Our fifth annual awards night drew star names to London as four more racing heroes were honoured with membership to our club for the best of the best
Passers-by could tell that something a bit different was happening at the Royal Opera House on Wednesday January 29.
A Porsche 904 and Lola T70 MkIIIB sat bathed in light on Bow Street as autograph hunters stood under dripping umbrellas outside the doors. No amount of rain could dampen the spirits of the men waiting for the big names to arrive at the 2014 Motor Sport Hall of Fame.
There were the inductees, of course, but also the likes of Stirling Moss, John Surtees, Derek Warwick, Olly Gavin, David Brabham, Tom Kristensen, Johnny Herbert, Tony Brooks, Andy Priaulx and Patrick Head.
The Paul Hamlyn Hall, where the event was held for the first time last year, was filled with more than 350 people by the time the awards started at 7.30pm and first onto the stage was the evening’s host, Sky F1’s Simon Lazenby. Motor Sport’s editor Damien Smith was also on hand to open the night and welcomed everyone to the magazine’s 90th year.
The first of the four new members was Ross Brawn, who was joined by ex-F1 driver, Le Mans winner and BRDC president Derek Warwick. Brawn gave nothing away about his future and claimed he would “concentrate on fishing” for the time being. A matter of days later, he appeared to confirm his retirement from F1, but as you can read on page 32 we’re not so sure. Will he really remain on the river bank? Or could he be tempted by a lucrative deal at McLaren? What about a role at the FIA with old ally Jean Todt? Whatever, he kept up his pokerface at the Royal Opera House.
The second award winner was 1976 F1 World Champion, the late James Hunt. It was good to see so many of the Hunt family there on the night (15 of them!) and it was his son Tom who accepted the award on James’ behalf. Sadly Tom opted for a suit rather than flip-flops, t-shirt and shorts. The whole audience concurred when he said that he was only sorry his father wasn’t there to accept the award.
It was to the world of motorcycling that we turned next, with 20-time Isle of Man TT winner John McGuinness becoming the 28th Hall of Fame inductee. The Morecambe Missile had everyone in fits of laughter with his anecdotes of how he started riding ’bikes. His hero was Evil Knievel: while the stunt rider was jumping 14 real buses, the young McGuinness was jumping 14 toy buses in his garden.
The final call of the evening was for four-time F1 world champion Alain Prost. The Frenchman was joined on stage by his son Nicolas and Motor Sport’s editor-in-chief Nigel Roebuck. It was to rapturous, and well-deserved, applause that he accepted his trophy.
Prost’s attendance and inclusion within the Hall of Fame was particularly sweet for Nigel, given his long friendship with the great man. On stage, he explained what it was about Alain that made him special. “It was the ease of it all,” he said. “Alain was blindingly quick but also fiercely intelligent in a racing car. In all the years I’ve been watching F1 I honestly don’t think anyone made it look as easy as this man here. I remember watching qualifying at Monaco one year with Denis Jenkinson. [Michele] Alboreto went past and looked blindingly quick, but right at the end of the session they announced that Alain was on pole and Jenks said, ‘Where the hell did he come from?’ It was so easy and unobtrusive, and I think that’s a pretty good definition of genius.”
Prost’s son Nicolas, who drives sports cars for Rebellion Racing, has personal experience of his old man’s natural speed. “I got the chance to be his team-mate two years ago when we did ice racing together,” he said. “Let me tell you, he was the hardest team-mate I ever had. It was really interesting for me because I learned a lot, especially from his approach to the weekend. In free practice he would be far behind and then in qualifying, bam, he’d be on top and nobody knew where it had come from. He’d focused on the moment that matters.”
The Hall of Fame somehow feels more complete with Prost’s inclusion.
