The 25 most explosive racing rivalries: countdown

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The most explosive rivalries in motor sport: including F1, sports cars, rally and motorcycling. Check back every day as we count down racing rivals from 25 to 1

Nigel Mansell leads Nelson Piquet

Photo: Motorsport Images

Rivalries in motor sport elevate the stakes, the excitement and the spectacle in any form. When two of the best racing rivals go head-to-head, fireworks are bound to occur.

In the latest edition of Motor Sport, we have ranked our 25 favourite racing rivalries of all-time. You can read the full list and accompanying article in the magazine now

We have also been counting down the rivalries online, with a brief description. Click HERE to jump to our greatest rivalry, or scroll down to start at number 25.

Be warned: so much has been written about the likes of Senna vs Prost and Hunt vs Lauda that we’ve omitted these well-worn tales to highlight less obvious — but just as explosive — contests.

Our 2020 calendar celebrates the same theme, with beautiful shots from some of the most memorable rivalries in the sport’s history. It’s available to buy from the Motor Sport shop.


Racing rivalries: explosive contests that have shaped the sport
In the latest Motor Sport Magazine

 

25. Audi vs Peugeot (2007-2011)

Photo: Motorsport Images

From 2007 to 2011, Audi and Peugeot went head-to-head at Le Mans in a battle between major brands. In those years, the French manufacturer won just once in 2009 with Audi sweeping the rest.

Read all 25 great racing rivalries in the latest issue of Motor Sport Magazine​


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24. Lewis Hamilton vs Nico Rosberg (2013-2016)

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg during the 2016 Formula 1 season

Photo: Motorsport Images

After three seasons of brewing tensions and occasional contact between the pair, 2016 was the season Nico Rosberg finally got the measure of Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes. It took so much out of the German, he would retire in the aftermath, leaving Hamilton to reflect on a title fight lost with no prospect of a rematch.


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23. Sébastien Loeb vs Sébastien Ogier (2011)

Photo: Motorsport Images

In a partnership at Citroën between two of World Rally’s greats in the modern era, the feud between the Sébastiens would result in Ogier finding a new home at Volkswagen after the relationship between him and Loeb had grown bitter.  They won 14 titles between them. No love lost though.


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22. Carl Edwards vs Brad Keselowski (2009-2010)

Carl Edwards is launched into the air after contact with Brad Keselowski at Talladega in 2009

Photo: Motorsport Images

A spectacular airborne crash for Edwards at Talladega in 2009 (above), after contact with Keselowski, was just one of the many collisions that the pair had. They required NASCAR officials to have a word with both about on-track conduct. Yes, it was too much contact even for NASCAR’s liking.


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21. Jim Clark vs Graham Hill (1962-1967)

Jim Clark and Graham Hill

Photo: Motorsport Images

A polar opposite from the modern intensity and tension between drivers, the 60s Formula 1 grid was a family in comparison. Clark had the pure speed, Hill a determination that bridged the gap on occasion, the pair’s friendly competition was intense on-track yet gentlemanly off of it.


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20. Michael Schumacher vs Damon Hill (1994-1996)

Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill moments before the crash that decided the 1994 F1 world title

Photo: Motorsport Images

A tragic 1994 season came down to Hill and Schumacher for the title. At Adelaide, the former eventually forced a mistake from the latter and opened a window of opportunity. One controversy later, Schumacher was in the barriers but as the ’94 champion, Hill also out but left without that crumb of comfort.


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19. Barney Oldfield vs Ralph DePalma (1908-1918)

Photo: Getty Images

Born out of bad sportsmanship, Oldfield and DePalma’s disdain for one another would go on for a decade. Their feud extended beyond the track limits and into political manoeuvring also. A blocked Indy 500 drive is among the highlights of this rivalry.


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18. AJ Foyt vs Mario Andretti (1965-present)

Photo: Motorsport Images

Both enjoyed their separate racing successes, Foyt at Le Mans, Andretti in Formula 1 though their rivalry would ignite in America. Racing as direct adversaries in NASCAR and Indycar racing, their feud has lasted the test of time


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17. Jason Plato vs Matt Neal (1997-present)

Of the rivalries listed so far, perhaps none has come as close to physical violence as these two touring car veterans, who were both multiple-time champions by the time their most contentious moment came during qualifying at Rockingham in 2011. How many other racing rivals can say they came close to fisticuffs on television?


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16. Nigel Mansell vs Nelson Piquet (1986-1992)

Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet battling at Adelaide during the 1990 Australian Grand Prix

No longer team-mates but still fighting: Mansell and Piquet at Adelaide in 1990 Photo: Motorsport Images

Their two seasons together at Williams perhaps defined both of their Formula 1 careers. The pair became fierce rivals almost immediately, as Mansell found his feet in F1 and Piquet arrived at the team. The Brazilian would take the 1987 championship despite Mansell’s better win rate.


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15. Porsche 917 vs Ferrari 512 (1969-1971)

Photo: Motorsport Images

A golden era in endurance racing during the late 60s and early 70s, Ferrari fighting with Porsche, 512 vs the 917. It was the start of a dominant period for Porsche while Ferrari focused efforts elsewhere.


