• Motorsport Hall of Fame

A night with Formula One's finest

Claire Furnell February 25, 2010
Mario Andretti, Sir Stirling Moss and Ron Dennis were just three of the motorsport legends attending © Motorsport

For decades stars of motorsport have enjoyed the accolade of being inducted into the Alabama-based International Motorsports Hall of Fame. However, England, despite its long history of racing, has not honoured its heroes in the same way. Until now.

Earlier this month Motorsport magazine, which was founded in 1924, launched its own virtual Hall of Fame at London's Roundhouse, where the guests, including many racers past and present as well as other celebrities, mingled around a collection of iconic Formula One and IndyCars, Including the beautiful Lotus 79.

On the night, Motorsport announced the eight founding members - Michael Schumacher, Tazio Nuvolari, Juan Manuel Fangio, Enzo Ferrari, Jim Clark, Ayrton Senna, Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jackie Stewart. Stewart and Moss were the only founding members who attended.

"The Hall of Fame is great for motorsport in Britain," Stewart said. "Britain is the capital of the sport particularly for drivers because they can be brought up the right way here, race in the right formula to help their future careers. I am proud to be a founder member along with Stirling. He was a hero of mine, remember we are ten years apart, I looked up to him and I am particularly happy to be honoured alongside him.

"I drove in 99 grand prix and I've just been told I was on the podium 43 times. I didn't know that. I never counted them, only the wins - it's only winning that matters. They were happy days, great days, dangerous days but with great camaraderie."

Four new members were also inducted to join the eight. The first was Mario Andretti, the last American to win an F1 race and the only one to have won the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 and the F1 world championship.

Andretti, who had flown in from the USA especially for the event, said he would not have missed it for the world. "It's a real privilege to be here," he said. "It's delicious. At moments like this you start reflecting, and I can't help but think that everyone who is being celebrated tonight started with a dream. So I consider myself the luckiest man in the world to be able to stand here as one of those people who was able to fulfil his dreams." He was introduced by former F1 driver and triple Formula 5000 champion Brian Redman who described Andretti as "a fantastic driver who raced everything". He continued: "Of all the people here tonight, he most deserves the accolade having driven everything from US dirt sprint cars to F1 with great success. We each won the same number of Formula 5000 races, but the races he didn't win he usually didn't finish and the races I didn't win , I normally finished, that's why I was able to beat him in the championship. We had some fantastic races particularly one at Mosport where we both lapped the field and he beat me by half a car's length."

Moss was delighted to be able to able to welcome his friend and former team-mate, Tony Brooks. "I often tell people that Tony was as good, if not better than me, but he is just less outgoing. I am pleased to see that he has at long last received recognition for being one of the outstanding racing drivers of his era and indeed of all time, in my opinion."

Brooks, seemed truly humbled by the award and the praises being lavished on him. "I am really quite astonished to be one of the first of the four to be inducted. I suppose I have received this accolade for what I did back in the late 1950s driving for Ferrari and Vanwall. Together with Stirling, of course, I won that 1957 British Grand Prix at Aintree, although I never should have been racing - I still had some bad injuries from Le Mans having inverted an Aston Martin. I was proud to help Vanwall win the manufacturers' championship and to drive for Ferrari and come close to winning the drivers' championship."

Three British legends: Sir Jackie Stewart, Tony Brooks and Sir Stirling Moss © Motorsport
Jacky Ickx, who had flown from his home in Africa, was next to be named. Although he won eight grand prix, he is better known for his six victories at the Le Mans 24-hour event. "Sincerely it's such an honour and totally unexpected," he said. "It's an unbelievable event here with so many friends, so many talented and famous names. I have to say racing was not as professional in my day as it is now. We did a lot of foolish things, driving in series other than Formula One, such as touring cars. Frankly I didn't mind if I raced F1 or sports cars, but I did like working with some great team-mates at Le Mans and the long-distance sports car races."

The final man honoured in the ceremony was not a driver, but someone who has been an integral part of the motorsport industry all his life - Ron Dennis. Fittingly for a venue more used to hosting rock than F1, Dennis was introduced by Pick Floyd drummer and keen historic racer, Nick Mason. "It's an honour to be one of only two non-drivers in the Hall of Fame, but I am sure others will follow," said Dennis. "Of course I am now very much focussed on things outside racing but I still have a passion for motorsport."

Choosing the original eight members, as well as the new ones, was no easy feat, as the magazine's editor Damien Smith explained. "We chose the founding members on the basis of who we thought are the biggest, most important names in the history of racing. There were others under consideration - Colin Chapman and Alain Prost, for example - but we felt there had to be a limit and eight seemed like a sensible number for a new, exclusive club such as this."

As yet the Hall of Fame exists only in the virtual world, but it is an aim of the team to eventually establish an actual museum for the public to visit.

Although it might not work as a stand-alone attraction, it would be a perfect addition to an existing museum, like the American Hall of Fame which has a home at Detroit's science museum. At the right venue it could introduce these great men of speed to a new generation of fans.