After the awards, the annual charity auction took place, this year hosted by RM Auctions and its European managing director Max Girardo. The man with the gavel did a great job and an impressive £20,500 was raised for The Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust – the cause that does so much for the unsung heroes of the F1 pitlane. It was a fitting end to another special Hall of Fame evening. Ed Foster
Our thanks to: RM Auctions, Markerstudy & Hillier Buchan, Sky Sports, Formula One Management, North One Television, Virgin Wines, Event Concept, MPA Creative, Scuderia Ferrari, Red Bull Racing, Lotus F1, Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 and Sir Jackie Stewart
Twitter reaction to our big night
Wading down the M40 for a great night @Motor_Sport Magazine Hall of Fame. Good friends, good people, great magazine. #RoebuckIsAlwaysRight
No rest for the boss. Fresh from PI Classic in Australia, now en route to London for @Motor_Sport Hall of Fame awards
Important night with some big names at the Royal Opera House for the @Motor_Sport hall of fame awards. Four more legends to be inducted.
At @Motor_Sport Hall of Fame. So are Prost, Brawn, DR, Moss, Surtees, Brooks, Kristensen etc. Unbelievable gathering.
James Hunt inducted and his son @TommyHunt76 picks up the award #f1 #motorsporthalloffame
well deserved @jm130tt !!
Really nice evening @Motor_Sport #MSHallofFame with my dad, @TommyHunt76 #RossBrawn and #McGuinness Great champions!
@ChrisDonPark (Christopher Tate)
@Motor_Sport mag’s Hall of Fame, bold & great decision to add John 20 TTs McGuinness with Hunt, Brawn & Prost, heroes all – but only 1 JMcG!
Great to see some pictures of Shelsley up on the big screen last night at the @Motor_Sport Hall of Fame. DSJ loved it here.
Good night out with my pal Steve Soper after the @Motor_Sport Hall of Fame evening.
Got to meet childhood hero #AlainProst who was also inducted into #MSHallofFame. Spoke brilliantly about #Senna
Woke up to this trophy this morning. Great night last night receiving this award, massive thanks to Motor Sport magazine.
The standout achievements
“I really feel I’ve had as much success as anyone deserves to have. When I came out of my first retirement with Honda and then Brawn GP, it was very special because of the circumstances that surrounded us and the desperate moments that we went through before it dawned that we could survive. Then we realised we had a good car and might be able to win the World Championship. I think it was that contrast that made it so special.
“Seeing the group of people that were there during November, December, January, February when none of them really knew what their future was, but sticking together and working even harder than they thought possible to keep the hope going – that’s really the pinnacle of my career.”
The Schumacher partnership
“There’s a funny story I can tell you about Derek [Warwick], because we both met Michael in sports car racing. On one occasion Michael had been a bit naughty out on the track and pushed Derek off during practice or qualifying. I legged it after Derek, who was running down the pitlane to throttle him. That was our first moment with Michael. It was serious but, after seeing him in sports car racing, having the opportunity to work with him in Formula 1 was great.
“Michael and I grew up together in F1, we made mistakes together – but we didn’t blame each other. I think our skills just complemented each other, so we could lean on each other and rely on each other.
On the future…
“I’m focused on the fishing!”
Tom Hunt on the man he knew
“He’d long retired from racing, but was still doing the commentary so we went to the odd Grand Prix. My chief memories are sitting in the commentary box with him. Other than that he was like any normal dad, very loving, lots of fun.”
What the award means
“It’s a huge honour and I’m sure he would have absolutely loved it. For the family it’s very special to see him being put up alongside some of the great names and it’s lovely to be accepting the award on his behalf. I’m just sorry that he’s not here to accept it himself.”
Reactions to Rush
“I think Daniel Brühl did a fantastic job [as Niki Lauda] and Chris [Hemsworth] did as well as Dad. The film was very good and it was done very well. Dad was unique and I think the acting was fantastic in some areas… Maybe a couple of areas weren’t quite spot on, but who can play James Hunt? Not many people.”
The title he cherishes most
“I’d say my 1986 title was the most satisfying of the four. Although we didn’t have the best car, we never stopped pushing and benefited from fantastic teamwork. When you achieve what you shouldn’t do, it’s extremely rewarding. I’m very proud of what I accomplished. At the end of the day you never think about each race, it’s the championship, the whole package.”
