2006 marks the 40th anniversary of the making of the film Grand Prix with a special DVD release. This is widely viewed as being the greatest racing movie of all time. Grand Prix had a cast of well known Hollywood and European movie stars of the time – James Garner, Yves Montand, Antonio Sabato, Brian Bedford, Toshiro Mifune, Adolfo Celi and Eve Marie Saint to name a few.
John Frankenheimer, who directed the picture with MGM was given access to the complete F1 championship of the 1966 season. His movie crew followed the circus through Monaco, France, Great Britain, Belgium, Holland and Italy – for financial reasons they didn’t go to Mexico,USA or Germany. The actual races were shot and then immediately afterwards with the crowd still in place they shot their own mock races which were intercut with footage from the actual Grand Prix. Car design, overalls and helmet accuracy were essential. Formula 3 cars were used and painted in the livery of the F1 versions.
James Garner’s character Pete Aron was based on Chris Amon of McClaren and later Ferrari. Yves Montand ( Jean-Pierre Sarti ) was Ferrari’s John Surtees, Brian Bedford ( Scott Stoddard ) was loosely based on Jackie Stewart of BRM and Antonio Sabato ( Nino Barlini ) was Italy and Ferrari’s young driver Lorenzo Bandini. All the actors were put through Bob Bondurant’s and Jim Russell’s driving schools as Frankenheimer wanted the cars driven fast for authenticity rather than using speeded up film.
The actual drivers of the day played cameo roles – Graeme Hill, Dan Gurney, Jack Brabham, Jochen Rindt, Richie Ginther, Phil Hill and even the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio makes an appearance.
These were days when F1 was more dangerous, glamorous and innocent than today. Track safety, stewarding and medical care were minimal. Many of the actual F1 drivers had been amongst Frankenheimer’s advisers on the film. By the following year 8 of them were dead as a result of accidents! In the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix Lorenzo Bandini was burnt to death in his Ferrari in the very spot where he had advised Frankenheimer to stage a crash scene in the movie.
One other unique aspect of the movie was the access the cameras were given to Ferrari’s Maranello workshop. This closed world had never before been seen on film. Enzo Ferrari had initially rejected the idea but later after being impressed with the professionalism of the production, he gave complete access to the cameras.
The movie didn’t have much of a storyline but what made it unique, still to this day was the footage of the circuits during F1’s golden age – the 1960’s. To see the old Spa Francorchamps track at the terrifying Masta Kink, Zandvoort’s sand dunes or the incredibly steeply banked circuit of Monza can best be done by watching the movie. Innovative gyroscopic camera mounts were made to film the footage on the Monza bankings and a Ford GT40 was specially adapted as a camera car.
A cannon nicknamed “Big Blue “was used to fire the cars containing dummys for the accident scenes and this was used to fire Jean-Pierre Sarti’s Ferrari over the top of the North Banking at Monza in the dramatic finale. The expert camera work and careful editing give the live-action racing sequences a thrill impossible to achieve with special effects. The movie was made on Super Panavision 70 film but was launched under the Cinerama banner. The fact that most of it was shot at high speed in real life, much of it at actual Formula One races, gives it a very authentic look.
Filming finished in October and amazingly it was premiered just 2 months later in December 1966. It was a box office success. At the following years’ Academy Awards it won 3 Oscars - Best Film Editing, Sound and Sound Effects.
The Autodromo of Monza outside Milan has played host to Lambrettas. The Ancillotti brothers of Florence tested there in the 60’s although probably not on the banked circuit. Monza had also played host to speed trials in the 50’s when competition between Vespa and Lambretta was at its fiercest and it was used as a backdrop for some publicity shots of the newly launched SX200 in 1966.
I have owned and ridden Italian scooters for the last 20 years. For some years I rode Vespas but since 1995 I have owned only Lambrettas. There is a large scooter scene in the UK with rallies, club nights and custom shown. I have rebuilt a few Lambrettas which I enjoy. In 2005 I returned to Italy with a 1961 Lambretta Li150 series 2 which I took to the old factory at Lambrate in Milan. A great experience to return it to the factory and ride it around Lake Garda where we were staying. I also have a Lambretta SX200 from 1968.
I have been a fan of the movie Grand Prix since watching it years ago. In 2003 I decided to do a custom Lambretta based on it – The model I chose was the DL, but in the UK it was called the Grand Prix, a good choice as it matched the movie. I already had various bits of memorabilia from the movie. The main photos on the scooter are taken from press photos given to the cinemas to market the movie. The various other decals include the 4 main racing teams, Ferrari, Lotus, BRM and Yamura.
I had decided to use decals both for financial reasons and also as it seemed in keeping with F1 where the cars are covered in sponsor’s decals.
The paintwork has been worked on by three different people. Days after it was finished in early 2004 by Harry Muff, a van reversed into it causing damage to the mudguard and legshields. These were redone by Steve Wills. Recently the long range tank has been added after being sprayed by Aaron who is also a member of Newport Dragons Scooter Club.
The cylinder is one of Tino Sacchi’s Monza 200 nicasil barrels. It was a choice between this and a TS1 but the Monza was in keeping with the theme. The casing transfers have been flowed and polished. The fuel is supplied through a Dell’Orto 30mm PHBH and exits through a ScootRS pipe which is revvy but has a good power band with this setup. The ignition system is again Tino’s Varitronic which gives smooth acceleration although it does hold back slightly on top revs – which probably stops it from blowing up!The gearbox and sprockets are standard Italian GP200. Power output is 17BHP at the rear wheel and on a good day is capable of near 80mph with comfortable cruising of 65-70mph. Other features include a Rimini long range tank, Daytona rev counter, front hydraulic disc, hi-compression head, Taffspeed gas adjustable shock and seat by L&N Products.. One of the nicest features is the original British Racing Motors (BRM) badge on the legshield toolbox which Aaron from the Dragons kingly donated. All the work with the exception of the paintwork, was done by Ian over a 12 month period.
Whilst on holiday in Italy a few days days after the 2006 Italian Grand Prix, I took the Lambretta to Monza. After many emails I was able to organise the visit through my friend Emilio Boldi and Daniele Galbiati the Circuit Director.
The day we came to Monza was Thursday 14th September. It was a terrible day with very heavy rain. I was able to ride the Lambretta on the Sopraelevata Nord but not on the Rettifilo est or Sopraelevata Sud as it was being used by the Driving Camp. I took many photos and made a small movie. Later we went to the Autodromo Direzione where we met Daniele Galbiati and he allowed us to drive our campervan into one of the pit garages – fantastic! We unloaded the Lambretta and wheeled it out onto pole position where Kimi Raikkonen had been four days before. Again my wife Tracy and I took a lot of photographs in front of the historic Tribune Centrale and also in the pit lane. This was a brilliant!.
I am very greatful to Emilio and Daniele without whose help this would not have been possible.
In my opinion The Autodromo di Monza is the greatest racing circuit in the world. It is set in a beautiful Royal Park, has lots of history and holds many records. Taking the scooter to Monza, especially riding on the historic banked circuit where the greats had raced was a fantastic experience – they are unbelievably steep!
Also to have it on the main straight in front of the historic Central Grandstand and on pole position was brilliant. To have my Lambretta on the track and think of the drivers who had driven there in the last 80 years was fantastic!