Dir. Charlotte Fantelli. 2014.

Talking Pictures alias







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Le Man is an infamous stretch of racing track infamously dangerous and highly prestigious Journey to Le Mans is the tale of a group of particularly determined and talented drivers from team building, to the various races that act as precursor to the big one. The drama is the lives and risks of the men involved that have to be top notch brilliant at what they do and don’t mind the occasional trip with near death they may encounter on the way.

This is pure high octane fan stuff but would also appeal to those that feel this an attractive sport and would like to have a behind the scenes idea of what it takes to make it on this notoriously dangerous stretch of track. To the professionals that do this kind of thing – they know every inch of all the famous race tracks and call associated lampposts and verges along it ‘furniture.’ It is as a sport and endeavour massively intimidating even to those that know it well and know the risks. Referring to Le Mans – one team member says “in my experience it’s like everybody’s Everest.”

We follow the British JOTA team, which is made up of intermittent members, but there is as main spokesman and insight giver Simon Dolan who engages with death and comes out the other side questioning what it is he does. He is both husband and father and does the human thing after an accident leaves him walking with a ‘slant’ and having physio for a determinable period. “Do I want to put everything on the line to drive around in circles very fast, and the obvious answer to that is ‘yes I do.”

We hear the stories of the impetus behind the challenge and rising to it: all the team members talk of their initial inspiration and the common thread in all of them is the fact that this sport has been under their fingernails since being 12/14 years old. The personal is match with the professional stories of how each team member rises through the ranks to get to do the best race on earth via taking on the other less demanding but still perilous races such as Silverstone and World Endurance: these are the routes to take and the core team Simon Dolan, Harry Tinckrell, Marc Gene, Filipe Alberquerque and Oliver Turvey are the component driver parts of teams of altogether 20 that will go towards making a victory happen.

Le Mans is a 24 hour race where every second counts – the actions, changing wheels, drivers, pit stop behaviors all have to be spot on and perfect to win. The cars go at 200 miles an hour and when they crash, which is shown in the footage – the impact is devastating.

What is missing from this documentary is the massive amounts of advertising revenue, the deals and the television coverage and what this may mean to the driver, both to the positive and the negative. Sportsmen now have this as both incentives to earn as much as they can within a short space of time in various contracts. Bernie Eccelstone is not the rich man he is for no reason – Formula One is one of the most watched sports on television coming only a very close second to football.  The financial as well as the personal stakes would be good for us to know: the perspectives from wives and kids rather than the occasional flash to a photograph to prove a family man is doing these high jinks. A bit more archive footage would have been good and added to the longevity of the track and its appeal, its association with glamour, the Steve McQueen venture of the same name cold and should have been thrown into the mix.

The ending is a genuine crowd pleaser and inspires a sense of national pride and this is a DVD for a rainy Saturday afternoon to be watched with ‘Road’ the story of TT racing in Ireland.

ON DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital from 24th November 2014.

Gail Spencer

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