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The Fastest Of Them All

Whenever F1 fans get together, you can bet that the conversation will eventually turn to the subject of which driver was greatest of all. Years ago I read a short story that deals with this rather well and I am always reminded of it whenever such a discussion begins. I do not remember who wrote the story so I cannot give credit where it is due – but it was a long time ago so perhaps it will be sufficient that I put on record that the story isn’t mine. Anyway, here’s the basic outline of the tale:

It seems that there was a group of friends who were great fans of Grand Prix racing. They met often and enjoyed many long discussions on all aspects of the sport but things often became heated when the matter of the quickest driver arose – as it did often.

Nuvolari

The usual names were bandied about, Nuvolari, Fangio, Moss, Clark, Stewart, Senna, Schumacher, but no final decision could ever be reached as each fan produced persuasive reasons as to why his choice must be the right one. Over the years, positions became entrenched and everyone knew the opinions and arguments of everyone else since they had heard them so often before. But nobody would concede defeat and the subject remained the one issue that was entirely deadlocked; yet they never gave up debating it, so determined were they that the matter be settled once and for all.

They were old men by the time they gathered together for the bus ride to Spa to see the Belgian Grand Prix. And, in a way, it was fitting that they should all be killed when the bus fell off a hillside in the Ardennes before they reached the circuit. Inseparable friends they had been in life and now, in death, the bond continued unbroken.

And so it was that they found themselves together again in heaven. St Peter had allowed them entry as a group and no-one was left behind. And, inevitably, the old subject came up again, undecided as it still was. Who was the fastest of all?

Even then, they were unable to reach agreement and things might have stayed that way for eternity if one of their number had not suggested settling the matter by asking the Boss, the Big G, who was reputed to know all things. Elated that they would finally know the truth and the controversy be settled forever, they proceeded to the Big House to ask their question.

The Boss was in residence and expressed Himself happy to answer anything they should ask. They explained the problem (not omitting mention of each one’s preference to ensure that he not be forgotten) and finished with the question that had dominated their lives – who was the fastest driver of all time?

The Boss smiled and answered immediately. “Heinz Hopflinger,” He announced with certainty.

The friends stared at Him and each other in complete perplexity. “Heinz Hopflinger?” ventured the bravest of them. “But I’ve never heard of him. How could that be?”

The Boss smiled again. “Oh, it was Heinz all right. I ought to know – I made him. He was a shepherd in Lichtenstein all his life and never actually saw a motor vehicle, let alone a racing car. But, if they had put him in one, he would have beaten all those you mentioned by a mile…”

2 Responses to “The Fastest Of Them All”

  1. That was the best story i have ever heard. And the best true evet ever told. Because there are no, have never been, and will never be, one singel driver who have been the fastest.

    Just because one person becomes the world champion one year, does not make him the fastest ever. Even though such people as Senna, Prost or Schumacher indeed are really fast, and i have never seen any person race in the way that Schumacher did in his last race.

    But, cars evolve, and so do the persons and the sport too. Look at Fangio as an example. If you would be able to take a car with you back in time and put him in one, i doubt he would ever be able to race one as great as he did the cars from his time. Simply because those cars required a different driver compared to the cars of today.

    So, just to get to a halt with all my ramblings, diferent times have diferent champions. But no one person can be the fastest person ever to race a car.

    And, last, please excuse me if my language can be a little hard to understand at times, but i am from Sweden, and are trying the best i can.

  2. You speak English much better than I speak Swedish, Bj̦rn Рthank you for such a full and insightful comment. You are quite right that we can never compare drivers of different eras. The cars have changed so much that they require very different skills now. In a way, the story is designed to say just that! It is sufficient for us to know that the great drivers of the past stood head and shoulders above their peers Рand any attempt to compare them to drivers of other times is always doomed to failure.

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