By on April 8, 2013

The autoblogosphere is abuzz this morning with comments regarding the plain-and-obvious awesomeness of this movie trailer, and rightfully so. What I wonder is this: will the message behind the film be the easy one, or the correct one?

Racing at any level is dangerous. In 2008 I observed two deaths over the course of just five summer races in which I participated, and I was involved in a crash that saw the other driver leave on the LifeFlight and cracked my visor on the “halo bar” of my rollcage even as it bent the frame of my car beyond recovery. No racer knows for sure that he will be home to see his children in the evening. If you want that kind of assurance, stay at home and play Call of Duty.

From the time it started until after the death of Senna, Formula One was far more dangerous than any sporting activity is today. Grand Prix racing claimed lives with a regularity that seemed mechanical and monotonous at times. It was a meat grinder operating for the enjoyment of the fans and the gratification of the teams; a modern gladiatorial match with a traveling Colosseum. The drivers, too, had the individual vitality and presence of gladiators in the arena, shamelessly chasing sensuality and sensation in what they knew could be very short lives.

In our oh-so-enlightened era, where children wear foam helmets to ride tricycles and the sexiness has been methodically drained from sex by an avalanche of demeaning pornography and an abdication of public morality, it is tempting to let the drivers of the pre-Senna era be defined by their titillating excesses or passion or calculation. James Hunt date-raping stewardesses who put up a token fight but really mean “absolutely” when they say “absolutely not”. Didier Pironi betraying Gilles Villeneuve then dying in a powerboat accident. That sort of thing. We expect our modern racers to be coddled little mechanisms, seamless parts of the car, technically flawless and personally unremarkable. It’s gotten to the point where a driver passes his teammate and the world erupts as a consequence.

When you to go see “Rush”, however, keep in mind that the drivers of that or any other era weren’t there to chase tail or play politics or get in the car drunk or manipulate the FIA. They were there for the same reason men (and the occasional lady) have always been on the grid: to race, to compete, to win. It was true in the low-speed but high-risk horse-track races of the pre-WWI era, it was true for James Hunt and Niki Lauda, and it’s true today. It’s a quest that may be ennobled by danger or burnished by glamour, but it is the same for all of that. I hope that this gorgeous new film portrays F1 racing of that era not as some ridiculous bloodsport on the moral level of a FOX Most Deadly Crashes Video , but rather as the true striving for victory that it has always been. Correr, competir, lo llevo en la sangre, es parte de mi, es parte de mi vida.

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26 Comments on “Let’s Hope “Rush” Is As Much About Victory As It Is About Death...”

  • avatar

    I really hope this is going to be a good movie. I’ve seen some of the unofficial trailers on youtube and at leasst it does look interesting. Many of the F-1 cars from that era still exist so at least we don’t have to put up with the pseudo-racecars that they used in an otherwise great “Grand Prix”.

  • avatar

    The movie already appears to be sending the wrong message by placing the drivers above the cars, tracks, and engineering paradigms of the time. The drivers are subordinate to these attributes. Wild cars attract wild drivers. Victory was defined by taming, managing, and unleashing the madness. Machines and tracks built by digital simulation computers, funded by Fortune 500 companies, attract unremarkable robot-like drivers who specialize in PR droning and self-aggrandizement. The spec formula attracts spec drivers. Victory is defined by maximization of brand value, which only coincides with finishing in 1st place b/c the commercial rights companies and manufacturers have spent billions bragging about the merits of winning, only to regret win-ads when the teams is no longer at the front. Withdrawal is usually inevitable at that point.

    Emphasizing victory is not enough. Victory must be defined in its true sense, not the watered-down corporate nonsense of today.

    Judging by the trailer, Howard correctly understands that human vs. human competition is an important concept. But if he under-emphasizes the man vs. machine aspect of motorsport, the movie will be another useless Hollywood exploitation. Until the average fan understands the man-machine dynamic, and how important it is to the types of people who go racing, fans will never have the wisdom to reject the spec-cars, asphalt deserts, and competition yellows of modern racing.

