• The Inside Line

A blast in the past

Kate Walker
August 23, 2013
Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa get into the spirit of things on Thursday night © Sutton Images

The public perception is that Formula One is a whirlwind of glamorous parties, of champagne and canapés in swanky venues around the world. It's a nice perception, but not strictly accurate.

When events do take place they are more of the industry networking type than they are black tie balls. We gather in team motorhomes, or circuit conference suites, and listen to PR presentations before drinking a glass of wine and heading off to our hotels to finish work.

Every once in a while, however, a team or sponsor will do something out of the ordinary, putting on an event that is a definite night to remember.

That was the case on Thursday night in Malmedy, when an old cinema had been brought back to life in full 1950s glory so that Shell could treat us all to an airing of a short film they had made at the 1955 Belgian Grand Prix.

A street in Malmedy's bustling 'downtown' (maybe not…) had been given over to classic cars from the era; parked up were a Ferrari 250 GT Boano (pictured), an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider Veloce, a Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider, and a Fiat 600 Multipla. Dotted among the cars were rockabilly singers, a doo-wop band, and a bevvy of Belgian beauties in vintage dresses.

But the real highlight - the film itself excepted - was the fervour with which the attendees had gotten into the spirit of the event. Martin Brundle stole the show when he pulled up outside the cinema in his Jaguar E-Type, wearing an old set of racing overalls. Brundle's dedication to the role extended to his make-up - like any '50s racer, his face had been blackened by grease and oil where not covered by his driving goggles.

Johnny Herbert also got into the spirit of things, turning up in full greaser regalia, while the assembled journalists were all given an assortment of wigs, sideburns, and stick-on moustaches to try on. From a PR point of view, it was a masterstroke - an event with a difference, and one we were destined to remember.

And then there was the film itself, thirty minutes of black and white footage of the old Spa. A wartime newsreel voiceover introduced us to the peaceful Ardennes countryside, farmers scything grain as animals roamed the fields. The silence was broken by the roar of an F1 engine. Who needs the bucolic ideal when there's a race to be getting on with?

The film is available for public viewing (and is embedded in this blog for your enjoyment), and it's really worth a watch. Once the scene had been set, the focus changed to a highlights package of the 1955 race, won by Juan-Manuel Fangio for Mercedes.

Watching such masters of motorsport as Fangio, Stirling Moss, Jean Behra, and Nino Farina wrestle their machines around the fearsome forest track is an experience no F1 fan should miss, even if they're not wearing era-appropriate outfits at the time.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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