Four more racing luminaries have been inducted into the Motor Sport Hall of Fame this evening at the Royal Opera House.
Joining the eight founding members and 17 past inductees was engineer, technical director and team principal Ross Brawn, 1976 Formula 1 World Champion James Hunt, 20-time Isle of Man TT winner John McGuinness and four-time Formula 1 world champion Alain Prost.
It was the fifth annual Motor Sport Hall of Fame and the night was opened by host and Sky Formula 1 presenter Simon Lazenby before editor Damien Smith took the stage to wish the magazine a happy 90th birthday. 2014 is a big year for the ‘Green’un’ and it was appropriate that the night at the Royal Opera House was so well attended by motor racing’s great and good.
The first inductee to take to the stage was Ross Brawn, a man who has won an astonishing 16 world titles. BRDC president Derek Warwick, who worked with him closely at Arrows in F1 and with Jaguar in sports cars, joined him to help present the Motor Sport Hall of Fame trophy.
“I’m very honoured,” said Brawn before talking about his crowning achievement. “I really feel I’ve had as much success as anyone deserves. Brawn GP was very special because of the circumstances that surrounded it, the desperate moments that we went through before we realised we could survive. Then we realised we had a good car and then we realised we could win the world championship. It was that contrast that was so special.”
Next inductee up was world champion and legendary commentator James Hunt. Sky F1’s Johnny Herbert and Lazenby welcomed James’ son Tom onto the stage to accept the trophy on behalf of his late father.
He spoke about knowing James as a father first and foremost. “He was exactly that. He’d retired but he was still commentating so we went to the odd Grand Prix; our chief memories are of sitting in the commentary box with him. But other than that he was like any normal dad, very loving and very fun.”
As guests’ champagne glasses were topped up and more canapés filled the Paul Hamlyn Hall at the ROH the awards turned its attention to two wheels. Morecambe Missile John McGuinness was fresh back from his first race of the year in Australia and became the third motorcyclist to join the illustrious Hall of Fame club. In 2012 both John Surtees and Giacomo Agostini were inducted and it was the former that was on hand to present McGuinness with his trophy. The six-time Isle of Man TT winner won the Formula 1 World Championship exactly 50 years ago and 2014 will be a busy year for him.
“I’m nearly 42 and I look pretty average,” McGuinness said, “but in my head I feel pretty good. I’ll carry on for one or two more years yet. I felt a bit nervous to be honest, there are so many champions on four wheels and two, but to see my name up there with the greats is a massive honour.”
It was to rapturous applause that the final inductee of the night made his way onto the stage – Alain Prost is a long-overdue member of the Hall of Fame and it was clear that everyone in the crowd was as pleased as the Motor Sport team that he had finally made it. Editor-in-chief and longtime friend of Prost’s Nigel Roebuck and his son Nicolas joined Lazenby on stage to welcome the four-time champion.
When asked which one of his championships meant the most, Prost went for 1986. “We [McLaren] didn’t have the fastest car, the Williams was better. But we kept going, we had a good team with Keke and Ron and we achieved what you shouldn’t do.
“The battle with with Ayrton, at the time we didn’t know what we had done. But 20 years later people still talk about it.”
The three have only just filed off stage, but the evening is far from over. Next up is the auction in aid of the Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust in association with RM Auctions.
Update: the auction has been completed and another £23,000 has been raised for the Trust. Some of the lots included mounted Ferrari F1 fuel cap, which sold for £1250 and a signed Michael Schumacher shirt, which went for £5000.
Don’t miss Sky’s Motor Sport Hall of Fame Awards show, which will air on its F1 channel (Channel 406) at 8.30pm on Friday January 31 after a review of the Jerez test.