Best racing films and box sets to stream on Netflix and Amazon

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Stuck inside without any racing to watch? We've sifted through the hours of series and box sets to find the best racing films

2015 Le Mans 24 Hours racing shot

DPPI

Millions are stuck inside, there’s no racing on the box, so what is there to watch? We selected some of the best film and box set offerings available to stream now. Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll keep updating the list.

F1: Drive to Survive Season Two

Netflix

Although the 2020 F1 season may have stalled on the grid, there’s still plenty of fuel in the tank of last year’s racing, as Drive to Survive, the behind-the-scenes Formula 1 documentary, returns on Netflix.

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Whilst anyone with a basic knowledge of grand prix racing will have to endure explanations of how F1 works every five minutes, the level of detail and behind-the-scenes footage still makes it highly viewable.

A unique selling point of this new series is that for the first time ever Mercedes and Ferrari have allowed behind the scenes access, the former for two episodes and the latter for one.

The Mercedes episode is suitably melodramatic, with the team mourning over a disastrous weekend at Hockenheim. If you can survive the team going into buzzword overkill in an attempt to drag themselves out of a motoring-mire of despondency, then it certainly does make for an interesting watch.

You also get to see Haas go into full-on meltdown, the Red Bull young driver pressure-cooker in full swing and Renault bring superstition into its bid for elite-level sporting performance.

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Rush

Netflix

Rush official film image

Few reading this will have not seen Rush since it was released in 2013.

But in case your memories are blurred, the film pits playboy racer James Hunt against the exemplary professional Niki Lauda, the backdrop being their 1976 F1 title battle.

From the archive

The story has been overdramatised for effect; it’s fairly well known that Hunt and Lauda were on reasonably good terms as far as F1 adversaries go.

However, Hollywood has never let facts like this get in the way of a good story, and what results is a rather entertaining film.

The picture is both exciting and aesthetically pleasing – the ideal re-watch when any grand prix gets cancelled.

To be fair, Lauda did say Rush was “80 per cent right”, so who’s going to argue with a three-time world champion?

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Uppity: The Willy T Ribbs Story

Netflix

Uppity Netflix screen

Uppity tells the story of Willy T Ribbs, the first black driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.

Fighting against deeply-ingrained racism in America and particularly the NASCAR scene, Ribbs fought his way up to the highest echelons of motorsport.

Apart from Ribbs being a highly engaging and charismatic racer, the story of this film is about one black man’s fight against the racism ingrained in a whole sporting culture.

Despite death-threats, less-than-welcoming colleagues and his cars even being sabotaged by his own team, Ribbs managed to forge a successful career in the US.

The film is propelled along by contemporary interviews with Ribbs, the San Jose-native leaning in to whisper at key moments and add dramatic effect to what is an already great story.

Other contributions from key figures – such as Bernie Ecclestone, who handed Ribbs a Brabham test opportunity, illustrate what a unique journey Ribbs’ was.

With a compelling narrative and plenty of archive footage, the film strikes a more upbeat tone than many of the more wistful documentaries on similar subjects.

Ribbs was a true trailblazer, making Uppity certainly worth the watch.

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The 24 Hour War

Netflix

24 Hour War poster

Motorsport fans were recently treated to a dramatic portrayal of Ford taking on Ferrari at Le Sarthe with Le Mans 66.

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Three years prior to the Hollywood blockbuster came the well-received 24 Hour War documentary on the same subject.

There’s a strong argument for saying 24 Hour War is the ‘real’ story of Le Mans.

Although the weigh-in of (at the time) the world’s biggest car maker taking on a tiny company from Maranello might seem a bit one-sided, it makes for a great tale nonetheless.

The film gives greater detail of the build-up to Le Mans ’66, detailing the GT40’s development and victories at other famous races, in addition to a fascinating history of the two marque’s opposing ideas towards racing. The rivalry’s continuation after the first Ford win is also documented.

The 24 Hour War was well-received by critics and is deserving of its praise, combining thorough research, unseen footage and high-profile interviews. A film that features contributions from Mario Andretti, John Surtees and Dan Gurney is certainly deserving of any petrolhead’s consideration.

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Crash and Burn

Amazon – included with Prime

Crash and Burn poster

Tommy Byrne must be the only person bold enough to have stolen Ayrton Senna’s car wheels.

From the archive

His pithy summary of his own career “it hasn’t been a terrible life, I just lost out on about a hundred million dollars” lets you know this is not your average race documentary.

The hair-raising tale of the Northern Irish firebrand rise to the top of motorsport and then his almost equally meteoric fall ultimately makes for a brilliant film.

Talking heads such as Eddie Jordan, Martin Brundle and Gary Anderson assure the viewer that Byrne had all the talent to make it as an elite driver, it was just everything else about him that was the problem.

Bryne’s amusingly sarcastic verdict on Senna “you would have thought he was the second coming of Christ” is a refreshing antidote to the usual deification of the Brazilian, correlating with everything else that is unconventional about this intriguing racing character.

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Le Mans: Racing is Everything

Amazon – included with Prime

Le Mans 2019 sunset

Although the perception of Le Mans as motorsport achievement has changed since 1966, it still holds its own unique allure.

This series, possibly viewed by Netflix as a template for Drive to Survive, shows exactly what it takes to win the 24-hour enduro in the modern day.

The documentary has behind-the-scenes access to Porsche, Audi, Toyota, Nissan and Aston Martin, with plucky privateers Rebellion Racing thrown in for good manner.

We see the drivers preparing for the 2015 race in their respective home environments, illustrating the different cultures and backgrounds that has led them toward one shared goal: winning Le Mans.

Few racing documentaries go into this behind the scenes detail, marking it out from previous offerings.

Porsche continues its culture of winning, but not with the driver line-up you might expect.

Nissan’s back-to-the-future approach of putting the engine in the front doesn’t quite work out, with video-game-champion-turned-real-life-racer Jann Mardenborough feeling the full brunt of the Le Mans reality.

Whilst the Le Mans entry these days might not quite so competitive, this documentary shows how fiercely contested it was just a few years ago.

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The Gentleman Driver

Netflix

Gentleman Driver poster

What started out as one of motorsport’s defining features has now shrunk to a sporting niche: the gentleman driver.

A handful of professional categories still rely on amateur drivers to make their operation go round and the World Endurance Championship is one of these.

The series follows four entrepreneurs as they follow their latent dream of achieving a (reasonably) high level of motorsport success, via virtue of providing serious funding to the teams they race for.

As team-mates to professional drivers, the rich business tycoons race haphazardly bomb round at 200mph, possibly whilst considering spreadsheets and budget forecasts.

While no doubt an interesting subject, whether it’s one that is fascinating enough for an 1hr 20min documentary is up for debate.

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