MAY 4, 2011
The Curzon cinema in London's Mayfair was chosen for the British premier of 'Senna' on Tuesday evening. Regular readers of this column will know that I was fortunate enough to see the film in Sao Paolo last November. I had not planned to watch it for a second time, but events were to overtake me - and I'm extremely happy that they did.
My involvement with the Irish Motorsport Champions Dinner in Belfast led to organising a 'Senna' premier ticket for our auction which raises around £40K each year for Action Medical Research. Andrew Nesbitt, twice Irish Rally Champion, was the successful bidder even though, at the time, we didn't know the date of the premier or how it would be organised.
In the end, Manish Pandey, the film's script writer and a massive motor sport fan, got together with F1 journalist and broadcaster, James Allen, to run the evening in aid of the Grand Prix Mechanics Trust. It was to be a win-win situation all round.
The GPMT was the brainchild almost 25 years ago of Sir Jackie Stewart, the former champion being more aware than most of the plight of mechanics who have fallen on hard times. Knowing that Sir Jackie and other F1 luminaries would be present, I thought it would be helpful to attend and introduce Andrew as means of saying thanks for his generosity. Seeing the film again was almost incidental. Or, so I thought.
James Allen and Martin Brundle had seen the film before and both said you learn so much more from subsequent viewings. I now know exactly what they mean.
The best way to describe it is to say that I saw the film much more in the round. There is so much to take on board from previously unseen clips of film and interviews in Portuguese that now have sub-titles. Put simply; you continue to absorb the meaning of it all.
And there is time to fully appreciate the haunting theme music, written especially for the film by Antonio Pinto, the highly acclaimed Brazilian composer who desperately wanted to pay a tribute in this beautiful manner.
First time round, you feel the need to cast a critical eye; make note of film clips you think should have been included; observe that Alain Prost does not come out of this as well as perhaps he should.
Second time, you see it more for what it is: a story - not the complete story - of Ayrton Senna and F1 in his era.
You appreciate more fully how the film shows Senna grow from a boy in karting to a thoughtful man with the cares of the world on his shoulders - particularly during that fateful weekend at Imola. You also notice how the quality of the film clips improve as time goes by. That's not a criticism; far from it. The blurry images add to the sense of reality and a passage of time that underpins the entire movie.
The film ends and you feel exhausted; emotionally drained. I wanted to ask Andrew what he thought of the film but we didn't - couldn't - speak for a few minutes.
The mood was eased as James interviewed Manish Pandey and the film's director, Asif Kapadia, on stage. There were contributions from Martin Brundle and former Lotus and McLaren mechanics/team personnel Dave Ryan, Clive Hicks and Kenny Szymanski.
Then the soft and gentle voice of Professor Sidney Watkins. 'The Prof', having just seen the film for the first time, was clearly and understandably rather emotional over the one driver with whom he was incredibly close.
But, with respect to excellence of the foregoing speakers, Allen left the best to last when he introduced the audience to Terry Fullerton, a legend we knew all about but had never seen before.
Senna, when asked which driver he respected the most during his racing career, had named Fullerton. It is true that Senna qualified his choice by saying that this was during their karting days when it was 'pure racing' without the money and, particularly, the politics that would come to have such a pervasive influence on his professional career.
Fullerton, a rounded man in every sense, came on stage and spoke with the simple directness that clearly had appealed to Senna just as much as the speed and race craft of a slightly cheeky young man with an Irish racing licence.
Fullerton, now in his Fifties, simply smiles and shrugs off the notion that Ayrton Senna - of all people - rated him so highly. "Yeah, I suppose I was in a position to have gone on to the fame and the fortune Ayrton enjoyed," said Fullerton. "But I didn't. That's the way it goes. I'm very happy with the way things have worked out for me (he trains young kart drivers). They've done a brilliant job with this film. It's caught Senna perfectly as a young racer. It's a privilege to have raced against Ayrton and to have known him."
You'll know Senna even better when you watch the film. But be prepared to see it more than once.
Maurice Hamilton , a freelance motor sport writer and broadcaster since 1977, is the author of more than twenty books and contributes to websites and magazines worldwide.
His weekly column for Grandprix.com was Highly Commended in the 2011 Newspress New Media Awards.