x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Top 5: Motoring heroes immortalised on film

Senna was one of the best racing films we’ve ever seen, and more than worthy of those two Baftas. But it’s not the only film about characters from motoring history that we’ve enjoyed.

Evel Knievel

If ever there was a motoring man that deserved a biography, it is Evel Knievel. This 1971 film came out at the height of the daredevil's popularity, and starred a young George Hamilton in the lead role. Much of the film was shot in Knievel's home town of Butte, Montana, and has him dramatically reflecting back on his life before a big stunt. Knievel himself was a consultant on the project, which was directed by Marvin J Chomsky, and the film used actual footage of the real Knievel performing past stunts.

The Last American Hero

While the name of the lead character - Junior Jackson - is different, there's no denying this is a look at the life of legendary Nascar racer Junior Johnson. In fact, the real Johnson served as an advisor for the movie. In this 1973 film, Jeff Bridges plays a moonshiner's son who, after his father is thrown in jail, decides to reform his ways and hone his driving. He rises to the top of Nascar, but along the way has to compromise his independence with corporate realities.

Tucker: The Man and His Dream

This 1988 film focuses on Preston Tucker's attempts to produce and market the 1948 Tucker Torpedo, an advanced car for its time. It's Jeff Bridges again taking the lead role; both he and director Francis Ford Coppola were drawn to the movie due to Tucker's intriguing story. Only 51 Torpedos were ever made amid negative publicity, a government investigation into Tucker's affairs and allegations that the Big Three car makers and political figures had a hand in its ultimate demise.

The World's Fastest Indian

You must have done something right if Oscar-winning actor Sir Anthony Hopkins is cast to play you. And numerous motorcycle world records with under-1,000cc engines is certainly something right. In this 2005 film, Hopkins plays New Zealand bike racer Burt Munro who, in the 1950s and 1960s, was the motorcycle king on the Bonneville Salt Flats. His last world record, which still stands today, took place in 1967 when Munro was 68 and riding a 47-year-old machine.


Don't bother looking for the trailer to this on the internet; it hasn't even started filming yet. But the anticipation for this film, based on the 1976 Formula One title chase between Niki Lauda, who was severely burned in an accident that year, and James Hunt, will be just as great as it was for Senna. Ron Howard will direct the flick, and rumour is he's already lined up his stars: Daniel Brühl is set to play Lauda, while Chris Hemsworth (from Thor) will step into Hunt's driving shoes. And they are big shoes to fill, indeed.