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|The Audi R8s of Audi Sports Team Joest unleashed an unprecedented assault on the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2000. Here, Car No. 8, driven by Frank Biela, runs first of car No. 7, driven by Michele Alboreto.|
As a new season of motorsports around the world approaches, two teams might be on the verge of accomplishing greatness.
In Sprint Cup, Hendrick Motorsports has somehow made itself even stronger for the coming season, adding four-time Sprint Cup runner-up Mark Martin to its powerhouse stable. The team boasts the driver voted most popular in the sport, Dale Earnhardt Jr., along with three-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson and four-time champion Jeff Gordon. All four drivers making the Chase next season is certainly possible, if not probable.
In the world of IndyCar, the past two champions join forces at Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Dario Franchitti won the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series title in 2007, and then bolted for Sprint Cup. He's back, and paired with last year's Indianapolis 500 and title winner, Scott Dixon. The two have combined for 24 IndyCar wins and 114 top-10 finishes.
But are these two of the greatest teams ever assembled in motorsports? We seek the answer to that by looking at the top 10 greatest multi-car teams in the history of motorsports. Keep in mind these teams must have had at least two cars that competed for the full season or race.
1. 1988 McLaren-Honda: Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna (F1)
Senna left Lotus to join Prost and McLaren in 1988. It proved to be a fantastic decision, resulting in three world titles for the Brazilian.
|Ayrton Senna, right, and Alain Prost dominated Formula One in 1988 like no one before or since.|
In their first season together, Prost and Senna combined to win 15 of the 16 races, providing a balanced attack in the process (Senna won eight races, Prost seven). Senna's one additional victory proved to be the difference, as he edged out Prost 90 points to 87.
The next-highest points total? Gerhard Berger, with 41 points. Not only was this the most dominant multi-car team in any single season of motorsports, but it sparked one of the best Formula 1 rivalries of all time over the course of the next half-decade before Senna tragically died at Imola in 1994.
2. 1996 Williams-Renault: Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve (F1)
Formula One lends itself to more dominant teams, perhaps, than NASCAR or other forms of motorsports, simply because of smaller fields and, for years, huge disparities in team budgets.
That shouldn't take away from what Hill and Villeneuve accomplished in 1996 with Williams-Renault. The pair finished first and second in the driver standings, with Hill taking his lone title. Villeneuve, meanwhile, set a then-rookie record of four wins during the season (later tied by Lewis Hamilton in 2007).
Hill and Villeneuve combined to win 12 of the 16 races on the schedule, including five straight races to start the season. The pair also combined for 23 top-5 finishes, and Hill managed a top-5 finish in every race he completed that season. Even more remarkable was that Hill started on the front row in all 16 races, something only two other drivers (Senna in 1989 and Prost in '93) had ever done in a season with at least 16 races on the slate.
3. 1994 Marlboro Team Penske: Emerson Fittipaldi, Paul Tracy, Al Unser Jr. (CART/Indy car)
Team Penske had won CART titles before, but never like this. Fittipaldi, Tracy and Unser teamed up for only one season to dominate the competition, and they did just that.
The three drivers have four CART and Champ Car titles, with the 1994 title going to Unser. Not only did Unser, Fittipaldi and Tracy finish first, second and third in the drivers' standings respectively, but the three teammates combined for five podium sweeps and 12 wins in only 16 races.
A Penske driver's name could also be seen beside the most-laps-led category in 12 of the 16 races. Oh yeah, and did we mention Unser won the Indianapolis 500 that year, too?
4. 1996 Hendrick Motorsports: Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, Ken Schrader (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series)
There aren't too many great multi-car teams in NASCAR's history, but the 1996 Hendrick Motorsports team was certainly one of them.
|Jeff Gordon, getting a shower after winning the 1997 Daytona 500, teamed with Terry Labonte, back, to become one of the most dominant teams in racing. Their 1996 season was their best together.|
Labonte won his second career title, the only title not won by teammate Gordon between the years of 1995 and 1998. The three drivers combined for 14 wins in 31 races, with Gordon and Labonte each amassing 21 top-5s and 24 top-10s.
The duo finished first and second in the driver standings, and although Gordon finished second, he had 10 wins compared to Labonte's two. Labonte and Gordon also teamed up to finish 1-2 in four races that season, including back-to-back races at Bristol and North Wilkesboro. To cap it all off, Labonte broke Richard Petty's streak of 513 consecutive Sprint Cup starts during the season as well.
5. 2002 Ferrari: Rubens Barrichello, Michael Schumacher (F1)
Although Barrichello and Schumacher were never the best of friends, they did team up with Ferrari for six seasons of memorable racing.
And while Barrichello was often a shadow behind Schumacher, the Brazilian did manage nine victories in his tenure with Ferrari. The year 2002 was one of Ferrari's best seasons, winning 15 of 17 races (Schumacher won 11, Barrichello won four). For Schumacher, it was his third straight title and fifth overall, tying Juan Manuel Fangio for the most F1 titles.
Fangio's record had stood since 1957. Not only did Schumacher and Barrichello finish 1-2 in the driver standings, but the pair combined for 27 podium finishes throughout the season. What's even more impressive is that Barrichello finished second in the driver standings after spotting the field the first three races of the season because of DNFs in all of them. The 2004 edition of this team was practically a mirror image.
