x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Top 5: the men who broke all the limits in their need for speed

These men's need for speed couldn't be quenched in just one pilot's seat - even after they had won a Formula 1 championship (or two) or become astronauts.

Before Bob Lutz went on to lead a number of auto firms in a career spanning more than 40 years, he was a United States Marine Corps Naval aviator. AFP
Before Bob Lutz went on to lead a number of auto firms in a career spanning more than 40 years, he was a United States Marine Corps Naval aviator. AFP

For some speed freaks, the thrills of driving a car just aren't enough; they need the extra power - not to mention the added dimension - of flying an aeroplane. Both car and plane need skill and daring to push to their limits; unfortunately, finding the limits of an aeroplane can be far more dangerous than in a car, as some adventurers found out the hard way.

Eddie Rickenbacker

Before becoming an ace pilot in the First World War and shooting down more planes than any other US pilot, Rickenbacker was a race driver, contesting the Indianapolis 500 four times. In 1920, he started the Rickenbacker Motor Company; despite inventing the first four-wheel brake system, it went bankrupt seven years later. He owned the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 15 years, managed Eastern Air Lines for GM (surviving a crash in 1941), and during the Second World War spent 24 days adrift in the Pacific after his plane was forced to ditch.

Graham Hill

There are two definitions of winning a triple crown in motorsport; the Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and then either winning the Monaco Grand Prix or a Formula One world championship; either way, Hill is the only person to accomplish the feat. He tallied two F1 championships despite not learning to drive until 24. Off the track, Hill got his pilots licence and appeared in the 1974 film Caravan to Vaccarès as a helicopter pilot. Hill died when a plane he was flying crashed in 1975.

Alan Shepard

A US Naval Officer during the Second World War, Shepard subsequently entered flight training and, in 1950, attended the US Naval Test Pilot School. In 1959, Shepard joined Nasa and became one of the seven Mercury astronauts. In 1961, he became the second person and first American to travel into space, behind Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Shepard was a fan of Corvettes and GM chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov had Shepard test drive for them. This led to the astronauts getting a special lease on the sports cars.

Bob Lutz

Before Lutz went on to lead a number of auto firms in a career spanning more than 40 years, he was a United States Marine Corps Naval aviator. His last military flight was in 1965, but 30 years later, after acquiring a Czech-built Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros - a single-engine, two-seat, subsonic aircraft - Lutz took to the skies, solo, again. In 2004, he bought a West German Dornier A model Alpha Jet. Along with aeroplanes, Lutz also collects classic cars and motorcycles.

Steve Fossett

Fosset is famous for his numerous world records, which include the first solo balloon flight around the world and the first solo non-stop and unrefueled circumnavigation of the world in single-jet aircraft. He also competed in the 24 hours of Le Mans twice and the Paris to Dakar Rally. The billionaire was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame in 2007; later that year, the light aircraft he was piloting disappeared over the Nevada desert. He had been scouting locations for a future attempt at breaking the land-speed record.