Ask any motorsport fan and they’ll tell you: you can find every bit of drama, tension, conflict and action of Hollywood’s greatest films on any given day at a professional racetrack. That fact seems to have occurred to director Ron Howard as well, turning the real-life rivalry between F1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda into the basis for his high-octane drama Rush.
The film marks one of the few occasions when racing fans have a film to look forward to, which is a problem that more writers and directors need to rectify. The realm of racing is as varied as the personalities that seem drawn to it, and it doesn’t take long to find a few real-life stories which would make for strong films.
There are too many to name, but here are 4 True Racing Stories We’d Like To See On Film.
If the average person found themselves lost in the Sahara desert, they’d probably decide (once rescued) that it’s not the kind of place you make a habit of visiting. But when that happened to Thierry Sabine, he determined that the sandy wasteland was the perfect location for a rally race.
If that seems like a crazy idea, the race Sabine ended up launching was every bit as absurd. Stretching from France across the Mediterranean to Senegal, the Paris-Dakar Rally, the off-road endurance race requires drivers travel upwards of 800 km every day through some of the most rugged and deadly conditions imaginable.
The concept seems like a work of fiction, but with the race taking the lives of 50 racers and bystanders since it was first run in 1979, the race should be brought to more people’s attention. Whether they support it or fight to stop it is up to them.
It’s a question few modern racing fans ask: how did we get from the open-cockpit, front-engine roadsters of the 1950s to the mid-engine, ‘grand prix’ style that now defines open-wheel racing? It may seem like a logical evolution, but the shift was so divisive in the American racing community, it forever changed American motorsport, and helped clear the way for NASCAR’s dominance today.
And situated at the very front of it was A.J. Foyt, a swaggering Texan with grease under his fingernails, and Mario Andretti, an Italian immigrant who grew up idolizing Formula One. The two drivers quickly took their rivalry to the top of Indy, combining to win 11 of the last 13 races in the 1967 USAC Championship.
Struggling between old and new, paved and dirt tracks, and polarizing personalities, Foyt and Andretti’s place in racing history deserves more attention.
Photo Credit: ESPN
NASCAR tracks may not be as complex as some of their European brethren, but with 75 million fans and broadcasting to 150 countries, it’s baffling that more films based on the sport aren’t made. And if one rivalry is fit for film, it’s the clash between Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and Jeff Gordon.
Every fan knows of Earnhardt’s legacy; the man who bore the nickname ‘Intimidator’ without a hint of irony, prowling the track in his all-black Goodwrench Chevy. When the veteran came face to face with the up-and-coming Jeff Gordon – hailing from California and sporting a rainbow paint scheme – the gloves came off.
With the future of the sport in question, Earnhardt’s ‘good old boy’ attitude was a complete opposite of Gordon’s camera-friendly demeanor. And the war of philosophies, fans, words and racing that followed is tailor-made for the screen.
Photo Credit: NASCAR Images
If you know the name Ayrton Senna, then we don’t have to explain why a film based on his life is a no-brainer. If you don’t know of the Brazilian F1 driver – considered by most racing legends to be the greatest ever to sit behind a steering wheel – you’ll likely think he’s simply a work of fiction.
Senna was a walking (and driving) contradiction – one minute donating millions to help those in his home country, or risking his safety for his fellow drivers, the next throwing caution to the wind to win at any cost. It’s a simple fact: any biopic based on the life of Ayrton Senna would be great simply by association (watch the documentary bearing his name if you doubt us).
If you’re looking for rivalries, Senna’s career was filled with them; but direct competitor and eventual teammate Alain Prost would be a top contender. Even still, a film focused solely on Senna would be one audiences would have trouble believing was based on fact, with a larger-than-life star whose impact is still felt today.
Only time will tell if Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl manage to bring enough drama to Rush to kick off a new interest in motorsport movies. Hopefully we’ll see one of these stories done justice, but in all honesty, more racing films is enough for us.
Which tales from the track do you think are ripe for adaptation? Be sure to leave your own picks in the comments.
Rush is in theaters now. Be sure to read our review.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.