Motorsport Network's first major feature film commission, Motorsport Heroes, broke cover on its cast list and offered a sneak preview of its compelling narrative today.
After an intensive period of filming and editing, Motorsport Heroes' BAFTA and Sundance-award winning director & producer, Manish Pandey, took time out to outline his vision for the forthcoming film.
Motorsport Heroes tells the story of five legends of motorsport - Michèle Mouton, Mika Häkkinen, Tom Kristensen and Felipe Massa - whose lives are intimately intertwined and interconnected as they all scale the heights of their sport, while contending with profound personal challenges along the way.
Not only does the film have Pandey's trademark emotional punch, immortalised in his first feature, Senna, but the biographical landscape of each of the characters is resonant with drama and pathos. This is achieved with Pandey's technical approach to the narrative that makes Heroes genuinely radical - the film will break the mould not just for its rich chronicle, but also for the manner of its storytelling.
"Heroes puts four central protagonists together in a setting that is conducive to recounting their incredible life stories, their successes as much as their trials and tribulations. But rather than script the story, Tom, Felipe, Michèle and Mika relay their own recollections, they share their experiences and thus the narrative we are drawing out is entirely organic, driven by our heroes themselves," Pandey said.
Michèle Mouton is a singular star of motorsport, the most successful female competitor in top level motorsport, who scaled the heights of a male-dominated sport and won rallies at world championship level. After retiring as a competitor, she carved out a noteworthy career in motorsport governance with the FIA and founded the international circus of motorsport, the Race of Champions, where all of Heroes' characters coalesce.
The second hero is Mika Häkkinen, who requires little introduction as Michael Schumacher's nemesis and arch-rival. The two times Formula 1 World Champion and winner of 20 Grands Prix is one of the most celebrated drivers of the modern era, but his story is spiked with the trauma of his life-challenging accident and head injury in Adelaide in 1995.
After competing against Häkkinen and Schumacher in F3 in the early stages of his racing career, the film's third character is Tom Kristensen, the greatest hero of the 24 hours of Le Mans, the world's most famous and gruelling motor race.
In one of the many coincidences and connections explored throughout the film, Häkkinen is racing against Kristensen in a touring car race when the Dane suffers his own life-threatening crash at Hockenheim in 2007.
Survival and achievement in the face of adversity becomes one of the recurring themes as the film unlocks the story of Felipe Massa, a talent who blossomed while team mates at Ferrari with Michael Schumacher, who mentored the young Brazilian. His spirit and perseverance is also in part considered through the lens of his 2009 head injury during the Hungarian GP and his subsequent rehabilitation and return to racing.
Pandey continued, "To frame and catalyse their stories, our 'cast' spent a weekend together in an English stately home, doing what you do in a county house setting - sharing breakfast together, venturing out for a walk in beautiful parkland, retreating to seats around the fire and as the group bonds and find common experience, so the film journeys into some of the darker reaches of their lives where each of our Heroes are realised as they relate how they found the reserve of spirit to overcome challenges that would crush lesser people."
"It is a story best told by those who were there and by setting these four motorsport personalities together, the intimacy and commonality of their shared experience means that we learn far more about the essence of a racing hero by telling their stories in their voices," he concluded.
As the four interweaving narratives that criss-cross the film are brought to life with archive footage, the film bears witness to the recurrent presence of Michael Schumacher, who touches all four stories, providing Motorsport Heroes with its fifth story, rich in triumph and tragedy.
The film has formed a partnership with the Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Epinière (ICM), a global powerhouse of neurological research founded by Jean Todt, Michael Schumacher, the president of the FIA Medical Commission, Professor Gérard Saillant and Louis C. Camilleri, the new chairman of Ferrari among others. The ICM's foundation and continued work provides a backdrop to the life stories played out in Motorsport Heroes.
Motorsport Network's President, James Allen said, "I'm already moved just watching some of the early rushes from this film. No-one tells a story like Manish Pandey, as we all saw with Senna. And like Senna, I believe this film's appeal will cross over to non-motorsport audiences. Racing drivers are not like the rest of us - they test themselves to an unreasonable degree. There are as many challenges and setbacks as moments of glory. This film conveys this in a unique way."
Motorsport Heroes is scheduled for general release in May and will also be available across Motorsport Network channels.