“Grand Prix Heroes” DVDs reviewed

Review

Grand Prix Heroes DVDs

Grand Prix Heroes DVDs

The documentary Senna, which appeared in cinemas in 2010, has sold 700,000 copies in the UK since going on sale on DVD and Blu-ray.

Granted, Senna is probably the most famous racing driver of all time. But there must be a market for similar videos of other world champions and famous F1 figures.

As Formula One Management hold the rights to practically all F1 race footage from the early 1980s, we can only blame the near-total absence of such products on them. Do FOM make so much money from flogging television rights they don’t feel the need to supplement them with productions beyond the annual F1 season review videos?

It’s another example of how FOM fall short in promoting Formula 1. Happily, Duke Video have stepped up to fill the gap, at least for a dozen drivers whose careers pre-date Bernie Ecclestone locking down Formula 1 television coverage.

A new series of DVDs named Grand Prix Heroes profiles 11 major characters from F1 history. Most are drivers from the seventies, but there’s also videos on Frank Williams and Mika Hakkinen.

The series uses material from the Brunswick archive – the same crew who shot the footage for Duke’s 1970 to 1980 F1 season reviews. The 11 new discs, narrated by Stirling Moss, feature a substantial amount of new footage, and some of it is very interesting indeed.

For example, highlights from the Niki Lauda profile include a young Luca di Montezemolo in 1974 and footage of Lauda testing at Fiorano in 1976. At Monaco in 1975, six of his mechanics appear to be engaged in setting a record for ‘most people perched on an F1 car’ as they perform a slow victory lap of the track.

The Jackie Stewart video has some excellent behind-the-scenes footage of him conducting the safety briefing for Formula Ford drivers at the Austrian Grand Prix. At the Nurburgring one onlooker asks him “have you prayed?” before he ventures out onto the notorious track.

As you’d expect the James Hunt feature contains some amusing and candid interviews. Most of the discs benefit from the inclusion of contemporary interviews with their subjects.

According to the publishers the Ronnie Peterson documentary has been the most popular one with buyers so far. An interesting feature of this disc is the inclusion of some apparently contemporary commentary by Moss on Peterson’s win in the 1976 Italian Grand Prix.

However it also exhibits some of the problems with the original material – footage of a conversation between him and Colin Chapman at one race is completely drowned out by a loudspeaker.

The producers’ ambitions have been constrained somewhat by the limitations of the footage, most of which was shot between 1970 and 1980. Drivers whose careers extended past 1980 tend to have their final years narrated in a hasty voiceover at the end.

Lauda’s return to F1 in the 1980s is shown through his pre-comeback test for McLaren at Donington Park. This is a great piece of material, but it doesn’t make up for the absence of footage from his last four years of competition, all of which is locked away in the FOM archive at Biggin Hill.

In other cases the videos come to a hasty conclusion after the subject has reached the peak of their career. The Emerson Fittipaldi feature ends at 1974 and therefore overlooks more than half of his F1 career and his successful move to IndyCar racing.

The uniform length of 52 minutes – imposed with one eye on potential television releases in markets where the DVDs are not being sold – leaves some of the features ending rather abruptly, particularly those drivers who enjoyed fairly long careers.

Mario Andretti’s career is shown up to the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix – shortly before he clinched the title at Monza in a race that claimed the life of his team mate, which is a very odd omission. His subsequent seasons with Lotus and Alfa Romeo are not shown.

Although Moss’s presence adds gravitas to the production, he stumbles over the script in places and makes some repeated mispronunciations – notably ‘Montezemula’. In places the script could do with being more tightly focused on the action, and trimmed of irrelevant details about what was happening to other drivers.

The concept behind the videos is stretched too far with the addition of one showing Hakkinen’s “Road to Formula 1″. This does have some interesting sequences of his testing for McLaren alongside Ayrton Senna and Michael Andretti. But the shortage of race action makes it rather dull in places. The notorious collision between him and Michael Schumacher in the 1990 Macau Grand Prix does not feature.

But I can forgive the productions niggles, the lack of chapters on the discs and the misspelling of Jody Scheckter. It does little to detract from some truly fabulous footage, much of it never released before. I especially enjoyed the chance to watch features on drivers other than world champions such as Clay Regazzoni and Peter Revson.

They’re not perfect, but until FOM finally get around to re-releasing the earlier season reviews in digital format (don’t hold your breath), they’re certainly worth a look.

The discs are priced at ??19.99 each or you can gorge on ten of them (minus the Hakkinen DVD) in a ??149.99 box set.

F1 Fanatic ratings

Disc Rating Buy
Grand Prix Heroes: Niki Lauda Rating four out of five Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Niki Lauda
Grand Prix Heroes: James Hunt Rating four out of five Buy Grand Prix Heroes: James Hunt
Grand Prix Heroes: Jody Scheckter Rating four out of five Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Jody Scheckter
Grand Prix Heroes: Ronnie Peterson Rating four out of five Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Ronnie Peterson
Grand Prix Heroes: Clay Regazzoni Rating four out of five Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Clay Regazzoni
Grand Prix Heroes: Peter Revson Rating four out of five Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Peter Revson
Grand Prix Heroes: Mario Andretti Rating three out of five Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Mario Andretti
Grand Prix Heroes: Jackie Stewart Rating three out of five Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Jackie Stewart
Grand Prix Heroes: Emerson Fittipaldi Rating three out of five Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Emerson Fittipaldi
Grand Prix Heroes: Frank Williams Rating three out of five Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Frank Williams
Grand Prix Heroes: Mika Hakkinen – The Road to F1 Rating three out of five Buy Grand Prix Heroes: Mika Hakkinen

Buy the Grand Prix Heroes 10 DVD box set

Grand Prix Heroes
Published by Duke Video
??19.99 each / ??149.99 for ten-disc set

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24 comments on “Grand Prix Heroes” DVDs reviewed

  1. DavidS (@davids) said on 22nd January 2012, 13:48

    They were shown on Channel 7 in Australia during that latter half of 2011 late at night or mid afternoon, usually on a Grand Prix weekend, so I’ve had the opportunity to see them all.

