7 stars who've switched motorsports to stay in the racing game

7 stars who've switched motorsports to stay in the racing game

Whether they suggest they're retiring and don't, or they need to find other opportunities outside their comfort zone, the best in motorsports carry on finding ways to chase the ultimate thrill.

Many of the top names in motorsport just can't leave racing alone. They'll try their hand at other disciplines, like motorbike ace Mike Hailwood, who won nine world championships in all classes, as well as the Isle Of Man TT, before turning to F1 and winning the F2 Championship. Or Mario Andretti, who raced everything from the 24 Hours of Le Mans to the Baja 1000 after his own F1 career. Others, like Martin Brundle and David Coulthard, become respected commentators. People move behind the scenes, like Toto Wolff, Niki Lauda, Giacomo Agostini or John Surtees, the only man to have won both a motorcycle and F1 world championship.

Here are seven other examples of aces trying something new to satisfy their lifelong need for speed.

1. Fernando Alonso
One of the all-time F1 greats, Fernando Alonso is retiring at the end of the 2018 season. But he isn’t about to hang up his racing gloves just yet. After 17 seasons in Formula One, the Spaniard is currently also competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes gruelling circuit races such as the Six Hours Of Fuji and 1,000 Miles of Sebring. And what do you know, Alonso triumphed in the championships' 24 Hours of Le Mans at his first attempt over the summer, alongside his Toyota team-mates Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima (both also guys who know their way around an F1 car). With victories at Le Mans and the F1 Monaco Grand Prix under his belt, Alonso's just an Indianapolis 500 win away from claiming the unofficial Triple Crown of Motorsports. He made a good start in 2017 when he (perhaps ironically) skipped Monaco to drive at the Brickyard. He led for 27 laps before his engine blew, but this was enough for Rookie of the Year.

2. Jean-Éric Vergne
Another Formula One driver going great guns in a completely different race series is Jean-Éric Vergne. After driving for Scuderia Toro Rosso from 2012–14, and test-driving for Ferrari for a year, Vergne struggled to find a drive, and instead moved into the fast-rising Formula E series for the 2014–15 season. With a race to spare, Vergne clinched his first-ever Formula E World Championship at the New York ePrix in 2018.

3. Marc Coma
Coma is one of several Dakar Rally specialists who’ve moved into the gruelling rally raid competition from other worlds. Like Stéphane Peterhansel, Coma started out as a motorcycle enduro rider, moving through the youth ranks and winning various titles, before entering the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, a competition he won six times. However, Coma will for ever be synonymous with the Dakar, an event that he first entered in 2002 and which he went on to win five times. Such is Coma's all-consuming love for the event that since 2015 he's been working behind-the-scenes as the race's Sporting Director.

4. Sébastien Loeb
Sébastien Loeb is, of course, best known for his exploits in the World Rally Championship – a series he won an incredible nine times in a row between 2004 and 2012. But Loeb is also notching up a pretty impressive number of retirements. Loeb first quit WRC in 2013, before making comebacks in 2015, and again in 2018. He's so accustomed to competing (and winning) that, in his breaks from WRC, he chose to race in the FIA GT and FIA World Touring Car championships, smash the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb record, and compete in the Dakar. And now, after all that, he's juggling his time between WRC and World Rallycross, while also managing his own WRX Sébastien Loeb Racing team.

5. Travis Pastrana
Travis Pastrana is a man of many talents. After winning the AMA Motocross and Supercross titles in the early 2000s, he quickly made a name for himself as a ground-breaking FMX trickster, winning gold after gold at the X Games and picking up enough injuries in the process to pave the way for a well-earned retirement. And yet Pastrana just keeps on extending his repertoire. He’s competed in NASCAR and the Global Rallycross Championship, also jumping 269ft (82m) from a pier, across the harbour and onto a barge in Long Beach, California for 

In 2017, he returned to NASCAR's Truck Series, recorded the fastest ascent of Mount Washington in a car, and earlier this year returned to the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb to earn a class win. All of this would suggest that even though he beat three of his hero Evel Knievel's world records this summer, Pastrana is eyeing up a future in motorsports beyond bone-busting, arena-based trickery. He even dusted off off his MX kit to race for the first time in years at the 2018 Motocross of Nations, raising money to help hurricane-hit 

6. Mattias Ekström
Like Sébastien Loeb, Mattias Ekström seems reluctant to step away from the steering wheel and, over the past decade, instead of easing off the gas, has raced as many disciplines as he can find time for. His primary discipline is DTM, which he's raced in since 2001, winning the world title twice. But through the 2000s, Ekström juggled this successful career with three Race of Champions victories, occasional stints in WRC and NASCAR, and an appearance at the Bathurst 1000. Highlighting his rush to fit it in all in before signing off, Ekström finally branched out into FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2014, competing in both that and DTM. In fact, on his way to winning the WRX Championship in 2016, he raced in both WRX and DTM at Hockenheim on the same weekend. Ekström is now retiring from DTM, but like those drivers and riders before him who've moved behind the scenes, he'll be concentrating on his own EKS RX team, with support from Audi Sport.

7. Nelson Piquet Jr
Nelson Piquet Jr, son of three-time F1 world champion Nelson Piquet, has made a tour of world circuit racing. Piquet Jr left Formula One in 2009, after two seasons and 28 grands prix, during which time he scored a second-place finish at the 2008 German GP. In 2010, Piquet Jr headed to the US, where he raced (and won) in the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, and even won races in the Global Rallycross Championship. The Brazilian then moved into Formula E, winning the series' first ever championship season, and now also races alongside some of his fellow Formula E racers (and former F1 colleagues) in the World Endurance Championship. Which all goes to prove it's not over until it's over.


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