Hall of fame 2017

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Picture the scene. The skies are grey, the weather mild. The immaculate grounds of the Royal Automobile Club’s Woodcote Park stretch into the distance, with a few golfers enjoying an early evening round. Motor Sport Hall of Fame guests are enjoying champagne and canapés, accompanied by nothing but the sound of birdsong. 

Suddenly, the peace is shattered by the unmistakable noise of an unsilenced Chevrolet V8. Heads turn to see four-time Indycar champion Dario Franchitti in a McLaren M6A Can-Am car, blipping the engine.

Then another Chevrolet V8 bursts into life. Heads turn again, and this time it’s John Watson warming the oil in a wonderful Sunoco-liveried Camaro. Then another V8! Brian Redman has climbed in a Ford GT40, and has taken up position at the head of a queue forming at the bottom of Captain’s Drive. Then 12 more cylinders join the chorus – a Prodrive Metro 6R4 and Porsche 911 SC. 

Finally, cutting through this most wonderful din, John Surtees’ MV Augusta fires up, shortly followed by the rasping music of Barry Sheene’s Texaco-Heron Suzuki RG500. Paul Hollywood and Freddie Spencer, the latter in his dinner jacket, are respectively flexing their wrists ready for a run. 

About 20 minutes later, after these wonderful machines have been exercised on Captain’s Drive, guests head inside for the main event – the Motor Sport Hall of Fame. As opening acts go, it wasn’t bad…

This sixth Motor Sport Hall of Fame was a roaring success. Celebrating the greatest names in racing, the Hall of Fame’s primary aim is to honour heroes from the past – such as Jim Clark and Tazio Nuvolari – plus living legends such as Sir Stirling Moss, Niki Lauda and Alain Prost. This year’s inductees included Nigel Mansell, Brian Redman, Barry Sheene, Roger Penske – the winners selected by Motor Sport readers, 21,000 of whom voted. Two new categories were added this year, the winners selected by the Motor Sport editorial team; the ‘Industry Champion’ and the ‘Inspiration Award’. David Richards and Murray Walker were called to join hosts Jennie Gow and editor Nick Trott on stage to pick up those awards, with David’s keen analysis of the scale of motor racing – particularly in the UK – a timely reminder to all present. Murray, however, stole the show. A more gracious, passionate, knowledgeable and humble man you will not meet. 

Nigel Mansell handed over the trophy to Murray, and gave the most heartfelt speech. Later, Nigel returned to accept his own trophy from Sir Patrick Head – who captured the audience with the most entertaining insight into Mansell the man. Nigel stood there on stage, his body language shifting from ‘chastised schoolboy’ to ‘head-bowed in awe’ – particularly when Sir Patrick Head said, “When Nigel turned up, testing, racing or whatever, when he put the visor down he was on it – and it sharpened the whole team up. Everybody had huge respect for Nigel because they knew he was committing 100 per cent.”

A roomful of greats, a fantastic location, a collection of extraordinary cars – a fuzzy head and mild tinnitus the next morning were a small price to pay for a wonderful evening.

Formula 1: Nigel Mansell

Our Nige, Il Leone – Nigel Mansell has had his detractors over the years, but for many he’s everything that was great about Formula 1. He did it the hard way, and could have won more titles with a little more luck. Sir Patrick Head, presenting the award, claimed no other driver gave as much as Mansell both on and off the track, adding: “Nigel probably doesn’t think this, but I never thought that the car would go quicker if anybody else was in it. Quite the opposite.”

Motorcycling: Barry Sheene

An icon of ’70s sport, he defined the era along with James Hunt. He was a normal Londoner who conquered the world, twice. In 1976 he won five of the first seven Grands Prix, wrapped up the title and promptly went on holiday. As cool as they come. Freddie Spencer gave the award to Barry’s sister, Margaret Smart, her husband Paul and Sheene’s engineer Martyn Ogborne. He explained the influence Sheene had on his career, adding: “It’s a privilege to stand here today and give this award to you.”

US racing: Roger Penske

The Captain’s eponymous racing team is an American institution with victories in every major four-wheel category, including F1. He and Mark Donohue formed a formidable partnership in the ’60s and ’70s, and Penske is still winning titles 50 years on. Introduced by John Watson, who gave him his only F1 win, and Dario Franchitti, Penske paid tribute via video to the influence British drivers had on his team adding. “It is an honour to  be inducted and to be recognised in such a talented class.” 

Sports Cars: Brian Redman

One of the underrated greats for many, but not for Motor Sport readers who know all about the humble Lancastrian’s formidable talent. He might not have won Le Mans, but he won every other sports car race that mattered. Tom Kristensen paid tribute to Redman as a great driver and a great inspiration: “I grew up watching Brian and those iconic cars.” 

Inspiration award: Murray Walker

Murray Walker is a national treasure. For a quarter of a century his unmistakable voice brought Formula 1 into millions of homes: it could be said that he replaced roast beef and Yorkshire pud as the staple diet of the British Sunday afternoon. Nigel Mansell who presented the award paid tribute to a dear friend, true professional and “the most brilliant human being.”

Industry champion award: David Richards

Motor Sport’s editorial team selected Prodrive’s David Richards CBE as first recipient of the Industry Champion Award. He has won titles in rallying and sports cars, and had stints in F1 with BAR and Benetton. David Brabham who, along with Subaru UK managing director Paul Tunnicliffe, presented Richards with his award said: “He’s in the same category as Penske.”

“Thank you very much for your kind invitation to the Hall of Fame, and
wow – what a fantastic event in a wonderful place.”

Jo and Ursula Ramirez

“Many thanks for the photos and, once again, my very sincere congratulations on having organised a superb event that I really enjoyed.”

Murray Walker

“It was a lovely evening in the company of some wonderful people – and it was great to see everybody really enjoying themselves. I had a terrific time.”

Nigel Mansell

“Everything worked perfectly. Excellent evening, I’m sure it was a total success, thank you.”

John Watson

“It was a great honour to receive the inaugural Industry Award and something the entire team at Prodrive should share with me. We have some exciting times ahead with a number of new projects on the horizon.”

David Richards, Prodrive

“The whole event had been beautifully planned and was executed with style and panache. Good food, motivational presentations – and not too drawn-out – and good company all made for a memorable evening. Congratulations and thank you!”

Gordon Spice, racing driver

“What an event! And great fun too. Thank you for having us there, and for the arrangements “

Christopher Tate, managing director Donington Park

“Just wanted to say thanks for a superb evening last week at the Hall of Fame – my first, and it certainly lived up to my expectations. Congratulations on an outstanding event that reflected the best of the spirit that’s inherent in motor sport (and Motor Sport) .”

Mike Sayer, Bentley, product and motorsport communications manager