If you’d asked me two years ago what was the best motorsport film ever made, the chances are I’d have answered ‘Le Mans’ – the Steve McQueen, Siegfried Rauch film of a Le Mans 24 Hours race in the 1970s, featuring the epic battles between Michael Delaney in a Porsche 917K and Erich Stahler in a Ferrari 512LM.
I still get goose bumps watching it more than 40 years later. Who could forget the most famous quote from the film, “Racing is life, anything before or after is just waiting.”
In the intervening years, several attempts were made to create motorsport blockbusters such as Sylvester Stallone’s ‘Driven’, Tom Cruise in ‘Days of Thunder’, and ‘Michel Vaillant’ based on the French comic series – but they all failed to capture the real-life drama and excitement of motor racing, trying instead to manufacture the heightened emotions of racing through soap-opera style scripts, special effects and bad-boy leading characters.
Then along came Asif Kapadia and Manish Pandey in 2010 with their film, Senna, a documentary about the life and achievements of Brazilian Formula One world champion Ayrton Senna. There was no artificially enhanced script, no special effects and the main character was already a hero.
The film has been widely acclaimed by critics, praised by cinema audiences and scooped a score of awards including a BAFTA in 2012.
It also provided inspiration (or at least encouragement) to two other Formula One films, both of which are due in theatres during 2013.
‘Rush’, is the biography of Formula One world champion Niki Lauda and the 1976 crash at the Nurburgring that almost claimed his life.
Directed by the celebrated actor and film maker, Ron Howard, Rush centres around the rivalry between Lauda and his nemesis James Hunt and has been painfully recreated using the real tracks, some of the real cars and with input from Lauda and other professional drivers.
The film will be released in September 2013 and looks like being a guaranteed success.
The second film due in 2013 has maintained a somewhat lower profile, but gets its first showing on Thursday, November 15th, in the run-up to the Inaugural Austin Grand Prix.
Called simply ‘1’, the documentary film created by Exclusive Media’s Spitfire Pictures began shooting in January 2010 and tells the story of the golden age of Formula 1, when the sport was unforgivingly dangerous and the drivers lived as heroes, but with many paying the ultimate price.
The film includes never-before-seen archive footage, a rich soundtrack and an impressive list of Formula 1 interviewees, including 12 world champions past and present. These include Sir Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti, Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel, Emerson Fittipaldi, Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill.
Other notable interviewees are F1 Chief Bernie Ecclestone, former FIA President Max Mosley, Formula 1 team doctor Professor Sid Watkins, Jacky Ickx, Eddie Jordan and Martin Brundle.
The film makers describe it as being “..a story of the drivers who raced on the edge and those who stood up to change the sport forever, bringing the glamour, speed, danger, and excitement of Formula One Grand Prix racing to the big screen.”
“The early days of Formula 1 racing was a very different time – the risks were high and the characters were larger than life,” said producer Nigel Sinclair.
“Our film is a big screen experience in which we travel across the world with the glamorous circus surrounding this death defying sport but also experience the tragedy that came with it. It’s emotional, frightening and so very, very exciting, but ultimately about humanity and friendship between the drivers.”
“Millions of people worldwide watch the Formula One races as the circus travels the globe, but there are many who just don’t know the history behind this, at one time, incredibly dangerous sport.
Our film conveys the essence of the era while telling this story and giving intimate insight into the life and personality, struggles and triumphs of racing’s pivotal characters,” added the film’s director, Paul Crowder.
Time will tell whether it lives up to such hype, but if you’re in or around Austin on November 15th you can buy tickets to the premiere online for just $15 a seat.