MMR Blog

Epic Track Battles

Posted on December 19, 2013 Comments (0)

At the highest levels, the nature of racing doesn’t allow competitors to physically war with each other. Psychologically, of course, it goes on at all times.

The recent film RUSH prompted thought about what attracted the producers to the story. Was the story simply about a man’s willingness to endure any amount of pain to win a race? Was it about two dissimilar but equally talented men, battling to win a race. Or was it about a handsome neurotic man and his clever but unattractive friend battling to win a race in the visually dramatic and brutal world of F1. Having been around at the time, I recall my incredulity at Lauda’s willingness to endure incredible pain to win a car race. I didn’t think it was normal or brave and if I had been a driver on that grid I would have been very upset about driving at high speed around a man in that condition. It seemed more self-indulgent than brave at the time.

Rush

Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt and Daniel Brühl as Niki Lauda in the movie RUSH.

The on-track driving battles and off track contempt between rivals rarely matched the animosity Prost and Senna exhibited towards each other. That was visible and palpable and dramatic. It was a good story. In American racing, A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones, both great drivers, appeared to have little time for each other but there were never fisticuffs in the pits.

The one exception was Villeneuve-Pironi. Teammates on the Ferrari Team in 1982, both were quick but Villeneuve was quicker. In equal cars at Imola they battled thru a diminished field to the last lap. Villeneuve believing that team orders were in place and that the leader was not to be passed by his teammate, saw the pit signal and eased off to save fuel. Pironi did not. He passed Villeneuve and stole his second Grand Prix victory. Villeneuve saw this as a betrayal of friendship and honor and swore he would never speak to Pironi again. Ferrari management did nothing. In the final moments of qualifying for the following race, with Pironi on pole, Villeneuve, on used tires, was doing a banzai lap when he came upon the car of Jochen Mass who was on a cool down lap. Mass saw him and moved off the racing line to let him by. But Villeneuve had already made his move to that space and went over Mass’s rear wheel. Villeneuve died. Later that year, at the then recently renamed Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Pironi was on the pole. His car stalled, he raised his arm and was avoided by all behind him but one. Ricardo Paletti hit Pironi’s car and died. Pironi’s legs were badly crushed. Five years later he died in a boat race.

Pironi Enzo Gilles

Didier Pironi, Enzo Ferrari, Gilles Villeneuve

Gilles

A young Gilles Villeneuve

Now that is a story.