Motorsport’s nine most nefarious criminals

Published: 22 May 2020

Motorsport has a long history of being associated with law breakers and outlaws – NASCAR is built on the empire of illegal alcohol smuggling – but these ten individuals and teams take things to a new level.

Pablo Escobar – Cocaine in the fuel tank

Ol’ Pablo doesn’t really need much introducing. However, to put his drug empire into context, at its peak, Pablo and mates were smuggling 15 tonnes of cocaine worth more than half a billion dollars into the United States every day. This required purchasing US$2500 worth of rubber bands each week just to wrap the stacks of cash the cartel was raking in.

Turns out the world’s most famous drug kingpin also had a bit of oil running in his veins. Escobar started racing in a one-make Copa Renault 4 championship. The drug lord’s little Renault mysteriously had a clear advantage in a straight line compared to his rivals, and yet the stewards turned a blind eye. I wonder why…

Then Escobar decided he needed to step it up a level, buying a 1974 Porsche 911 RSR once raced by Emmerson Fittipaldi. This was modified with 935 slant nose bodywork, before Escobar’s day job caught up to him, ending his racing career.

IMSA in the ‘80s – A.K.A. The International Marijuana Smugglers Association

If you were competing in American sportscar racing in the 1980s, there was a good chance one of your competitors on the track was involved in drug smuggling.

So many former competitors were eventually convicted of drug running that IMSA earned the nickname The International Marijuana Smugglers Association.

Randy Lanier won the 1984 IMSA championship as an independent team, beating factory efforts, seemingly without sponsors. This was because Lanier was funding the team through a sophisticated marijuana smuggling scheme that involved speed boats and a specially modified barge.

The ’84 champ was convicted to life without parole in ’88, but was eventually released in 2014 for reasons undisclosed under sealed motions.

The Whittington Brothers, Don and Bill, are famous for winning the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans outright in a Kremer K3 Porsche 935, alongside Klaus Ludwig. They too were involved in Lanier’s operation, and were eventually put in the slammer.

By Cameron Kirby

Online editor of our sister-site, Wheels. Also, self-professed motorsport shoey historian.

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