THE BLOG

Seeing the Real James Hunt and Niki Lauda Brought to the Big Screen

16/09/2013 13:43 BST | Updated 13/11/2013 10:12 GMT

The trouble with watching a biopic based on events you have witnessed first-hand is that one's brain is subconsciously pre-programmed to take a jaundiced view of what is dished up for your delectation on the silver screen.

It is, I suppose, the cinematic equivalent, of knowing a bit too much about everything and not quite enough of anything. Which makes Ron Howard's efforts in RUSH all the more impressive for those of its viewers who were not around in 1976 to soak up events first-hand.

Hell, even me, who had watched at the trackside as a sports reporter covering every one of the world championship grand prix contested by Niki Lauda and James Hunt, not to mention most of their minor-league F2 and F3 races in the junior formulae, could not fail to be impressed by the by the accurately reproduced McLaren and Ferrari racing liveries, or indeed the elegant hair style of Niki's girlfriend Mariella Reininghaus, a brewery heiress from Salzburg who I have to confess I had something of a crush on in the days that Niki was regarded as a bit of a spindly drip with racing ambitions beyond his station.

The producers also did a magnificent job of re-working Surrey's Blackbushe airport into a passable imitation of the Japanese Mount Fuji track where James's wafer-thin championship points lead was translated into the Englishman's narrow victory in the 1976 title chase. It also goes without saying that the casting of both drivers was brilliant.

"The most impressive single thing about the film is that they found somebody even uglier than you to take your part," I told Niki when I last saw him. He agreed with what I can only describe as a trademark schoolboy chortle of approval.

This, I should emphasise, was coming from the most authentic character ever to strap himself into a Grand Prix car and possibly the only guy on the planet who could describe with humour having half of his face burned off whilst seeking his own personal Holy Grail.

Yet Ron Howard and his colleagues missed the most important sub-text to the whole story. And that was the genuinely deep affection and respect that Niki and James unstintingly held for each other.

It was almost as if the whole 1976 season was conducted as if it was not much more that a private joke between the two of them. What we can thank Ron Howard for is that he successfully avoided making them look like a pair of clever-dicks. At the end of the day they were just two good guys having a blast.

RUSH is in cinemas nationwide now.