The best racing car movies of all time (part 2)
Days of Thunder, 1990
Despite not being a true story (it’s not about Jeff Gordon, as some people believe), it is an absolute 1990s classic. Days of Thunder (directed by Tony Scott) follows the dramatic entrance of Cole Trickle, starred by Tom Cruise, to the competitive NASCAR grid (although Cruise wanted to perform his own stunts, as he does in many other films, he was refused for insurance reasons).
His ambition was to win the Indy 500, but with a stalling single-seater career, he makes the switch to stock cars and the Daytona 500. That ambition gets the higher of him, resulting in a high-speed crash and therefore, a stint in hospital with serious injuries. However, it doesn’t take long for Trickle to be back on his feet, and he makes his ultimate push for the Daytona 500 crown with the bit between his teeth.
Le Mans, 1971
If you are looking for realism, you will appreciate Le Mans. Starring Steve McQueen and filmed on location from Jun to Nov 1970, its director Lee H Katzin didn’t just use footage from the 1970 Le Mans 24, he actually entered a Porsche 908/2 (the same car that McQueen used in the 12 Hours of Sebring) fitted with full-size film cameras in order to capture onboard action. While McQueen himself was due to enter the race paired with Jackie Stewart in a Porsche 917, the race organizers refused entry to the car – a crying shame!
And if you are curious to know what happened to the 908/2 video car, it finished the race in ninth position and second in class, in spite of carrying a considerable amount of extra weight and having to stop for the reels of film to be changed! Sadly, it was disqualified after the race for failing to cover the minimum race distance.
An interesting but little-known fact from Le Mans is that due to the cost of the Porsches and Ferrari, as cars were required to crash for filming purposes, the crew used mule Lola T70s clad in Porsche and Ferrari bodywork.