There was something other-worldly about Ayrton Senna's ability to take a racecar up to and beyond its limits. But it wasn't just that he could perform at that level that was so amazing; it's the fact that he wanted to. At Monaco in 1988, driven by his determination to show that he, not Alain Prost, was the best driver in Formula 1, he entered “the zone” and outqualified his McLaren teammate by a barely believable 1.4 seconds.
In the race, having relaxed a little while holding a 50sec-plus lead, Senna tried to speed up in response to Prost setting fastest race lap…whereupon the Brazilian drove into the wall at Tabac corner. It's hard to imagine Gerhard Berger, Nelson Piquet or even Nigel Mansell inducing Senna to lose his sense of perspective to that extent. No, it was because the man who tried to steal a consolation prize was Prost, who he'd dominated all weekend, that Ayrton retaliated in that manner.
That Senna-Prost dynamic built a rivalry that would have flourished regardless of whether they were teammates, or where they were in their careers. Every driver wants to beat the driver to beat; every driver to beat wants to fortify their position. It's why rivalries develop and why we're all so fascinated by them.
So for the October issue of RACER, we've looked at some of the classic rivalries between the aces of IndyCar, F1 and NASCAR, as well as the rivalries between teams, manufacturers and racers in the movies.
The match-up of the two legendary names Andretti and Foyt seemed like a natural place to start (which is why they are our cover subjects this month (ABOVE) in a specially commissioned painting from retro-urban-cool artist Michael Koelsch), and Robin Miller explores how the rivalry of A.J. and Mario carried Indy car racing to new heights in the 1960s.
NASCAR similarly thrived on the battles of David Pearson and Richard Petty, as Tom Jensen relates. Then it's on to exploring the roots and pathways of the rivalry between Ferrari and McLaren in F1 (LEFT), and Ford and Chevrolet....just about everywhere!
We also take a look at the strange situation that has existed in the World Rally Championship for far too long, where one man – Sebastien Loeb – has dominated because no true rival has emerged.
On the subject of rallying, the 600hp Global Rallycross Championship Ford Fiesta of Marcus Gronholm is the subject of Rick Graves' latest "In Focus" studio photo shoot (RIGHT), while the "RACER Interview" this month is with Bobby and Graham Rahal. They're from very different eras, yet father and son are united by desire, the attribute fundamental to achieving greatness…and acquiring rivals.
All this, plus Tony Stewart's regular driver's column – this time pondering whether great rivalries can still build to the same degree in modern racing – and, of course, plenty more of the greatest assemblage of racing photography you'll find.
• Look for October's "The Great Rivalries Issue" at your favorite bookseller, or better yet, click here to subscribe at a special discount rate.