No one likes to take their work home, but race car drivers might be an exception. From Talladega to Monaco, the world’s best-compensated drivers tend to fill their garages with collections of prized automobiles. In the slides ahead, you’ll discover which pro driver can’t drive 45 in a Mercedes SUV (and got ticketed and a trip to driving school), and which famed racer has a thing for vintage Camaros, including the 1967 model pictured here.
But whether these famously fast drivers are affiliated with NASCAR or Formula One, their everyday rides are not always flashy and pimped. Sometimes they’re downright practical vehicles suitable for driving the kids to school, and one or two of them might even get good gas mileage.
The following collection runs the gamut, containing not just speedy supercars, but a healthy dose of vintage classic cars, and one distinctive off the wall novelty vehicle. Click on to discover which pro drivers make fantastical car choices, which ones are practical, and whose selections represent a little of both categories.
By Colleen Kane
Posted May 25, 2011
Known personal vehicles: Lamborghini Gallardo, Mercedes ML 63 AMG
The first woman to win an Indy car race and NASCAR star Danica Patrick is known to indulge her need for speed off the racetrack in a Lamborghini Gallardo and Mercedes ML 63 AMG. While driving her Mercedes in her hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona, she picked up a speeding ticket for doing 57 in a 40 zone, along with an order to attend traffic school.
Patrick told the Daily News about her attempt to evade the long arm of the law. “I tried to pull the race car driver card, and I know he had already written the ticket, but I said, ‘I'm a race car driver. I'm not going to hurt anyone out here, I do know what I'm doing,’ and he said, ‘I don't know who you are and I don't care.’ But then it was on the news that night.”
Known personal vehicles: Infiniti FX50
At 23, German Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel is the youngest driver to earn the title. His driving associates include Julia and Kate, Kate’s Dirty Sister, Luscious Liz, Randy Mandy, and Kinky Kylie—all names of his cars.
Off-track, Vettel says he loves driving so much that he’ll drive anything. He told The Times, “I drive the cars that I like — I’m not a car snob. So if I like a Skoda, then I drive a Skoda. But actually I am ambassador for BMW, so I drive BMWs.” On a perhaps related note, Vettel drives an Infiniti FX50 as his personal vehicle, and Infiniti has a partnership with Sebastian’s Red Bull Racing Team.
Known personal vehicles: Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG DR 520, 1970 VW Type 2 camper, 1978 Ferrari 512BB
British Formula One driver and 2009 World Drivers’ Champion Jenson Button has come many laps since failing his first drivers’ test for getting too close to another car when parking. For personal rides, Button’s been linked to Porshe Carerra GT, Ferarri Enzo, Bugatti Veyron, and a matte black Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG DR 520—one of only 20.
He famously auctioned a much less streamlined and speedy personal vehicle, his 1970 VW camper with split windscreen. Another curious car of Jenson Button recently went up for auction: a 1978 Ferrarri 512BB. Why would he part with this sleek beauty? It was an act of kindness performed for the Ferrari’s next owner: “My F1 commitments will not enable me to enjoy the car to its fullest,” he announced when putting it up for auction.
Known personal vehicles: Mercedes-Benz GL Class 320 CDI
Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes SUV—his second GL—is a seven-seater with a refined three-liter V6 common rail diesel engine, interior leather to match the black painted exterior, privacy glass, and 21” AMG wheels.
The GL has a 0 to 62mph time of 9.5 sec and a top speed of just 130 MPH, but F1SA.com quoted Lewis praising his wheels as the most comfortable road car he’s ever driven, saying he likes using it “to relax, kick back and cruise.” He also appreciates the space it allows for his kit and its sound system.
Known personal vehicles: Ferrari FXX, Original Fiat 500, Fiat Croma
German F1 seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher is an old pro now, but when he was a new driver, his first car was an original Fiat 500. He’s still very much associated with the Fiat brand, reporting on Top Gear that he drives a Fiat 500 Abarth and that his family car is a Fiat Croma. There are also two Michael Schumacher limited edition Fiat models: the (rather un-racy looking) Fiat Stilo Michael Schumacher GP and Fiat Seicento Michael Schumacher.
Oh, and Schumie also tools around in a little jalopy known as the Ferrari FXX supercar (like the one pictured here)—one of just 31 produced, and it’s the only black FXX.
Known personal vehicles: 1984 Cadillac hearse, numerous other vehicles
Indy and NASCAR driver Tony Stewart has drawn a lot of attention for one particular off-track auto choice: the 1984 Cadillac hearse he named Smoke DeVille.
But there are plenty of other cars in Stewart’s personal garage. In a 2009 video tour of his auto collection, Tony points out a 2005 Lamborghini Murcielago he says he only drove once, a 2003 Hummer equipped with an incredible seven TVs “for going out with your buddies,” a 1956 Chevy short bed pickup, a 1957 Chevy Belair, a Corvette pace car, a Shelby Series 1, a Tony Stewart Monte Carlo, a 1967 Pontiac GTO, a 1955 Chevy Nomad, and his favorite: a 1979 Pontiac Trans Am Firebird, Smokey and the Bandit edition with CB radio.
Known personal vehicles: 1967 Camaro, 1972 Camaro
NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt is a third-generation race car driver in a racing family. Outside the track, he’s also a long-established Camaro guy, owning a few generations of Camaros, including the special edition Dale Earnhardt, Sr. "Intimidator SS" Camaro.
Indeed, Camaros are an Earnhardt family affair: Dale, Sr. built a racing Camaro with his dad in 1967. Dale Jr.’s 1967 Camaro (pictured on the introductory slide to this slideshow) has an SBC engine and 5-speed transmission, and the 1972 one pictured here has a GM LS2 engine and a 6-speed Transmission.
Known personal vehicles: 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SE, Smart Car
When he’s not racing, the Scottish Formula One driver / hotelier/ reputed ladies’ man David Coulthard likes to tool around Monaco in his 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SE convertible (like the stunner depicted here, which is for sale).
The Scottish edition of The Sun reports that the thrifty DC also drives a Smart Car, explaining, "Believe it or not I was never really a speed freak. I don’t drive fast on the roads — well, you can’t really in my car.”
Known personal vehicles: Chevy Tahoe Hybrid
Four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and three-time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon drives a Tahoe hybrid SUV in his daily life. One fan site lists Flash Gordon’s other personal rides as Blazer, Jaguar XK-8, and 1934 Ford.
There is also a Chevrolet dealership bearing Gordon’s name and likeness in Wilmington, NC.
Known personal vehicles: Porsche 911 GT2 RS, Infiniti M37
Aussie Formula One driver Mark Webber is the owner of one of only 500 Porsche 911 GT2 RS, (like the one pictured here, but in black). In a video depicting Mark taking some lucky fans for a spin, Mark discusses his vehicle.
“It still feels like a little bit of a race car, it’s a bit naughty, but you can still drive on the road so they got the balance really right.” Webber admits that road cars are not his thing, but he was looking at road cars with Sebastian Vettel, “to be honest but it was a no brainer…I’m definitely not going to be parting with this one…I love it.”