The Drive 100: The Most Interesting People of 2015
And if you didn’t know, now you know.
Every day through Dec. 23, the writers and editors of The Drive are bringing you the essential guide to the year in car culture. Divided across 10 core categories, The Drive 100 is a celebration and send-up of the year that was. Check back tomorrow for: Gear.
Zach Bowman is 30. Happily married. Young daughter. He has everything to live for and yet he still got in a Morgan 3-Wheeler and drove cross-country in the middle of winter with me—the most notorious cross-country driver alive. In a world of Panerais that have never seen saltwater, Bowman is a man unafraid to get out and truly live. He's our Jack London, our Ernest Hemingway. Go read his piece about breaking into a national park. Is there another young writer with both a greater sense of humor and total mastery of The Elements of Style? If you love cars, motorcycles, riding or driving, Zach’s existence is a gift to you.—Alex Roy, editor-at-large
Jeremy Clarkson went from punch-out to punching bag, sacked from the BBC’s smash Top Gear after belting a show producer. But if Clarkson can avoid bitch-slapping Jeff Bezos, his upcoming car show on Amazon Prime could lift the famously intemperate presenter out of disgrace. With former co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May riding Clarkson’s rumpled coattails, look for the trio to race back to international stardom faster than Amazon can ship boxer briefs to your door.—Lawrence Ulrich, chief auto critic
I have never liked Sebastian Vettel. He’s the greatest Formula 1 driver of our era, no doubt, but celebrating him was a struggle. Predictable, rigid, a little bratty—everything that, combined with immense talent, ends up coming off snide or aloof or both. This year, though, he’s looser. Cooler. Maybe it’s a different culture at Scuderia Ferrari, sharing a garage with his buddy Kimi Räikkönen. Or maybe it’s just being a loser for once, righted of some heavy-lies-the-crown complex. I don’t know. But the past year has finally made him… human. Dude went off-script, let his guard down, showed us more of himself; turns out, he’s fantastic. Biting, excited. Funny, even. If anybody can knock off the Mercedes-AMG powerhouse, it’ll be Sebastian Vettel, the greatest F1 driver of our era. Cheers to that.—Max Prince, senior editor
With a successful acting career, along with a handful of racing accomplishments including finishing second in his class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the actor-turned-racer has an obnoxious knack for being a winner even when he doesn’t win. Now that he has left Grey’s Anatomy, you’d think he would be committing even harder to the paddock life, but by his own admission he’s taking a breather in 2016. Still, no one performed a better Paul Newman impression in 2015 than Dempsey.—Max Goldberg, assistant editor
Rinker Buck crossed the Oregon Trail in a 19th-century Peter Schuttler covered wagon, pulled by a team of mules, and aided by his chucklehead brother, the first such crossing in over 100 years. That achievement would be heroic enough for us: the American auto industry developed directly out of the wagon-building business. But Rinker also wrote a singular book about his trip, seamlessly blending geographical detail, personal motivation, myth-busting and a profound demographic and infrastructural history of our colonization of the West. Everything you think you know about pioneers, westward migration and the Oregon Trail—which remains to this day one of the busiest trade routes in the world—is wrong. Rinker Buck set it right. In a wagon.—Brett Berk, writer-at-large
For years, the snobs of Formula 1 looked down their noses on Americans. We, the people—the greatest country in the world!—had no driver in the world’s most competitive, richest and technologically advanced form of motorsport. Alexander Rossi changed that in 2015, becoming the first since Scott Speed in 2007 to race in F1. Rossi’s is a touching father/son story of utter determination, a dream the 24-year-old Californian had since he was a toddler finally fulfilled. He competed in five F1 championship races this season, topping out with an impressive 12th in an inferior Marussia car at the U.S. Grand Prix. Forza, Rossi!—A.J. Baime, editor-at-large
Jari-Matti Latvala didn’t win the WRC championship. It wasn’t even close. Teammate Sebastién Ogier ran away with first this year, leaving Latvala to sweep up a manufacturer's title for Volkswagen, with a strong second-place finish. Latvala didn’t save the lives of any children, or donate all his winnings to charity, or invent a new technology, either. Latvala belongs on this list for one reason and one reason only: He’s the guy that makes rally so damned fun to watch.
The 30-year-old fast Finn has made a career of hanging it out. It doesn’t always win him the top of the podium, but it always wins him a place in the highlight reel. Combined with a love and an appreciation for vintage rally, where Latavala competes in priceless old Audis and Fords, it’s enough to earn Jari-Mati Latvala endless respect from everyone at The Drive.—Chris Cantle, West Coast editor
Sergio Marchionne could be, quite possibly, the least stylish Italian the world has ever seen. But despite his penchant for low-level-government-bureaucrat fashion, Fiat's primo signore is also known for a frank manner of speaking that could, if heeded, shake up the auto industry for the better. At the outset of 2015, he gave journalists a jolt when he explained at a seminar at the Detroit Auto Show that car companies were all failing to meet the cost of their capital expenditures. This week, he suggested that Formula 1 organizers throw out the current rule book. There's little doubt that world needs more Sergios in its various pilot's seats.—Benjamin Preston, writer-at-large
It’s looking like design will be the magic, worsted-wool Swedish carpet that Volvo rides to success. Its pilot? Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo’s head of design. After joining Volvo in 2012, Ingenlath and team produced a trio of stunning concept cars—the Concept Coupe, Concept Estate, and Concept XC Coupe—that left audiences, most familiar with boxy 240 wagons, with mouths agape. This year, we’ve seen the real-life fruits of those labors: Volvo’s XC90 is a stunning SUV winning awards and selling well, while the S90 just debuted to similar praise. For fans of Volvo and Swedish minimalism, Ingenlath is nothing less than an AutoCAD-wielding hero.—Ben Keeshin, staff writer
There’s discussion among The Drive staff regarding precisely how many—or how few—shits are given by Henrik Fisker about his public image. Of late, the chimerical designer/entrepreneur has been sued by former employer Aston Martin for biting a Gaydon design; put his name to a garish 725-horsepower Mustang “coachbuild”; and previewed a machine, debuting at the 2016 Detroit auto show in January, called the Force 1. Did we mention his plug-in-hybrid brand burned spectacularly in 2013, all but snuffing out memory of his meltingly beautiful BMW Z8 and Aston Martin DB9 designs? Like a pre-Pulp Fiction John Travolta, Fisker muddles through and keeps charging back, looking for an opening to land a knockout. Tenacity, brilliance and, surely, a measure of delusion all reside in this man, and as his audience, we can’t help but lap up the performance.—Jonathan Schultz, deputy editor