Roland’s View: And now for something completely different

Brad Pitt (left) and Damson Idris alongside Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz at the British Grand Prix in July, where filming for the F1-based movie, Apex, took place. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

I’ve got a bit of travelling coming up and so it’s time to load up the iPad with some great content rather than taking a chance on the airline library.

In the course of putting together the latest playlist, I thought it would be fun to share my all-time favourites with Speedcafe readers and invite others to do likewise.

This process also reminded me that the new Brad Pitt F1 movie, currently in production, is going to have to be a great deal better than any previous fictional motor racing drama that’s gone before it in order to have any credibility in my eyes. Think of Stallone’s Driven or Beau Bridge’s Silver Dream Racer. Better yet, don’t think of them. Both were appalling.

The fact is that reality, not fiction, has produced the best films/series about the sport, so here’s my current all-time top five:

Straight out of the box, the new documentary Lucky has to be on the list. Lucky is a doco starring one person, Bernie Ecclestone, that was made during the pandemic by the guy who also wrote the Senna film, so the quality is outstanding.

Like that film, Lucky benefits from some great, rarely seen, historic film content that sets it apart from so many other works of this type.

But what really makes it different is that there’s only one person talking to the camera all the way through the eight episodes. That’s one B Ecclestone. He tells the story to the camera of his Formula 1 life and how, by 2016, he was last-man-standing of that group of people such as Ken Tyrrell, Frank Williams and Ron Dennis, who drove F1 through most of the last five decades to where it is today.

Before, or immediately after, watching Lucky, be sure to watch Mosley: It’s Complicated. This is the story of Max Mosley, the former president of the FIA, as told by him. The film was released shortly after his death, in 2021, and was, presumably, his parting message to the World.

For anyone who is even the slightest bit interested in the evolution of Formula 1 over the last 50 years, both Lucky and Mosley are must-watch content. For sure, they are both effectively autobiographies so don’t look for critical views so much as historical context. Having said that, I’m not sure why Ron Dennis hasn’t sued the FIA for repayment of $95m of the 2008 fine levied on McLaren after watching Mosley! Check it out for a real beyond-the-grave sound bite.

Switching to a lighter note, and, reflecting the 1976 season that set the scene for the movie Rush, is an excellent documentary called When Playboys Ruled the World.

That heady northern hemisphere summer saw James Hunt win the F1 World Championship as Barry Sheene did the same in 500cc MotoGP. Great footage of a pre social media world shows how the two of them captured the imagination of fans across Europe that year.

Maybe you have to be my age to appreciate it, but I don’t think so. It echoes an altogether more carefree, and dangerous, era of not only motorsports but also life in general.

The two-wheeled theme of the playboys’ film leads nicely into my fourth title, a motorcycling documentary par excellence, namely TT3D: Closer to the Edge.

As the name suggests, this is made around the Isle of Man TT and follows the 2010 edition of the famous road race event. The footage and story telling is of the highest order and covers not only the elation of winning but the tragedy of death.

The TT should be on any motorcycle racing fans’ bucket list and watching this film will persuade any ditherers to get over there as soon as possible, before some do-gooder gets it banned.

Harking back to another golden, yet lethal, era of the sport is my final pick, Rallying: The Killer Years. I have always loved rallying, even though I have never competed as a driver, with my initial enthusiasm coming from following the London-Sydney Marathon in 1968 as a kid.

I loved the 1970s, watching factory-built Group 4 Ford Escorts fighting it out with Fiat 131s and Vauxhall Chevettes. And then, in the 1980s, all hell let loose when Group B hit the stages.

The Killer Years tells the story of that period and the lead up to the ban on those Group B monsters at the end of 1986 following the tragic events of that year. Watch it and appreciate just how spectacular, but crazy, the cars were.

I recall spectating on so many special stages and hearing the machine-gun-like sounds of the Audis, in particular, reverberating around the mountains or forests as they’d appear in front of us like fire breathing dragons.

In fact, I remain so in awe of the Quattro Evo 2 that I own a full house replica that I occasionally use for hill climbs.

And that’s my top five pick for now.

As you’ll notice, they’re all documentaries of one sort or another. As I said earlier, fact is better than fiction in this sport. Hence, I think that the first two series of Drive to Survive are infinitely better than subsequent ones because they better reflect the reality of the F1 paddock rather than the overly contrived version seen in later seasons.

If you do want to enjoy a fictional motor racing film, there’s only one to watch: Talladega Nights. There’s no point in trying to create a drama when the real thing is so good. Better to go down the comedy route, and The Ballad of Ricky Bobby does that superbly. Time to re-watch it, for educational purposes, before SVG heads off…

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