Wheel Reviews-Ferrari: Race to Immortality

By David G. Firestone

Directed by Daryl Goodrich, Ferrari Race to Immortality is a telling of the history of Ferrari.

The opening sequence is a series of unidentified voice overs, placed over vintage Ferrari footage. This footage does get quite gruesome. There is a music track that works perfectly here. After about 5 minutes, the title card pops up and the movie starts.

Enzo’s early life, including the death of his father is discussed. What follows is a series of amazing racing footage, with some modern replications of what happened in car. The scene shifts to a discussion of racing talent in the aftermath of World War II. The story of two drivers, Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins. Hawthorn was described as “beer drinking”, and “one of the guys.” Collins was described as “a boy’s own character of what a racing driver should be.” Ferrari took a liking to the two British drivers.

The movie tells the story of Ferrari in a year-by-year, discussing the drivers, and significant races. The historical perspective shifts to LeMans in 1955. Hawthorn’s father had died, and he left Ferrari to race in sports car racing. The moments leading up to the legendary crash are discussed. Lance Macklin discusses the moment of impact, and the graphic footage of the crash and aftermath is shown. Much of this footage is graphic, and horrific. The race is resumed, and Hawthorn’s team wins, but his post race actions vilified him in the media.

The Peter Collins story picks up in 1956, where a point is made that Ferrari didn’t understand how to deal with drivers on an individual level, especially their style. Peter became close with Enzo’s son Dino, who was dying from muscular dystrophy. Dino’s death was hard on Enzo.

The story of Peter Collins giving up his seat so that Juan Manuel Fangio won the 1956 Formula 1 World Championship is told. Peter said that he was young, and he’d win another world championship soon. Ferarri was touched by such loyalty and selflessness.

The Ferrari style of pitting the drivers against each other is discussed. Ferrari said that the best driver last Sunday would be the #1 driver for the next race. The addition of a fifth driver for four cars added another layer of depth to this rivalry. This led to a decent turn around of drivers.

Enzo’s competitive spirit lead to the death of Eugenio Castellotti and Alfonso de Portago, who was testing at Autodromo di Modena. Maserati’s team held the lap record, Enzo wanted Ferrari to hold the lap record, and Castellotti was forced to attempt, and was killed. Alfonso de Portago was killed later in 1957 at the Mille Miglia. This led to a manslaughter charge, though this was ultimately dismissed.

1958 starts out at LeMans. The relationship between Hawthorn and Collins was such that the two were closer than a team owner would have liked. This was even more detrimental to Luigi Musso, who was the low man on the totem pole. He was in deep financial stress by the time the 1958 French Grand Prix. He was killed during a wreck at that race.

The safety standards, or lack thereof, are discussed as well. Drivers didn’t want to wear seat belts because they would be thrown from the car, as opposed to be trapped and crushed, or burned alive. This would affect Ferrari again at the German Grand Prix, when Peter Collins was killed.

Ferrari was devastated, with Enzo Ferrari wanting to quit all together. Mike Hawthorn had a meeting with Enzo Ferrari and said that he wanted to drive the rest of the season, and he would prefer to drive for Ferrari. So Ferrari decided to finish the season with Hawthorn behind the wheel.

The 1958 season ended in Moroccan Grand Prix in Casablanca, where, with a second place finish, Mike Hawthorn won the championship. Enzo Ferrari was relieved to win the championship, but was furious at Hawthorn since Hawthorn had decided to retire from racing. It was worse for Hawthorn, because Stuart Lewis-Evans had been seriously burned in a wreck. Hawthorn announced his retirement, but wouldn’t live to enjoy it, dying in a car wreck on a highway in Britain a few months later.

Oddly, after the sequence surrounding Hawthorn’s death, the movie ends. Enzo’s reaction to Hawthorn’s death is never mentioned. How the team recovered, how the team fared in the later years is never mentioned. The movie just ends.

I also have to make this point. I get that this movie is about the drivers. However, the various designs of cars and equipment are never mentioned. This might not have been such an issue, had almost all of the drivers not died in races. Certain aspects of the car are discussed, but not extensively enough.

For this movie, I’m going to give an B+. The overall story is great. It’s produced very well. The music works well. But there are problems. The fact that the movie just randomly ends after Mike Hawthorn’s death, without any real discussion on what happens next is a big issue here. The fact that the cars are barely discussed annoys me too. But all in all, it’s a great movie.

Next week, a video Friday Feature.

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