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14. Tom Walkinshaw Racing vs The Automobile Club de l’Ouest (1993)

Photo: Motorsport Images

TWR Jaguar Racing crossed the line at Le Mans in 1993 to finish 10th overall and win its class. The result wouldn’t stand however, as the ACO disqualified the entry post-race. Just one of the many disagreements Tom Walkinshaw had with them…


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13. Carlos Sainz vs Colin McRae (1995)

Photo: Motorsport Images

Team orders hardly make for a healthy team environment and Subaru found that out when they ordered McRae to slow so that the 1995 Rally Catalunya was won by Sainz. The Spaniard did take victory but McRae would have the last laugh in the championship that year.


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12. McLaren vs Ferrari (1976-present)

Fernando Alonso in the McLaren and Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari during the 2007 German Grand Prix

Photo: Motorsport Images

A rivalry that reached a very public and bitter peak in 2007 with the Spygate scandal, Ferrari vs McLaren might have fallen away in recent seasons, but the two most successful teams in F1 history have history, a lot of it.


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11. Art Arfons vs Walt Arfons (1952-1966)

Art Arfons

Photo: Getty

Rivalries can be personal between competitors, but these half-brothers would only get back to speaking terms after a near-death experience for Art.


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10. Mercedes vs Auto Union (1934-1939)

The Mercedes and Auto Unions during the 1938 British Grand Prix

Photo: Motorsport Images

Mercedes had the W25 and W125, Auto Union had its V12 154, both would fight for supremacy but were head and shoulders clear of anything else in grand prix racing, failing to win only one race between 1935 and 1939.


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9. Don ‘Snake’ Prudhomme vs Tom ‘Mongoose’ McEwen (1964-1973)

Filming of Snake and Mongoose, the film of the rivalry between drag racers Don Prudhomme and Tom McEwen

Photo: Alamy

Both shared a Hot Wheels sponsorship deal; both would earn fame in the United States and the pair would duel in Funny Cars for supremacy, but the two figures in this racing rivalry remained friendly throughout.


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8. Turbos vs natural aspiration in F1 (1977-1989)

Photo: Motorsport Images

Having been a stomping ground for Cosworth until Renault entered a 1.5-litre V6 turbo. Jean-Pierre Jabouille took the first turbo win in F1 in 1979 and started a trend that was adopted by the likes of Ferrari and Brabham


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7. Kevin Schwantz vs Wayne Rainey (1986-1993)

Photo: Motorsport Images

Rivals from 1986, the pair’s grand prix motorcycling careers commenced at the same time, both would become champions though Rainey would suffer paralysing injuries in 1993, Schwantz lost interest after his rival was no longer the one to fight


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6. Britain vs Italy (1950-today)

Fangio’s Maserati leads Stirling Moss in his Vanwall in the 1958 French GP Photo: Motorsport Images

The early days of Formula 1 belonged to Italian cars, but the late fifties saw British teams overthrow the red machines. The ebb and flow of power has continued: a rivalry as old as the championship itself.


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5. Valentino Rossi vs Marc Márquez (2013-today)

Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez

Photo: Motorsport Images

The young Spanish prodigy had once idolised Rossi but their relationship couldn’t survive the heat of competition. Barbs in the paddock were followed by on-track clashes and a bitterness that endures.


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4. John Surtees vs Eugenio Dragoni (1964-1966)

Photo: Motorsport Images

Eugenio Dragoni and John Surtees did not get along. The pair would not see eye to eye on pretty much anything. So much so that when Dragoni prevented Surtees taking the start of the 1966 Le Mans race, the snubbed driver immediately left the circuit and drove to Maranello to complain to Enzo Ferrari himself; it was the end of Surtees’ tenure at the team.


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3. Brabham vs The Paddock (1978)

1978 Brabham fan car

Photo: Motorsport Images

Brabham’s BT46B or ‘fan car’ was a Gordon Murray creation that showed its pace instantly — swiftly followed by protests from the rest of the paddock. Team owner Bernie Ecclestone would ask Murray to remove the feature from the car in a political move as he eyed power through the Formula One Constructors’ Association

Read all 25 great racing rivalries in the latest issue of Motor Sport Magazine​


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2. Jackie Stewart vs Denis Jenkinson (1972)

Photo: Motorsport Images

Jackie Stewart’s push for safety in motor sport led to great progress and lives saved throughout the years, but his pursuit to reduce the risks in racing was met with plenty of resistance, including from Motor Sport Magazine’s own Denis Jenkinson. In 1972, he dismissed Stewart’s campaign as “pious whinings” that had “brainwashed and undermined the instincts of some young and inexperienced newcomers to grand prix racing”.


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Tazio Nuvolari vs Achille Varzi (1930-48)

Tazio Nuvolari leads Achille Varzi in Milan in 1936

Nuvolari leads Varzi in Milan, 1936 Photo: Motorsport Images

Was Nuvolari the greatest pre-war racing driver, or was it his long-term adversary, Achille Varzi? The pair were the talents of the day; Nuvolari the instinctive, passionate racer and Varzi the calm but equally competitive rival.

The 1933 Monaco Grand Prix was an epic: the pair locked together for all but three of the 100 laps, with Varzi emerging victorious when piston failure robbed Nuvolari of the chance of victory.

Read all 25 great racing rivalries in the latest issue of Motor Sport Magazine​


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