Usually, people are not single-faceted. Most of us have multiple interests and hobbies, and some of us are even lucky enough to dabble in multiple careers. Having a passion, following it and having it turn into something rewarding isn’t something that everyone can do. But for those who can achieve it, well, life could not be rosier.
So we come to movie stars. Be they in their prime or past it, many celebrities find a way to follow their hearts and make even more moolah. But some merely follow their passion, dangerous as it may be. On that note, here go 10 actors/celebrities who are also serious race car drivers. We kid you not.
10 Eric Bana
Being an Australian, the love for the open road seemingly runs in Eric Bana's veins, a thing he has successfully translated to racing all things fast. And by that, we mean motorcycles and cars. Bana has been an active rally racer for a while and has even raced at the Porsche Cup. His 1974 Ford XB Falcon is quite possibly the love of his life, and Bana seems to be as passionate about his cars and racing as he is being onscreen.
9 Rowan Atkinson
After Atkinson’s stints as Mr. Bean and Johnny English, it’s hard to imagine him as anything other than a bumbling guy. When playing Mr. Bean, his driving skills only involved sending a Reliant Robin into the nearest ditch as he rashly drives his 77’ Mini 1000 Mark 4 with its matte black bonnet. In reality, though Atkinson did crash and total a McLaren F1, he is quite a serious racer. From Renault Turbo 5 to vintage cars to all kinds of Sportster, Atkinson has raced them all and emerged winner many a time.
8 Gene Hackman
For the 1971 movie, The French Connection, Hackman had to film a long-drawn car chase scene with him driving roughshod in the narrow streets. The reason behind it may be that fact that Hackman learned how to race cars from instructor Bob Bondurant who later remarked that Hackman could possibly be the most talented celebrity student he had ever worked with. Hackman wasn’t just into racing for a lark. He raced Formula Ford in the' 70s and also did a Toyota Celica run as well. He then followed up with 24 Hours of Daytona in 1983 – and remained an active racer for some time.
7 Matt LeBlanc
Anyone who watched Top Gear knows that LeBlanc and his Friends character Joey are polar opposites and there’s a solid tech brain in the real guy. LeBlanc holds the record of the fastest lap around the Top Gear track, which is no small feat. As one of the hosts of Top Gear, it’s clear that LeBlanc is a total gearhead. Of course, he quit in 2019 citing the extensive travel and huge time commitment as the main reason for doing so, but he maintains he had a blast driving all those super fast cars and reviewing them as the Top Gear host.
6 Paul Walker
Paul Walker, may he rest in peace, had a huge interest in the JDM, including all the 25-year old performance variants of the Toyota Supra, Celica and the Nissan GT-R. Of course, Walker was serious about his Porsches, Audis and BMWs as well — which is probably why he had 30 cars in his garage. But he didn’t just collect them; he raced as well. Walker drove the Street Tire Class BMW E92 M3 for the AE performance team at the Redline Time Attack racing series, and a Ford Boss Mustang for the Pirelli World Challenge Series as well.
5 Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen's legacy lives in all his fans and the inimitable Bullitt Mustang. The reason why everything looked so real in the much renowned Bullitt car chase sequence is simply that McQueen was both an actor who raced and a racer who acted. The guy was crazy for cars and speed, and there’s a reason he is considered the original king of cool. From Baja 1000 to Mint 400, McQueen participated in many races — including the 1964 International Motorcycle Enduro race that lasted a killing six days.
4 Tim Allen
Funnyman Tim Allen is best known for his roles in hit sitcoms like Home Improvement and Last Man Standing, as well as lending his talents to voice Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story franchise. But Allen has also been around the race track. He drove a rare Saleen Mustang in the '90s in various races. He also participated in the 1997 24 Hours of Daytona, finishing at the 58th place out of 80 cars.
3 Paul Newman
Ever wondered why Paul Newman’s voice was used in the Disney animation movie franchise Cars as the erstwhile successful but now retired The Hudson Hornet / Doc Hudson? Newman was quite a racer back in the day, and there was a time when his racing career nearly sidelined his acting one.
Newman discovered his love for racing only when he acted as a racer in a movie called Winning. Soon after, he formed his IndyCar team called Newman Haas Lanigan Racing, and they turned into one of the most successful IndyCar collaborations of all time. He continued racing, and at 70, was the oldest driver in a winning team for the 24 Hours of Daytona. His racing number was always his age.
2 James Dean: The Original Maverick
James Dean portrayed a rebel without a cause, in the movie with the same name. Released in 1955, the film turned Dean into an instant heartthrob. As much as he liked to act, he liked racing too — though he was advised by many to concentrate more on his acting before he crashed and spoiled those heartbreakingly good looks.
Sadly for Dean, he did crash his Porsche 550 Spyder, ending his life right there and then. He was actually on his way to take part in a race when this happened, and the world mourned this loss of young life.
1 Patrick Dempsey
The guy who helped turned Grey’s Anatomy into a big hit isn’t just an actor; he is also a racer with a long and reputed list of participations and wins. He has participated in many races, and came second in his class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2015, with his Dempsey-Proton racing team. He has also taken part in the World Endurance Championship, Rolex Sports Car Series, Porsche Supercup Series, and many others. He is the co-owner of an IndyCar racing team as well, and has admitted that racing is as much a part of his fiber of being as acting.