RACER June/July 2023: The Heroes Issue

·3 min read

There’s a theme running through the three drivers we’ve chosen to put in the spotlight for RACER magazine’s annual celebration of some of the heroes of racing. Fernando Alonso, Tony Kanaan and Bobby Rahal all tick the box on career longevity, but it’s the relentlessness and ongoing will to win that comes with that longevity which sets them apart for us.

Kanaan led laps in his first Indianapolis 500 back in 2002. He led laps and finished third in his 21st start last year. And TK being TK — still driven, still focused, and loaded up with all the experience and smarts that so many Months of May bring — he’ll likely lead more laps, and maybe even provide racing’s feel-good story of the year, in what he definitely, absolutely promises will be his final Indy 500 start on May 28.

Alonso hasn’t hinted at any sort of end date for his Formula 1 career, and why should he? The soon-to-be-42-year-old Spaniard is having a standout season after moving to upwardly-mobile Aston Martin. While some regard it as a rebooting and re-energizing of the two-time world champion, he sees it differently. For Alonso, nothing’s changed within himself and what he brings; it’s just current circumstances allowing others to see that, too.

Speaking of feel-good stories of the year, what odds would you give on him winning a grand prix in 2023? It might take the perfect storm (literally), and a Red Bull Racing meltdown, but don’t rule it out.

Rahal made his CART debut in 1982 at the age of 29, winning two races and finishing second in points. Three championships and a 1986 Indy 500 win followed, and despite taking on the added responsibility and pressure of team ownership, the guy finished top 10 in points for 16 of his 17 seasons racing Indy cars. That’s staying power.

And speaking of staying power, it’s the centenary running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, June 10-11, and RACER’s taking a look at the world’s most famous endurance race, past and present.

For the present, we run the rule over a manufacturer-stacked Hypercar class and assess the chances of Cadillac, Ferrari, Glickenhaus, Peugeot, Porsche and Vanwall against serial winner Toyota and its tried-and-proven GR010 HYBRID package. Plus, we set the scene for some serious NASCAR rumble at La Sarthe when a lightly-modified Next Gen Chevy Camaro takes the Garage 56 slot.

And for the past, we count down the 24 Hours’ winningest marques (replete with some stunning illustrations by RACER’s in-house artist, Paul Laguette) and recall a few of the race’s greatest driver partnerships.

Add in a look back at NASCAR’s 1995 Cup Series season and a changing-of-the-guard duel between Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon, a head-to-head assessment of the World Rally Championship’s title-hogging Sebastiens — as in, Loeb and Ogier — some fascinating insight on what elevates an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver pairing from good to great, and a lot more, and we hope you enjoy reading RACER No. 322 as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

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Story originally appeared on Racer