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Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - DAMIEN SMITH

TWO OF THEM WOULD LIKELY have flown Spit­fires had they reached adult­hood 10 years ear­lier. Their wide, open smiles and swept, blond hair con­trasted starkly with the brood­ing charisma of the other three – the pair of dash­ing Ital­ians and the Span­ish aris­to­crat. Five swash­buck­ling rac­ing driv­ers, all dan­gling from the strings of one enig­matic and ut­terly ruth­less pup­pet-mas­ter – and all dead within two dev­as­tat­ingly tragic years that have echoed through the ages: it’s the stuff of movie scripts.

And the word is it still could be, on the back of this stun­ning doc­u­men­tary. Fer­rari: Race to Im­mor­tal­ity is the story of a quin­tet of rac­ing war­riors, all of whom found them­selves pitched into Enzo Fer­rari’s fa­mous Scud­e­ria at the same tu­mul­tuous time dur­ing the sec­ond half of the 1950s. The fo­cus falls most di­rectly on Mon Ami Mates Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins (above right), and is in­spired by the cel­e­brated book of the same name by the late

Chris Nixon. Hawthorn would, in 1958, be­come en­shrined in his­tory as Bri­tain’s first For­mula 1 world cham­pion, but only af­ter his great friend gal­lantly gave up his chance of the hon­our two years ear­lier in def­er­ence to team leader Juan Manuel Fan­gio – the mae­stro who re­fused to dance to Fer­rari’s Machi­avel­lian ma­nip­u­la­tions.

Eu­ge­nio Castel­lotti and Luigi

Musso up­held Latin hon­our at Fer­rari there­after and were set against the English­men, only to per­ish as they strived for glory – the for­mer in a point­less Mo­dena test­ing crash, the lat­ter while chas­ing Hawthorn at the French GP of ’58. The Mar­quis, Al­fonso de Portago, died along with his co­driver and nine spec­ta­tors (in­clud­ing five chil­dren) on the ’57 Mille Miglia.

Collins, re­cently mar­ried to his beau­ti­ful Amer­i­can sweet­heart, would win with style at Sil­ver­stone in ’58, only to lose his life the next time out at the Nur­bur­gring. His dev­as­tated friend re­solved to quit the sport, but not be­fore win­ning the ti­tle in Collins’ hon­our, in the heat of Casablanca.

The coda of Hawthorn’s own demise, on an un­re­mark­able stretch of Sur­rey road in Jan­uary 1959, en­sures a dark con­clu­sion. As the film doc­u­ments, it’s likely the ac­ci­dent only pre­ceded a more drawn out and painful death from the kid­ney com­plaint Hawthorn spent his rac­ing ca­reer striv­ing to cover up.

In all, this is heavy ma­te­rial. But the won­der­ful, rare and largely colour footage, dug out by our own ar­chive ‘ma­gi­cian’ Richard Wise­man, reg­u­larly lifts the gloom. Clips from Casablanca, Reims, Sil­ver­stone and many more left us open-mouthed.

The dead bod­ies of spec­ta­tors killed in the 1955 Le Mans dis­as­ter, which Hawthorn in­ad­ver­tently trig­gered, are up­set­ting and the footage steps be­yond the bound­aries of taste. Per­haps the scale and vi­o­lence of that tragedy of­fers

vin­di­ca­tion for their in­clu­sion. But among the hor­ror, the film­mak­ers also re­mem­ber to re­mind us why th­ese men raced at all: mo­tor rac­ing in the 1950s was ex­hil­a­rat­ing and fun. Life­style mon­tages of Collins and Hawthorn, set to a sound­track of Peggy Lee and Etta James, cap­ture the best as­pects of a spec­tac­u­lar era.

Nar­ra­tion comes from ex­pert voices, among them Nigel Roe­buck. Oth­ers in­clude Tony Brooks – a Fer­rari leg­end him­self, of course – and also wives and girl­friends: Louise King re­calls her trag­i­cally short mar­riage to Collins with deep fond­ness, and Jean Ire­land, Hawthorn’s fi­ancée, and later wife to Innes, adds fur­ther author­ity.

A film about Fer­rari in the 1950s that doesn’t men­tion Al­berto As­cari can­not be de­scribed as flaw­less. But of the grow­ing num­ber of rac­ing doc­u­men­taries to have bro­ken cover in re­cent years, this is among the finest. Fer­rari: Race to Im­mor­tal­ity is re­leased in cine­mas on Novem­ber 3, and on DVD, Blu Ray and dig­i­tal plat­forms from Novem­ber 6.

Collins, Fan­gio and Hawthorn at the 1957 Ger­man Grand Prix, where the mae­stro de­feated the Fer­raris

The Scud­e­ria’s charges line up at the 1957 French Grand Prix

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