JAMES CLARK (Britain)

(World champion in 1963 & 1965)

As a schoolboy James Clark was quite good at cricket and hockey. But when it came to using vehicles for sporting pursuits, he had to overcome much opposition from his family. The farm boy, who had read about international motorsport in books and magazines, began by driving the family car secretly on the fields. He obtained his driver's licence on his 17th birthday and at that time he was working on the farm. He bought a Sunbeam Talbot for personal transport and used to compete in local rallies and small races.

Goaded by friends he began to take the sport more seriously and was invited by Lotus founder Colin Chapman to race a Lotus Formula Junior. He quickly got into the Lotus team in 1960 but the Belgian Grand Prix that year saw one of the worst weekends in Formula One history.

Two drivers — Chris Bristow and Clark's friend and Lotus teammate Alan Stacy who was hit by a bird — were killed and Clark almost considered giving up racing forever. But Clark, stayed on to become one of the sport's legends, winning two World titles.

He would have won two more but an oil slick in the last race in 1962 and again in 1964 denied him that honour. Clark was killed in a F-2 race in Germany after his Lotus suffered a tyre failure.

JACKIE STEWART (Britain)

(World champion in 1969, 1971 & 1973)

He was a failure at school and was later diagnosed as suffering from dyslexia. But behind the wheel of a Formula One car, Jackie Stewart appeared so smooth and precise that many didn't realise he was quick. And his three World titles stand as testimony to his speed and driving skills. He often appeared to out-think the opposition. But his biggest contribution was his crusade to improve safety standards in the sport and this helped save many lives. His brush with death at one of the most dangerous circuits, Spa (Belgium), contributed in a big way towards this fight.

NIKI LAUDA (Austria)

(World champion in 1975, 1977 & 1984)

Coming from a prominent Austrian business and banking family in Vienna, Lauda virtually bought his way into F-1 racing and almost paid for it with his life a few years later in a horrific accident. He came into F-1 with bank loans secured by his life insurance policy in 1973 and some decent performances got him a Ferrari drive the next year.

His cool and clinical approach brought him the nickname ‘The Computer'. After some costly errors in 1974, he stormed to victories in Monaco, Belgium, Sweden, France and the U.S. to become the World champion in 1975. He was set for another the next year but at Nurburgring in Germany he crashed his Ferrari which went up in flames.

Four drivers pulled him out and a little later, with first and third degree burns to his head, face and wrists and many broken bones, Lauda was given up for dead.

However, six weeks later, he finished fourth in the Italian Grand Prix with blood dripping from the bandages on his head. After retiring in 1979, Lauda returned to take the 1984 World title.

More In: Motorsport | Sport