Tom Cruise's crazed two-wheels-off-the-ground record-setting lap around British motoring show Top Gear's track wasn't a surprise to those who've seen him race. One of Cruise's driving instructors gave us an exclusive look into his terrifying, short-lived, and accident-prone racing career.
There once was a handsome, well-loved actor who turned the driving lessons he picked up in preparation for a racing film into an impressive career in racing. That man was Paul Newman. In the late 80s Newman partnered with his old friend Datsun/Nissan guru Bob Sharp to campaign race-prepped Nissan 300ZXs in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) competitions.
One of their drivers in the SCCA GT-3 class was a young pre-Days of Thunder Tom Cruise, who was apparently interested in turning his acting fame into racing accolades a la Newman. Unfortunately, according to Roger French, an SCCA regional champion, any natural talent Cruise might possess was overwhelmed by his aggressive attitude.
French was at the old Bryar Motorsports Park, now the site of the New Hampshire International Speedway, when Bob Sharp approached him and asked if he'd seen Cruise race and to ask him what he thought.
"Doesn't look too good," French said.