As I write this Lewis Hamilton is one win away from matching Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Formula 1 race wins.
By the time you read this he may or may not have surpassed it, but it’s a certainty that, barring a meteor hitting Mercedes’ Brackley base or, god forbid, some harm befalling Hamilton himself, the 35-year-old Briton will join Schumacher as the only drivers to have won seven Formula One world championships, while also being the all-time leader in wins and pole positions (96 and counting).
Whether this makes Hamilton the greatest ever F1 driver is a topic for another day, but what’s remarkable is that he has broken records that were thought to be unbreakable. Even at the height of Sebastian Vettel’s dominance, which secured him 36 wins and four world titles by the age of 26, Schumacher’s records still seemed an awfully long way off.
At the same point, at the end of the 2013 season, Hamilton wasn’t even in the conversation with only one world title and 22 wins. We should have known better. After all, at age 30 Schumacher had 35 wins and two world titles to his name, yet over the next five years would amass another five world titles and 48 race wins.
The point is, with Hamilton about to topple Schumacher’s seemingly impregnable statistical tower, it got me thinking if there are any motorsport records out there that will never be broken. History suggests not, Hamilton’s recent efforts being proof positive.
For a somewhat more obscure example, Emirati rally driver Mohammed bin Sulaymen probably felt confident – with some justification – that his record of 14 Middle East Rally Championships would never be bettered, only for the legend that is Nasser Al-Attiyah to secure his 15th title in 2019.
Records are made to be broken. Sticking with rallying, Sebastien Loeb’s nine consecutive titles will be tough to top, as will his 79 rally wins and 925 stage wins. Next on the list is his fellow French Sebastien, Mr Ogier, himself well clear of the rest but still short of Loeb with six titles, 48 rally wins and 578 stage wins.
Then again, with the likes of Finnish young gun Kalle Rovanpera having already featured on a WRC podium before his 20th birthday, anything is possible. After all, Loeb’s 2013 Pikes Peak record in the Peugeot 208 T16, almost 50sec clear of second place, seemed invincible, yet Romain Dumas shaved another 15sec from it in 2018 in the VW ID.R.
Speaking of endurance specialists, Tom Kristensen’s nine Le Mans victories looks safe (Jacky Ickx is second with six) but should Toyota continue its commitment to the 24-hour classic one or more of its drivers may be in with a shout. At age 31 Kristensen had one Le Mans win, whereas this year Sebastien Buemi added his third.
Closer to home, will anyone ever top Peter Brock’s gold standard of nine Bathurst wins? It’s fitting that his protege Craig Lowndes is in with the best shot, already sitting on seven with a two-year Red Bull Racing contract as a co-driver in his pocket.
His teammate for three of those Bathurst wins, Jamie Whincup, may never be topped in terms of Supercar dominance. Whincup’s seven titles and 122 race wins (again, at the time of writing) are in a different stratosphere to any other current driver. Scott McLaughlin could potentially break both records, but he has bigger fish to fry in IndyCar.
No, to find motorsport’s most unbreakable record we must look further afield. In the middle of nowhere, in fact. Stephane Peterhansel holds the record for the most Dakar wins in a car with seven, almost double second-placed Ari Vatanen’s four.
The thing is, Peterhansel also holds the record for the most Dakar wins on a bike with six for a mind-boggling total of 13 victories. It seems fitting that the toughest motorsport record to break should be in arguably the world’s toughest race. Long may he reign.