Man in the know

While you wait for rac­ing sea­son to start, here's a list of must-watch mo­tor­sport films to whet the ap­petite


AS RAC­ING SEA­SON IS YET TO KICK OFF, I thought I would use this col­umn to high­light some of the mo­tor­sport re­lated films and doc­u­men­taries that I have seen over the years. I just watched the Grand Prix Driver se­ries on Ama­zon Prime which fol­lowed the McLaren Honda team through this time last year. For those of you who fol­lowed the an­nus hor­ri­bilis that was 2016 for the team, this is a re­mark­ably open ac­count of just how badly their year started, even be­fore the first race. The doc­u­men­tary is made by Man­ish Pandey, a friend of mine whose name you may recog­nise from the Senna movie.

Man­ish told me that he was amazed at the level of ac­cess that McLaren granted to the film­ing crew and re­ally hats off to the team for al­low­ing the fans to get into the in­ner sanc­tum. I’m fairly sure that when they agreed to the doc­u­men­tary, they were hop­ing that 2017 would be the year that with a whole new en­gine de­sign, Honda would get it right and they will have a be­hind the scenes doc­u­men­tary of a McLaren Honda re­vival. But that wasn’t the case and in­stead we saw some amaz­ing scenes of ten­sion be­tween the English team and their Ja­panese part­ners.

This re­minds me of a doc­u­men­tary made in 1993, ti­tled A Sea­son with McLaren. It was an amaz­ing six-part doc­u­men­tary fol­low­ing the team through the sea­son, which hap­pened to be Ayr­ton Senna’s last year with the team. It’s still on­line on YouTube once you do a bit of dig­ging and I would strongly en­cour­age you to see it if you’re a true F1 fan.

An­other le­gendary team that has re­leased a movie in the past few months is Wil­liams. This is a very dif­fer­ent doc­u­men­tary which is a hu­man story of a fam­ily that have gone on to run a For­mula 1 team and cre­ate a dy­nasty and a le­gendary brand name within the sport over the past 40 years. The story is ac­tu­ally told largely from the low­est pro­file mem­ber of the fam­ily, Lady Vir­ginia Wil­liams, who was Sir Frank’s wife un­til she suc­cumbed to cancer a few years ago. Ginny was a re­mark­ably tough lady who I was very priv­i­leged to know and watch a few Grands Prix with over the years. When Frank had his ac­ci­dent in 1986 which has since left him in a wheelchair, she fought tooth and nail to keep him alive and keep the fam­ily to­gether through it all – and amidst all this tur­moil, Wil­liams were the most suc­cess­ful team dur­ing the 1986-1987 sea­sons.

I do hope that with the growth of com­pa­nies like Net­flix and Ama­zon Prime, we get more and more of these doc­u­men­taries. F1’s new own­ers Lib­erty Me­dia have al­ready recog­nised that to grow the fan base of the sport, we need to start telling the hu­man sto­ries of the char­ac­ters in­volved. Open­ing up the film­ing rights for these sorts of doc­u­men­taries has no im­pact on the ac­tual race au­di­ence for the TV broad­cast­ers, if any­thing it will serve to kin­dle the in­ter­est in peo­ple who have never seen F1.

I re­mem­ber talk­ing to my friend Bruno Senna about when he went to New York for the premier of the ‘Senna’ film a few years ago. Now the US doesn’t yet have a huge F1 fan­base and ap­par­ently there were a num­ber of peo­ple who didn’t ac­tu­ally know that Ayr­ton was trag­i­cally killed in that ac­ci­dent in Imola which left them shocked and in floods of tears at the end of the film. But it also sparked their in­ter­est in this world of For­mula 1.

Out­side of the world of F1, I watched a cou­ple of other doc­u­men­taries about the Isle of Mann TT race. I’m lucky to count some of the big char­ac­ters like John McGui­ness and Guy Martin as friends now and I thought that I re­ally ought to learn more about their world. There are a cou­ple of fantastic doc­u­men­taries that I would rec­om­mend: TT3D closer to the edge and Road.

John is the se­cond most suc­cess­ful rider in the 98-year his­tory of the Isle of Man TT race, with 23 ca­reer wins. I once said to him that I thought they were all crazy and it ac­tu­ally up­set him! He had a very valid re­ply which was, “I hate when peo­ple say we’re crazy. We’re not. We just have a higher thresh­old for what we think is safe and what isn’t.” Ac­tu­ally, when I think about it, he’s right. To him, do­ing a lap of the 37-mile course at 185kmph av­er­age will feel quite slow and safe be­cause they’re nor­mally in the high 120s but to us, that would just be ter­ri­fy­ing.

I di­gress. The TT3D film largely fol­lows Guy and his cam­paign lead­ing up to the Isle of Man TT race and also cap­tures the in­cred­i­ble com­mit­ment and brav­ery of the other riders at the event. Road, is about a re­mark­able dy­nasty of the Dun­lop fam­ily, who col­lec­tively are the most suc­cess­ful fam­ily to ever com­pete at the Isle of Man with Robert and Joey Dun­lop be­ing fol­lowed by Robert’s sons Wil­liam and Michael. I don’t want to give too much away, but both these films are ab­so­lute must see doc­u­men­taries, even if you have no in­ter­est in mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing!

The level of ac­cess that McLaren granted to the film­ing crew al­lowed the fans to get into the in­ner


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