  • avatar

    There’s still an opportunity for traditional masher/raconteur behavior in F1, what with Kimi Raikkonen back on the grid and Monaco still on the schedule.

  • avatar

    Well I don’t know about you guys but this wasn’t the way I expected them to reboot Days Of Thunder.

  • avatar

    alterius non sit qui suus esse potest

  • avatar

    The very name at 1:18 pretty much shows what this film will be, maybe I’ll catch this when it hits the cheap cinemas.

    Or I’ll buy a copy of Steve Mcqueens Le Mans.

  • avatar

    Jack: Excellent – and surprisingly brief – commentary. The film shows promise.

    But I’m afraid that if you get your wish – that “Rush” is about ‘victory’ – that some viewers will be offended by the selfishness and brutality of what it takes to win.

    In today’s United Nations world of ‘co-winners’ and prizes for all participants, actually winning at something – whether it be a kid’s soccer game or a territorial grab by a neighboring country – is considered to be unfair and must be beaten back at all costs.

    War is becoming illegal, and winners at war are called ‘occupiers’. We want our countries and our leaders to be weak, or else we call them ‘imperialist dictators’.

    All large, leading companies are ‘greedy’, and their execs are ‘overpaid’.

    But sick businesses must be bailed out rather than be allowed to fail, and No Child must be Left Behind.

    We build up our heroes, then thrill at their mortification.

    I’m not that conversant in racing, but I’ll suggest the demise of the Porsche 917 is an early example of how domination of a sport is eventually deemed intolerable via regulation.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve realized my comment above could make it look like I don’t believe in charity, generosity, mercy, or magnaminity – not so.

      It’s just that neutering competitors in sports – and life – only serves to dull the senses.

      “War educates the senses, calls into action the will, perfects the physical constitution, brings men into such swift and close collision in critical moments that man measures man”. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

      • 0 avatar

        I see your point but believe you overstate it. Competition is alive and well – just look at March Madness.

        Also would you really want a child left behind? And by that I mean giving all children the opportunity to do well – after all in a meritocratic society that is surely the aim (if unrealistic for absolutely everyone).

        • 0 avatar

          Of course we don’t want a child left behind.

          But that terminology provides a sympathetic name to a program that simply encourages educators to ‘teach to the test’, so their district can get the most state and federal money possible. Just look at the recent indictments in the Atlanta school district as an example, wherein the teachers and administrators (allegedly) systematically changed students’ test scores so the district could maximize its funding and the adults could line their pockets. School districts around the country spend many days a year just taking standardized tests, and weeks ahead of that preparing for them.

          With limited resources, districts end up trying to raise the bottom without raising the top – basically chasing money so they don’t end up ‘below average’. The fact is that since we don’t live in Lake Wobegon, half the children will be below average.

          • 0 avatar

            I see this as an indictment of the ‘educators.’ Do you think they cared more about the students when they weren’t being held to any standards? Outcome based education was synonymous with making people feel good about not learning anything.

      • 0 avatar

        “War educates the senses, calls into action the will, perfects the physical constitution, brings men into such swift and close collision in critical moments that man measures man”. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

        Did Waldo really say that?

        Regardless, while war can highlight bravery, discipline, and strength, it also brings about cruelty, sadism, and greed. Opposite sides of the same coin, really. Even if war let’s you “be all you can be”, there are other ways to improve oneself.

        I agree we shouldn’t neuter competition. But I make a distinction few seem to recognize. Good competition is the kind that keeps you honest about your own abilities. Bad competition is the kind that tries to win at any and all costs.

  • avatar

    I like how not wanting to do something as risky as racing means your only other option is to sit on your ass and play video games.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I for one respect that a race car driver can die every time they get in the car. Yes, the odds are much, much less (thankfully) that a driver will die in an accident. Reference: nomex suits, HANS devices, and safer cars in most racing series. With that fact in the back of my mind; what I really respect is that race drivers having a burning desire to win.