    As you’ve mentioned, the obvious limitation is the lack of footage that wasn’t shot by Brunswick. They have done a good job putting together a show with very little in the way of footage.

    I didn’t particularly like the narration by Stirling Moss. As much as I respect him as a racing driver, his diction and overall narration skills aren’t good. Words were often mumbled, R’s and W’s were interchangeable, and Monaco was pronounced with a long A. It detracted slightly from the overall polish of the production.

    The music was nice, although it does get repetitive throughout the series.

    However, I did enjoy the series, as it was a fascinating look into F1 of the period, telling stories that haven’t been told. Seeing familiar faces in the paddock was intriguing.

    My favourites were Ronnie Peterson, Peter Revson, Frank Williams and Mika Hakkinen. The latter two because they were prominent when I was still new to F1) and the former because their stories were so tragic.

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 22nd January 2012, 14:41

      It is a little annoying, but I believe in the 50’s that is more often how ‘Monaco’ was pronounced. I think I’ve heard others say the same on old season reviews.

      • Thats wierd, I was watching ‘Victory By Design’ on discovery yesterday and some dude was saying Monaco like that, confused me as well!

        • Victory by Design is a cracking series, just wished they’d show the Porsche epidsode more as its the only 1 i’ve not seen! But thats how you make a 50min show about GP cars/racing, I love them!

    • APSAPSPASPAPSAPSA said on 22nd January 2012, 15:42

      I saw it too, here in Melbourne it was on 7’s brother channel, 7mate.

      It covers the important details of many of the GP’s rather than focusing on the fluff. The naration is good and solid, the music very retre, but awesome.

      Very informative, yet not dry, interesting without any ‘back in the day’ nonsense, light, but heavy enough for the content.

      Also did the deaths well, not focusing on it too much or too little.

      Quite possibly the best series IMO about f1 out there.

    • Mike (@mike) said on 22nd January 2012, 16:15

      I saw some of them as well. :D

      I really enjoyed them, I think the commentary was good, his voice fitted in with the whole retro F1 fell.

    • MattW said on 23rd January 2012, 21:40

      Yeh I’ve been recording them on 7mate late at night on the weekend. Some things are a little bit annoying (random timeline jumps, Moss’ voiceover) but overall great to watch the old action and see drivers that were in action before I was born. And interesting to see some things that you won’t see any more – spectators and photographers standing trackside with just a very low fence infront of them, no massive fence interrupting the view, the different approaches like the fan car and six wheeler.

    • Zegga said on 24th January 2012, 1:59

      I saw them on 7mate too. However without ads the programs only go for 45 minutes. So it seems that we missed out on around 7 minutes footage.

  2. sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 22nd January 2012, 14:03

    Are these similar to the programmes they show on ESPN classic?

    Such a shame that the FOM doesn’t listen to its fans for classic archive material. I do wonder though if this is because of potential lawsuits that may arise from the footage shown (lack of safety etc.). Hopefully one day we will have full access to what will no doubt be an incredible archive.

  3. BasCB (@bascb) said on 22nd January 2012, 14:14

    Thanks for the Review @keithcollantine, I have been looking at some of those DVD’s for presents before, but was not sure which one to choose and weather they are good enough for a present.

  4. Chris said on 22nd January 2012, 16:45

    On the James Hunt tape, they show highlights of the TV broadcast of his win at Zandvoort in ’76. That was one of the best GPs ever and I wish they would just release all of that footage on a DVD

  5. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 22nd January 2012, 17:48

    What benefit is it to FOM to hold the footage so close to their chest?

    What are they so afraid of?

    I have noticed in the past that Moss seems to have his own way of doing things when it comes to pronunciation.

  6. Max Inga (@) said on 22nd January 2012, 19:40

    Imagine the day you could download F1 races, Practices and qualifying on Itunes.

    • Solo (@solo) said on 23rd January 2012, 22:14

      That is my dream. Hell forget itunes even if they are sold only in disk i will be happy. Why doesn’t the FOM does that? I think it’s only because Bernie is old and is just stuck at his ways. He just can’t imagine new ways of getting money and hi stuck on what he knows.

  7. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 23rd January 2012, 2:59

    I have just written a Haikkinen article now won’t be a bad idea seeing the DVD of his.

  8. Agree with you entirely Keith; I wrote this article last year for Sidepodcast saying how ridiculous the lack of proper career retrospectives/greatest ever races/magic moments DVDs are, and how F1 could learn from WWE in this respect.

  9. John Bergqvist (@) said on 23rd January 2012, 10:43

    I’m building a collection of all the Official season reviews (1981 onwards). The quality varies a lot, but the mid-90s ones are good and the 1989 is almost 3hrs long, with Tony Jardine providing analysis, which is good.

    • Kristian said on 24th January 2012, 4:20

      I am actually in the process of converting all my VHS F1 season reviews from 1981 to 2002 to DVD. As I am worried that the quality will deteriorate over time. Just got 1981-1983 to go. They are fantastic to watch!!

  10. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 29th January 2012, 10:11

    These were shown on TV a few months ago in Australia, but I always forgot as they were on in the middle of the day when no-one’s watching TV. But I did manage to catch the second half of the Frank Williams episode and the majority of the Clay Regazzoni one – and I loved them. Loads of unseen footage, and all in amazingly high quality for its time. The narration is interesting too. I’d definitely recommend them for anyone interested in the history of F1, and I know I’ll be buying them once I get enough money.

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