F1 Racing - - CHEQUERED FLAG -

“Sylvester Stallone and a ret­inue of heavy­set chaps in me­nac­ing shades were bear­ing down on me in Monaco…”

Sly didn’t seem to be anx­ious to be in­ter­viewed so I def­er­en­tially stepped aside. He was there to in­ves­ti­gate F1 as a film sub­ject, but it didn’t work out, al­legedly be­cause the teams didn’t want to play and be­cause Bernie wanted too much money. So, in­stead, he pro­duced US Cham­p­Car-based Driven, which crit­ics panned as one of the worst films ever. But there have been some bril­liant pro­duc­tions about mo­tor­sport…

It’s tough to rank them but, for me, Closer to the Edge, a su­perb doc­u­men­tary about the 2010 Isle of Man TT mo­tor­cy­cle races, and Rush, Ron Howard’s ex­cit­ing drama about the sea­son-long fight for the 1976 F1 ti­tle be­tween Niki Lauda and James Hunt, are the best of them all. But they’re only a whisker ahead of my other four.

You’ve prob­a­bly seen Senna, the mov­ing story of the great man’s life, but you’re less likely to have seen Bruce Brown’s epic On any Sun­day, about the 1970s Mo­toCross, Desert Rac­ing and Grand Na­tional mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing scene in Amer­ica. It fea­tures Steve McQueen, who also starred in 1971’s Le Mans, an­other of my top six. And the sixth? It’s John Franken­heimer’s Grand Prix, from 1966, star­ring James Garner as For­mula 1 driver Pete Ar­ron, and fea­tur­ing real-life driv­ers of the day such as Gra­ham Hill, Phil Hill, Fan­gio, Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt and Jack Brab­ham. Magic!

Like me you’ll love them all. But now there’s a sev­enth, a mag­nif­i­cent doc­u­men­tary, to swell my list. Its called The Green Hell, ‘The Green Hell’ be­ing the nick­name given by Jackie Ste­wart to the Nur­bür­gring Nord­schleife. It’s the world’s great­est cir­cuit, al­though I ad­mit to be­ing bi­ased for sev­eral rea­sons. In 1927 my fa­ther, Gra­ham Walker, won the first In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Cy­cle road race to be held there and re­peated his vic­tory in 1929. I did the com­men­tary on the 1969 and 1974 Nür­bur­gring F1 Ger­man GPs, won by Jacky Ickx (Brab­ham) and Clay Regaz­zoni (Fer­rari), and, to­gether with Sky F1’s David Croft, I nar­rated the film. All of which con­trib­ute to my re­spect for a su­perb pro­duc­tion about the history of this amaz­ing place.

Con­sider the leg­endary races that have been held there. Tazio Nu­volari’s de­feat of the all­con­quer­ing Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union teams in his out­dated Alfa Romeo in 1935. Bernd Rose­meyer’s in­cred­i­ble drive through the fog to win in 1936. Juan Manuel Fan­gio’s epic Maserati drive to beat Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins’ Fer­raris in 1957. Tony Brooks’ win for Van­wall in 1958 and Stir­ling Moss’s Lo­tus de­feat of the Fer­raris in 1961. Jackie Ste­wart’s four- minute vic­tory in 1968 and the one that ended the Nord­schleife’s host­ing of F1, Niki Lauda’s ter­ri­ble accident in 1976. But, thank heav­ens, it is still used for other mo­tor­sports, not least of which is a 24-Hour event for sportscars and tour­ing cars.

Well, it’s all there in The Green Hell. The con­struc­tion of the cir­cuit to soak up the mas­sive un­em­ploy­ment that used to blight the Eifel re­gion. The early years from 1927. The 1930s glory days of Ru­dolf Carac­ci­ola, Bernd Rose­meyer, Her­mann Lang, Man­fred von Brau­chitsch, Dick Sea­man and Hans Stuck in their awesome Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union Sil­ver Ar­rows. Al­to­gether a su­perb ef­fort by Aus­trian pro­duc­tion com­pany Moon­lake En­ter­tain­ment: I highly com­mend it to you.

The Nür­bur­gring may well have been a Green Hell to Jackie Ste­wart but it was and is a green heaven to the rest of us.

“I did the BBC com­men­tary on the 1969 Nür­bur­gring F1

Ger­man Grand Prix, won by Jacky Ickx in a Brab­ham”

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