“When I started out, I actually wanted to be a footballer. I wasn’t interested in motor racing at all, but then I broke my wrist and because I couldn’t play football, I had a go in a kart. So maybe it was a good thing that I broke my wrist.”
Shout out to ‘Wattie’…
“It helps when you have a team-mate where you are pushing each other to be better and better. I’ll not forget John Watson. He was really the one who taught me – not my teacher but my brother. It was very important for me.”
That man Senna
“At the time we didn’t realise what we had done. Twenty years later people still talk about those battles at Ferrari and McLaren. Had I stayed at Williams maybe I could have won five World Championships, but even so I am very proud of it all.
“We were good for Formula 1, we put it on the front pages. We kept it in people’s memory because it had the human part, we had characters. Again, the fact we are talking about it 20 years afterwards is very good. My approach with Ayrton was different at the end. We didn’t have contact every day, but every week for sure. I will keep some secrets, but that’s part of my story, my heart. I have to thank Ayrton because when we were team-mates we drove each other on.”
His ‘amazing journey’
“I was first put on a motorbike when I was three years old by my dad, and I’ve come a long way since then. I once wrote in to Jim’ll Fix It asking to do a jump with Evel Knievel, but in hindsight I’m kind of glad I didn’t. There’s only so much I’ll do for a jump with Evel Knievel…”
“Seventeen years of TT racing, 20 wins and an outright lap record. I’m nearly 42. I look pretty average but inside I feel pretty good. I’ll carry on for one or two more years yet.”
The difference between racing drivers and motorcyclists
“I’d better not say. It’s something to do with testicles… To answer that one just go to the TT. If anybody’s not been there, it’s such a thrill. It’s the biggest, longest track in the world, it’s got 270 corners, it’s got a proper mountain, it’s the fastest track in the world. Even to compete and finish is an achievement, but to ride it and win is something special. It feels different out there and there’s no rollcage around you.”
The magic of the TT
“I’m still pretty nervous when they announce my name, whether it’s two-strokes, four-strokes, big bikes or small bikes. I feel pretty anxious. It’ll be cold weather then all of a sudden testing’ll come round and then we’ll be dropping the clutch and heading down Bray Hill, one of the most famous stretches of road in racing. It’s the only place in the world where you don’t get a sighting lap and do your bit for the camera. You just walk up to your bike, hop on it and go.
Joey Dunlop’s record of 26 TT wins: within reach?
“Yeah, I think so. I never really thought I’d win 20, I just go every year with tremendous support from Honda and my mechanics. My wife and kids don’t stand in my way, I just love it. I never try to make predictions with the Isle of Man. If I get one or two more that’d be great. I’ve had a terrific career. If I get to 26 that’d be a great time to retire, because if I get 27 and go to Northern Ireland they’ll have my kneecaps. Twenty-six would be lovely, but if I don’t get there it won’t be for a lack of trying. It’s taken me 10 years to get where I am. As long as I’m enjoying the racing…”
Bids boost Trust funds
RM Hall of Fame auction raises more than £20,000 for GP Mechanics Trust
1) 2009 Ferrari fuel hatch and nozzle with hydraulic actualisation system Signed by Fernando Alonso and Stefano Domenicali. Donated by Scuderia Ferrari. £1250
2) Pair of paddock passes and Paddock Club hospitality tickets for the British GP Donated by Bernie Ecclestone. £10,000
3) 2012 Lotus hydraulic manifold Signed by Romain Grosjean and Kimi Räikkönen. Donated by the Lotus team. £1250
4) 2013 Mercedes final-drive gear Donated by Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team. £1000
5) 2009 Red Bull wishbone Signed by Adrian Newey. Donated by Red Bull. £2000
6) Michael Schumacher-signed Ferrari shirt Donated by the Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust. £5000