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Thank you for smoking... the tyres

FEATURE BY JIM CASEY
22/10/2013

Much has already been written about 'Rush' and it's my turn now. After all of the previews and hype, I finally got to the theatre to see it when it opened here in Savannah.

There have been some complaints in some circles about some historic inaccuracies, but as Ron Howard has said on numerous occasions, it's a movie, not a documentary.

In 1976 it was not that easy to follow Formula One closely in the US, with limited TV coverage, no cable, no web, not even Twitter. It was a much simpler time in the paddocks and garages, with almost every team bar Ferrari using the same Cosworth DFV and Hewland 5-speed transaxle. No planned pitstops, maybe six or seven mechanics per car, Goodyear supplied all the rubber, and it was all about finding the best solution in terms of chassis and suspension design, and most of all, driver choice, to get to the podium.

In 1976 there were not that many proven winners, and only two champions, on the grid. Niki Lauda was the defending champion in his Ferrari, and Emerson Fittipaldi, who had won for McLaren in 1974, had moved on to his own team, the relentlessly uncompetitive Copersucar.

As we know, Hunt was fortunate to get the McLaren ride, and had his ups and downs during the season. Jackie Stewart had retired from Tyrrell at the end of the 1973 season, and though Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler were talented with great potential, the car was nothing special. Design changes were very much hit and miss in those days, and Tyrrell opted to try a 6-wheel car, with 4 small tyres at the front, requiring special work from Goodyear.

Goodyear anticipated that the car would handle better, with more rubber contacting the road at the front of the car. They were wrong. The car was faster, but not in the corners. It was faster in a straight line because of the reduction in frontal area enabled by the smaller tyres. So it was in Formula One in 1976, think you're solving one problem with the car, and wind up solving another.

The races also took place on tracks that have, for the most part, not been used in many years, or are radically different now. The Nordschleife, the old, long version of Interlagos, Watkins Glen, much different versions of Paul Ricard, the Osterreichring, and Zandvoort.

The cars had no driver aids, no power steering, the steering wheel only being used to steer the car, and an actual clutch pedal and a gearshift lever.

My first race was Long Beach in 1977, so I got to see James Hunt in his McLaren, with the Champion's No. 1 on it, and Niki Lauda in his Ferrari. That race was dominated by Jody Scheckter in the Wolf, a privateer team with no major sponsor. Can you imagine such a thing happening today? Scheckter led from the start, with Mario Andretti's Lotus and Lauda's Ferrari shadowing him throughout, but he had them covered until a slow puncture allowed Mario through with 2 laps to go, and Lauda a lap later.

'Rush' captures the spirit and atmosphere of a special, exciting, and dangerous era in Formula One, and I'm glad I lived through it, for all the excitement and the sadness of too many great drivers dying too young.

These days the cars look too much alike, the tracks are too alike as well, and mostly boring. Conditions are certainly safer, except when the tyres are exploding or an oil line catches fire, but it is certainly a good thing that it has been many years since the last fatality in a Formula One race. Yet still. I often find myself longing for the old days.

Jim Casey
jim.casey@pitpass.com

Learn more about Jim and check out his previous features, here

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by karel, 31/10/2013 10:26

"As a young boy I was impressed by F1 racing in these days, I went to Zolder and Zandvoort and I followed the battle between Lauda, Hunt , Mario Andretti and indeed racing was racing those days. With F1 close to the public, I never experienced the battle as that hard, Lauda had a terrible crash at the Nordschleiffe and that opened the door for Hunt to take the championchip which was decided in Japan after a very fast ptistop of about 11 seconds for 4 wheels (quick at that time). But James Hunt, I was a fan, had something going of a flair which attract a lot of woman and a lot of fans. Indeed real racing, these days you pay a lot of money but ... I must be complaining now .. I miss the old days"

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2. Posted by race2win, 30/10/2013 8:10

"@Burton: It is extremely good bordering on excellent. If my memory serves me right, its the first edge-of-the-seat action movie that I watch in a long time, probably ever. That, even though I knew the story. Some of the race scenes are excellently shot. It has a very good mix of Drama and action. I'd give it 5 stars. DO NOT MISS THIS!!!
"

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3. Posted by Burton, 25/10/2013 19:15

"it's great to hear it gets the atmosphere right, and Dr. Mike Lawrence already called the best motorsport movie, but apart from the motorsport element (and I know this is a racing website and we're all racing fans), as a movie overall, is it any good? as a movie fan, Ron Howard to me is just an average mainstream director..."

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