6. 2008 Joe Gibbs Racing: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Tony Stewart (NASCAR Nationwide Series)
Four drivers shared two cars for Joe Gibbs Racing this past season in the Nationwide Series, and they did not disappoint. The No. 18 and 20 cars combined to win 19 of the 35 Nationwide races, with the No. 18 car taking the edge, 10 wins to nine.
All four drivers won a race in one or both of the cars; Busch won nine races, Stewart won five, Hamlin won four and rookie Logano won one.
Logano's lone win in the No. 20 car at Kentucky was historic; he broke Casey Atwood's record of the youngest driver to win a Nationwide race at only 18 years and 21 days old. That No. 20 car went on to win the owner's title. Even more impressive is that Joe Gibbs Racing won at a road course, a superspeedway, an intermediate track and a short track over the course of the season.
7. 2000 Audi Sport Team Joest: Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen, Emanuele Pirro (No. 8 car); Allan McNish, Stephane Ortelli, Laurent Aiello (No. 9 car); Michele Alboreto, Rinaldo Capello, Christian Abt (No. 7 car) (24 Hours of Le Mans)
This team won a race, not a full season. However, the accomplishment was so great and so dominant that it deserved a place on the list.
The 2000 Audi Sport Team Joest three-car team was the start of something epic in sports car racing, as it introduced the most successful sports car ever built, the Audi R8, to the scene.
Audi stormed into the 24 Hours of Le Mans intending to dominate the race, and Team Joest did just that, sweeping the podium while occupying the top three positions of the race in 20 of the 24 hours. It was Audi's first-ever win at Le Mans, and it sparked seven more overall wins in the following eight years of the race.
For Kristensen, it was the first of his six straight Le Mans wins, a record. Kristensen also holds the record for most overall victories, with eight. If that wasn't enough, the race-winning team also consisted of Biela and Pirro, whose five Le Mans wins apiece are tied for third most in history.
8. 2000 Joe Gibbs Racing: Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart (Sprint Cup)
Another Joe Gibbs Racing team makes this list, and for good reason.
|Tony Stewart joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 1999 and teammate Bobby Labonte won the title the following year. The duo combined for 10 wins in 2000.|
This was only the second year that Joe Gibbs fielded a two-car team, with Tony Stewart joining the ranks in 1999 after his successful career in open wheel. Labonte, long-time driver for Gibbs, won his lone Sprint Cup title, joining brother Terry as the only brothers to both win a Cup title in the series' history.
Bobby Labonte made further history with his Cup title; he became the only driver at the time to win a title in multiple NASCAR National Touring Series (Nationwide Series title in 1991). Stewart, in his second Cup season, reeled off six wins, leading all drivers.
The duo combined to win 10 races overall and amassed 47 top-10 finishes. It was a great ending to the season as well, as Stewart won the final race at Homestead while Labonte clinched the title on the same day.
9. 2007 Ferrari: Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen (F1)
The McLaren team of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso would be here instead of Ferrari had the two not squandered a seven- and three-point lead respectively entering Brazil, the final race of the 2007 season. However, the season-long battle between Hamilton and Alonso essentially hurt the two drivers in the long run by allowing Raikkonen to stay in the fight.
Raikkonen won at Brazil, and Hamilton and Alonso could not do enough to prevent Raikkonen from sneaking away with the title. That clutch performance, as well as nine combined wins with teammate Felipe Massa, gives Ferrari the nod.
Raikkonen and Massa also combined for 22 podium finishes in a very controversial season, one in which McLaren was fined $100 million for spying on Ferrari.
10. 2004 Newman/Haas: Sebastien Bourdais, Bruno Junqueira (Champ Car)
Rounding out the list is the Newman/Haas duo of Bourdais and Junqueira, who in 2004, dominated the Champ Car competition en route to a 1-2 finish in the points standings.
|Bruno Junqueira, left, and Sebastien Bourdais made the 2004 Champ Car season a two-man show, with Bourdais coming out on top, 369 points to 341.|
Bourdais and Junqueira amassed 369 and 341 points respectively, while no other driver managed to compile more than 266.
One of the two drivers led the standings following every race except for one, and led nearly 50 percent of all laps run during the season. Of the 14 races, the teammates of Newman/Haas won nine of them, each posting 10 podium finishes (a career-high for Junqueira). For Bourdais, it was the first of a record four straight Champ Car titles.
1982 Rothmans Team Porsche: Derek Bell, Jacky Ickx (No. 1 car); Jochen Mass, Vern Schuppan (No. 2 car); Jurgen Barth, Hurley Haywood, Al Holbert (No. 3 car) (24 Hours of Le Mans): The winning team of Bell and Ickx share 11 Le Mans wins between them, and this three-car team was the first to sweep the podium in the postwar era.
1998 Ganassi Racing: Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi (CART/Indy car): Zanardi and Vasser finished 1-2 in the standings respectively, and Zanardi's 285 points earned are a single-season CART record.Tom McKean is a studio researcher at ESPN.