  • avatar

    While I can see reason for your concern, based on the trailer, I’ll be optimistic. While the danger is clearly emphasized, I’d like to think that some of the dialogue chosen to be present in the trailer such as Lauda proclaiming that he’s “quicker than all of [them] and Hunt responding “lets race”, Lauda telling Hunt that “watching [him] win those races was…responsible for [Lauda] getting back in the car”, and then stating he would be “world champion again” with Hunt responding “I can beat that guy”, along with the fact that the closing sequence shown is two cars racing side by side, not the girls or the parties, is indicative of where the emphasis will be.

    as far as the cars being neglected, Lauda is at least shown being given credit for not just his brilliance as a driver, but his ability to set up the car. Beyond that, personality is what drives audiences. I don’t see a biopic about Gordon Murray, or a drama about Ross Brawn vs Adrian Newey either getting the attention of movie goers. I also see limited opportunity for a movie about a race season almost 40 years ago turning someone who isn’t a car person into a car person, unless perhaps it’s inspiring younger kids or teenagers.

  • avatar

    Racing will always carry with it the risk of injury or death but it’s hard to understand just how dangerous it used to be, how much of a blood sport it was. The documentary, Grand Prix: The Killer Years looks at Formula One but it’s not like sports car racing didn’t have its fatalities (LeMans, Mille Miglia).

    [vimeo 51735205 w=640 h=360]

    Thanks to folks like John Fitch, Jackie Stewart, Bill Simpson and others, it’s a much safer sport, most wrecks are survivable and drivers don’t have to choose, as Dan Gurney did, between using seat belts and burning to death in a wreck (some of the Eagles had flammable magnesium frames), or not using belts and getting your back or neck broken when you’re tossed from the car. It will never, though, be completely safe.

  • avatar

    Racing too safe? Go to the Isle of man or visit Ulsters RRR event and BOO YA! Racing is dangerous and exciting as hell, if my future kid grows up to be some skydiving dreadlocked “adrenaline junkie” I’ll weep, if he grows up to be Guy Martin on the other hand that would be the mutts nutts. So instead of watching some Ron Howard crap/cry fest (I highly dislike his Tom Hanksian style) rent/buy/steal “TT3D : Closer To The Edge” and rejoice at the cojones of the unintelligibly speaking lorry mechanic from Lincolnshire.

  • avatar

    Speaking of the dangers of racing, yesterday was the anniversary of Jim Clark’s death. It’s hard to find a photo where Clark isn’t smiling. More here:

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “From the time it started until after the death of Senna, Formula One was far more dangerous than any sporting activity is today”

    F1 Deaths 1950-San Marino 1994 = Roughly one every 17 races. (551 races 32 deaths)

    Moto GP/500cc – Present day = one every 8 races or so. (794 races 102 deaths)

    But far more are killed in horse eventing.

    • 0 avatar

      A lot more people get killed riding bicycles than racing cars.

    • 0 avatar

      your MotoGP/500cc figures are way off. I count ~100 deaths as noted on wikipedia, but that includes _all_ classes in top tiers of motorcycle racing, so many more events per season.

      additionally, other than MotoGP in recent years, there have been much larger fields, especially in the 125/250cc Moto2/3 classes. those fields are usually 40+ bikes.

      in some years there were as many as 6 classes (50 or 80, 125, 250, 350, 500 and sidecars). throwing out sidecars but not doing exact analysis of every season, there were something more than 2500 events in the various classes which make up the top level of motorcycles.

    • 0 avatar

      I wanted to comment on that statement too. Motorcycle racing on the Isle of Man (Tourist Trophy, Manx Grand Prix) definitely is up there in risk and as far as I can tell, not much has changed.
      To wit:

  • avatar

    I recently saw (read?) that of the 33 members of the 1955 Indianapolis 500 grid, over half were dead by the end of the decade. It’s unfathomable to think of racing on those terms, today.

    The real danger of racing is why any racing film shot entirely in CGI falls flat on its face. The viewer needs to be AFRAID as they barrel down the straight at 160+, in the rain, with the rooster tail from the leader right in their face, cutting visibility down to nothing.

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