Five motor racing Blu-rays you must see
Rush, the true story of the terrifying 1976 Formula 1 season, tops the UK box office this week – but it’s not the first racing story to blast the big screen. John Steward picks five motorsport Blu-rays to rev-up your home-cinema system…
Le Mans (1971)
Originally a flop in US cinemas due to the 24-hour race’s relative obscurity across The Pond (and, presumably, the absence of pretty much any dialogue until the 36-minute mark), Le Mans is a must-watch for any self-respecting petrolhead. Focusing on the mega-rivalry between Porsche and Ferrari, and their teams’ drivers (played by Steve McQueen and Siegfried Rauch), the character interaction is pretty much superfluous. But who cares? The soundtrack of the huge V12s is more than enough for us. Pipe it through your surround system and turn it up. That it has an awesome-sounding 7.1-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack should help…
Best quote: “When you’re racing, it’s life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting.”
Utterly charming, utterly captivating and utterly entertaining, this animated flick about anthropomorphic vehicles really hits the spot in terms of picture and sound quality, too. Following rookie racing car Lightning McQueen as he goes from racing in the Piston Cup, to accidentally trashing the road of a dusty middle-of-nowhere town, to making friends with its equally dusty inhabitants, it’s a lovely tale of compassion and friendship. The picture, meanwhile, is all but flawless, while the soundtrack – available in both 5.1-channel Dolby Digital and uncompressed 5.1 24-bit formats – is hair-raisingly exciting.
Best quote: “You know, I once knew this girl Doreen. Good-looking girl. Looked just like a Jaguar, only she was a truck! You know, I used to crash into her just so I could speak to her.”
TT3D: Closer to the Edge (2011)
Just how do the competitors in the Isle of Man TT races prepare for the physical and mental strain of riding six 37.75-mile laps of the mountain course at an average speed approaching 132mph? This documentary singles out Honda racer Guy Martin as he gets ready for the famous time-trial. Be ready for some near-incomprehensible babble, quite a lot of swearing and some of the most extreme two-wheeled action you can imagine. Not to mention some of the best 3D footage we’ve ever seen – footage that actually had us flinching and squirming in our seats at times. This, big Hollywood studios, is how you do it properly.
Best quote: “I’ll tell you what word people use all the time: “Unbelievable.” You can’t use that word, can you. When a man eats his own head, I will then hold my hands up and say “Right, THAT was unbelievable”, because I don’t believe a man can eat his own head. But, like they say, never say never.”
Days of Thunder (1990)
Classic. There’s no other word for it. No, it isn’t the best film. It isn’t even the best Blu-ray transfer. But come on, it’s Days of Thunder! Tom Cruise plays reckless NASCAR rookie Cole Trickle who’s embarked on a win-it-or-bin-it campaign to race in the Winston Cup series. This film has everything: crashes, arguments, fights, romance, rivalries, brain surgery, pathos, Robert Duvall… The 5.1-channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is better than the picture here, particularly in the racing scenes – so make sure you crank it up.
Best quote: “He didn’t slam you, he didn’t bump you, he didn’t nudge you. He rubbed you. And rubbin’, son, is racin’.”
Formula 1 star Ayrton Senna died at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994. This is a documentary leading up to that moment. Covering his arrival in the F1 paddock in 1984, his fierce rivalry with Alain Prost and the many controversies surrounding his career, Senna is one of those films you wish wouldn’t end – for every reason possible. It’s gripping, saddening, funny and exciting all at the same time and, like TT3D above, draws you into the story in a way a fictional flick never could. Video quality is, understandably, of its time – no fancy HD clean-ups here. The 5.1-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is a success, though, with clear dialogue and evocative car revvings. If you see no other film on this list, see this one.
Best quote: If you no longer go for a gap that exists, you’re no longer a racing driver, because we are competing. We are competing to win, and the main motivation to all of us is to compete for victory.
John Steward is assistant production editor of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision
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