With every generation, there have always been a handful of thrill-seeking celebrities that want to feel the adrenaline rushing through their veins and who decided to take up racing as a hobby to feel alive. In order to start racing, there are a few things that are needed: money and time. And celebrities have lots of both.
Here are a few who decided to get behind the wheel of some of the fastest racecars available. Some just did it recreationally, but some were good enough to be called professional racecar drivers.
Cars and speed have been two of his hobbies since he was a kid. The star of “Friends” grew up in Massachusetts and his father was a mechanic, so he learned everything about cars from an early age. His first car was an ‘84 Nissan pickup truck that he sold for a ‘78 Blazer that needed a lot of fixing. He took mechanics as an elective in high school and wanted to work on his car, so that was a great opportunity to practice what he learned in school. LeBlanc has been the proud owner of several Ferraris, Porsches, and Mercedes to name a few. He claims his wildest ride is a 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS, 620 hp, manual transmission, and rear-wheel drive. He still holds the record for Top Gears fastest lap, which he established in 2012. LeBlanc scored the lap in a reasonably priced car, driving a Kia at 1:42.1, beating Rowan Atkinson (1:42.2) and Michael Fassbender (1:42.8). His secret to racing is “finding a car that handles well. You don’t need a ton of power as long as you can carry good corner speed.” LeBlanc also attributes his success to different racing schools he attended as well as his passion for bikes and spending lots of time on the track. He was the host of Top Gear for three years (2016-2019).
Got 9 minutes? Watch the Top Gear segment on LeBlanc’s fastest lap
Priestly started racing in his 20s. The star of “Beverly Hills 90210” made his debut in the California Rally Series. He drove a Celica All-Trac in SCCA Pro Rally and raced in a Ford Escrot-Crossworth in the FIA World Rally Championship. He also raced Mustangs throughout this career and placed sixth with a ’95 Ford Mustang Cobra in the GTS1 class of the Exxon Supreme GT Series. In 2002 he participated in his first Gumball 30 rally race. He drove for Kelley Racing behind the wheel of a Lotus Espirit. His racing aspirations came to an end in 2002, when his Indy Pro Series car hit the wall at 180 mph. He survived the crash but sustained severe injuries – a fractured spine, broken legs, head injury, and more. He never returned to the track after this crash. But his love for the sport remains: he’s provided commentary and interviews of racers for ABC’s TV coverage of IndyCar racing and was part owner of Rubicon Race Team (IndyCar Series). The team was dissolved in 2011.
This actor is so passionate about racecar driving that he turned his love of the sport into a movie in 1990 (Days of Thunder). He was inspired to take up racing by his friend, actor Paul Newman, and co-star of the 1986 film “The Color of Money.” However, despite his love of racing, Cruise is actually known as a bad driver. So bad, in fact, that Cruise earned the nickname among other drivers of “See Cruise Crash.” The problem, according to some of the driving instructors who taught him, is that he was too aggressive behind the wheel. Cruise himself has blamed his struggles behind the wheel on his dyslexia. Eventually, he had to give up racing as the movie studios he worked for refused to insure him if he continued to pursue racing. Still, Cruise remains a passionate race fan and has even appeared on the BBC television show Top Gear. Check it out – starting at 2:02.