Here’s To The Privateers Who Just Wanted To Race
Stories abound of drivers taking delivery of a car in Europe, before driving to and entering it into—oh, I don’t know—the Targa Florio. Or the Mille Miglia, Le Mans, Monte Carlo Rallye… The story is no different in the U.S. or Canada: enthusiasts want to see how fast their car will go, and how far their skills will take them.
Before the legions of managers, personal sponsors, and driver coaches entered the sport as racing became more professional and demanding, the best way to get noticed was to beat a factory-entered machine using whatever you’d been able to scare up. These days, privateer teams and drivers haven’t gone away, not by a long shot, but gone are the days where it was possible to show up somewhere, paint on a number, and race—sometimes over hundreds of miles of public roads.
Smaller events like hill climbs and rallies had privateer entrants in droves, while larger contests like the 24 Hours of Le Mans often featured semi-professional, or rather, sort-of-factory-backed operations. When the big factory teams equipped with (usually) the most advanced technology and strongest driver line-ups didn’t make the finish or had problems, others like the North American Racing Team (NART), Penske, Ecurie Francorchamps, Scuderia Filipinetti, and Alan Mann Racing were there to take home trophies and prove themselves against the incumbents.
And sometimes, the incumbents entered as privateers under a nom de plume—an assumed name—to hide their identity from fans. For instance, when Kimi Räikkönen crosses over to race snowmobiles and wants to go unnoticed, he’s previously entered himself under the name “James Hunt”. Subtle.
What’s your favorite story of a privateer essentially just showing up and going racing?