A short history of motorsport in my home

My dad is a big motorsport fan, in fact there was no other televised sport that I can recall seeing when I was growing up. For me in the seventies and eighties, my summer was defined by the sound of Formula One engines, and the sight of my dad in the front room with the curtains drawn, on the most glorious of summer days.

I had no interest in cars until long after I had left home, and started working with a company which introduces kids to engineering through the design and manufacture of a miniature car. F1 in Schools is great, check it out.  They invited me to Practice at the British Grand Prix one year, and from then on I was hooked.

The Schumacher Years were not the most electrifying of periods in F1, but his tussles with Hakkinen and Hill were still entertaining. I was aware of the great rivalries of the past, including Hunt and Lauda, but could not envisage the kind of season which would lead to the Championship being decided in the final race. Until Hamilton took on Massa, but that’s another story.

The genesis of “Rush”

Ron Howard’s film first popped up as an inevitable trailer on one of the ‘coming film’ sites. I was really pleased to think that the story of James Hunt the racing driver would be told, as the tales of his antics off the track have already entered legend. The trailer looked splendidly whizz bang, and I expected the film to be the same.

So is it any good?

The first thing I should say is that Rush is very, very good indeed. It is paced quite brilliantly, flashing forward and back in time in a logical sequence, and covering certain events in depth, while skimming others. The feel of the mid-Seventies is utterly captured, from the look of the cars to the music on the radio. The danger of Formula 1 at this time, with drivers injured and dying every season (it was not until the death of Senna in ’94 that safety became the priority it is now) is shown in the clear terror of spectators and supporters. The film also makes real the thrill of the race, and explains why young men were so determined to put themselves in these ridiculous situations time after time. In that regard, it reminded me a little of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, in that it illuminated an aspect of the (generally) male psyche of which I have little understanding. I would call it a ‘masculine’ film in the very best sense of the word – it is thoughtful, thrilling, and full of insight.

But is it all ‘true’?

I doubt that all the events shown in the film happened exactly as portrayed. Also, with Lauda still alive, I suspect his influence was felt a little in some of the interpretation. However, I can genuinely believe that this was how it felt to the people involved when they look back on this time in their lives. Hunt was not just a playboy risk-taker with commitment issues, he was also a kind and clever individual. Lauda was not just a methodical Austrian who refused to give up when all was lost, he was also courageous in every aspect of his life.

The best bits

I was pleased to see Daniel Bruhl involved, as he is an impressive actor with a film pedigree to match. I initially presumed Chris Hemsworth had been cast purely for his physical resemblance to Hunt, but he was the revelation of the film. By turns selfish, charming, exhausting, exasperating, and delightful, Hemsworth matched Bruhl in a way I did not expect. Whether introducing a girlfriend as ‘Nursey’, or welcoming Lauda back to the track with genuine warmth and astonishment in the first race after the accident, Hemsworth was a reflection of everything attractive and annoying about Hunt. Bruhl made Lauda hugely endearing long before the accident called on him to portray the anguish and pain of the man trying to rebuild his body while watching his rival ‘steal his points’ week by week,

This is the story of the two men in their cars, so I expected any women appearing to be dealt with in a perfunctory manner. However, the two women who were with Lauda and Hunt during the ’76 season are surprisingly sympathetic. I have a theory that, as long as the women’s roles in a film are well written, the whole thing will be interesting, and this was no exception. With Peter Morgan as writer, I should have known he wouldn’t throw away the interesting elements of the men’s characters which the women brought out.

The music by Hans Zimmer is bang on, and the race sequences will drag your heart into your throat.

See this film, and marvel at the lost world of F1. Then tune in for the first race of the 2014 season, and find a new world of cars, characters, and circuits to thrill you.