A couple of days after Phil Hill died five years ago, we were on the phone to Sir Stirling Moss, one of his chief rivals in both Formula 1 and sports cars.
“If you were in the same event as him, his was always one of the first names you looked for on the time sheets to see how quick he'd been,” said Moss of America's first F1 World Champion. “He was a terrific driver and always gave a very good account of himself.”
Dario Franchitti's rivals were of much the same mind when it came to competing against the four-time IndyCar champion, a racer who shone on any type of track and had the Al Unser-like ability to make it look so easy. From the Milwaukee Mile to the ultimate superspeedway at Indianapolis, from the bumpy multi-surfaced streets of Toronto to the flowing sinews of Sonoma, Dario was a winner on them all.
We find ourselves in two minds about Franchitti's medically-precipitated decision to quit racing. We're happy and relieved that someone so central to the sport has retired healthy. That's the most important fact that should never be taken for granted, given the size of his career-ending crash.
On the other hand, we – like Dario himself, probably – had a glorious rest of career mapped out for him…one more attempt with Ganassi to join the four-time Indy 500-winners club, then six or seven years in prototype sports cars, perhaps alongside Mark Webber at Porsche, to try and add the 24 Hours of Le Mans to his Rolex 24 at Daytona crown.
And then…decades reveling in the sport's history, driving classic racecars at Goodwood, Laguna Seca and the like.
We're certain that motorsport, past and present, is in Dario's future; his ambassadorial qualities must surely be utilized. But here, in The Champions Issue, among insight on the title winners of 2013, we offer Robin Miller's salute to a departing champion of the recent past, an IndyCar ace who grabbed opportunities and wrung them dry…yet did it all with a silken touch.
Also on tap in The Champions Issue:
THE RACER INTERVIEW: SCOTT DIXON
It's the day after Dixon clinched the title at the Fontana finale and the Kiwi is sitting down with RACER Editor David Malsherbefore the series' awards banquet in Hollywood, Calif.
HOW IS SEBASTIAN VETTEL SO GOOD?
He's Formula 1's golden child, but the record-equaling achievements of 2013 are joyful confirmation, rather than justification, for what he does better than anybody else in F1 at present, explains Mark Hughes.
VETERANS DAY & WAYNE'S WORLD
Marshall Pruett charts the path taken by the last champions of the ALMS and Grand-Am series.
JOHNNY BE VERY GOOD
But Johnny O'Connell needed all his skills to master the Pirelli World Challenge, as Marshall Pruett explains.
Tom Jensen relates how Jimmie the Great just keeps getting better.
MEET THE WRC'S NEW SEB
Loeb's moved on, but Ogier is just getting started, reckons David Evans.
What keeps John Force roaring at 16 Funny Car titles and counting? Todd Veney considers.
You'll find all this and much more in the Winter Issue of RACER magazine. To subscribe now at a special discount rate, click here, or to learn where to buy RACER in your area, click here. To purchase a single copy of The Champions Issue, click here.
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