that reason why I always sit up and take notice when a racer steps out of the machine in which they normally compete and turn a wheel in a different environment.
Fernando Alonso did just that this weekend with Toyota at LeMans. The Spaniard appeared in the LMP1 class, part of a team that took the overall win. Not shabby at all.
There’s no shortage of them, that’s for sure. For starters, four-time Indy 500 champ A.J. Foyt also tried his hand at NASCAR. How many races did it take for him to earn a win? Only ten, as the victory came in the July race at Daytona. It would be the first of seven, including the Daytona 500 in 1972.
Famously, Kimi “leavemealoneiknowwhatimdoing” Räikkönen jumped into a NASCAR Camping World pickup and then Nationwide car in 2011, during which he uttered zingers over his radio such as “I am out of the drink again. It’s so small. Mark has to make sure it’s completely full, because it is too small.” This followed a stint kicking up dirt in the rallying world. All that activity was bookended by F1 duties.
Who tops your list of racers who dared to step outside their comfort zone?
[Image: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]
You are not giving Foyt proper credit. He also won LeMans 24 hours with Dan Gurney in 1967, driving about 18 hours of the 24 because Dan overslept and missed the driver change. He did win the Indy 500 4 times, but he is the only one to do it with such diversified cars: 2 were on skinny tired front engine roadsters, 1 was non-down force mid-engine, and the last was a downforce mid-engine. And he won IROC driving a lightly racified 911, and loads of dirt track races. Mario Andretti also won the Daytona 500, the F1 world championship, Indy 500, and the Daytona 24 hour, and I believe he was 2nd at LeMans in 1995 at age 55. John Surtees won several motorcycle GP championships and the F1 championship with Ferrari, and had 3rd place finish at LeMans. Of course in the 1950s to 1970s a lot of drivers raced in different series because that was the only way to earn a living before big sponsorships and big prize money. Graham Hill, Jimmy Clark, Dan Gurney, Phil Hill, the Unser brothers, etc. also won in a lot of different types of races.
The LeMans was a reasonable small car in Europe in the 80s as the Opel Kaddett / Vauxhall Astra (the lineage that led to the Saturn Astra / Buick Verano) By the time it had gone through Korea (sold in Europe as the Daewoo Nexia) the world had moved on.
Walker "Where are the jumps" Evans when he transitioned from Baja to Craftsman Truck Series at beyond retirement age and did pretty well.
A large number of Dakar Rally Raid motorcycle riders successfully transitioned to rally cars.