TimHuber

92 months ago

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5 Great Motorcycle Racing Documentaries

Compton, California, United States

The Doctor, the Tornado & the Kentucky Kid

This movie tells the story of the 2006 US Grand Prix held at Laguna Seca. The movie focuses on three of the top riders, Nicky Hayden, Colin Edwards and (of course),Valentino Rossi. (The film's title is a reference to the three riders nicknames.)

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It delves into the personal and professional history of these three racers. Reeling the viewer in, introducing us to characters that are likable who you in turn want to root for by the movie's credits. The film gives the viewer a history of Laguna Seca, explaining how the famous and unconventional track came to be designed and built. It also does a superb job of articulating what it exactly is that makes Laguna Seca such a notorious, challenging and unique circuit, explained in a way even non-race fans can easily grasp.

Nicky Hayden in '06 on his Repsol Honda

Nicky Hayden in '06 on his Repsol Honda

Laguna Seca's 150mph+ turn 1

Laguna Seca's 150mph+ turn 1

This documentary having been filmed a decade ago now has the ability to take its audience back to a different time in MotoGP, an era where American racers were riding on the best bikes and were not only competitive, but winning. (Nicky Hayden went on to win the world championship that year). While this film is yet ANOTHER Mark Neale motorcycle racing documentary narrated by Ewan McGregor, (like Fastest & Faster). It has a very different vibe and is telling a much more concise story than Neale's previous works.

A sight I've missed for years

A sight I've missed for years

TT3D: Closer to the Edge

The Isle of Man TT is arguably the most dangerous Motorsport event on the planet, making the race, the circuit and those who race on it excellent subjects for a documentary. Narrated by Jared Leto and filmed on the Island during the races of the 2011 TT, it primarily follows truck mechanic, TV personality and road racer, Guy Martin.

TT3D; Closer to the Edge

TT3D; Closer to the Edge

Guy racing the TT

Guy racing the TT

There are interviews with the rest of the TT stars, but the majority of the scenes filmed off the bike are with Guy. Over the years he's managed to finish on the podium a handful of times but has yet to actually win a TT. He's also gathered a large fan base in the process. He's a likable guy, clearly talented and driven but never taking himself too seriously, speaking with a thick British accent and no filter.

Guy Martin in the paddock

Guy Martin in the paddock

The documentary covers some of the history of the TT and road racing and explains what exactly it is that makes the 37.73 mile long mountain course and its 250+ turns so dangerous. MotoGP tracks are typically 2-4 miles long, consisting of 10-20 turns, and even then the riders, who are the best of the best, still make mistakes. Many of the TT's corners look similar and confusing your entry speed for turn 186's for turn 187's can mean the difference between life and death. So with so little prize money and racing there being so dangerous, why does anyone do it? This film answers that question and introduces you to some interesting characters along the way. In today's safety obsessed world, the Isle of Man TT truly is something special and this movie does a great job of capturing just what that is. The filmmakers were also lucky to have attended a particularly dramatic and exciting two weeks on the island, making this a film really worth watching.

Charge: zero emissions/maximum speed

Charge is an interesting look at a small group of people's attempt to change motorcycle racing by using fully electric, zero emissions machines, and the reluctance of those who oppose the idea. The plan, at least on paper, is pretty simple, build a 100% electric superbike, comparable to internal combustion engine superbikes, and take it to the Isle of Man and race. This isn't only done to test and collect data on the bike, but also to prove to the racing community that this is something worthwhile and worthy of the sport.

Charge

Charge

There is the most basic argument being, the bikes are silent, substantially taking away from the drama and intensity typically involved in racing. The lack of clutch and gears on the bike remove an interesting element that many enjoy. What's racing without rpm's? I've often heard the TT described by locals as "hard men on hard bikes", and there is undeniably a sense of machismo possessed by the men who compete. Even though modern super cars have hybrid engines as electric motors accelerate faster than ICE's. Still, image of a Prius many people get in their head when they hear "electric vehicle" of whatever kind.

The electric TT racer

The electric TT racer

In addition to this, the movie follows the man behind the project and founder/CEO of Motoczysz, Mark Miller. The struggles he faces and obstacles he must overcome in order to appear at the first ever zero emissions TT are entertaining even though Mr. Miller is not the most relatable or likeable guy. The advent of this new event obviously has a very mixed reception from the 15,000+ fans that gather on the island every year, illustrating both sides of the argument, albeit the "Anti electric" side is a bit less articulate most of the film. So, would riding be the same to you if there was no sound or vibration associated with cracking open the throttle? Is it something we simply connect with riding? Part of the ritual we've gotten used to? This documentary provides an interesting look at a constantly evolving sport. (Also another Mark Neale written/directed doc narrated by Ewan McGregor because why not?

Hitting the Apex

Hitting the Apex is film maker and director Mark Neale's latest documentary focusing on Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

Hitting the Apex

Hitting the Apex

Of all of Neale's movies, this is the only one I felt comfortable asking my girlfriend to watch with me as it tells a great story that won't just be appreciated by racing fans. Also Brad Pitt doing the narrating didn't hurt. This movie tells the story of six of the fastest riders in recent history (Marco Simocelli, Marc Marqeuz, Danny Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo) and their backgrounds. The story covers what happened in MotoGP from the 800cc era to the time the film was finished in 2015.

Rossi, Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Stoner and Simocelli (no marqueZ yet)

Rossi, Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Stoner and Simocelli (no marqueZ yet)

Mark Neale's previous films have all been solid and enjoyable but Hitting the Apex is particularly well polished, it goes without saying that having made so many previous MotoGP documentaries taught him quite a bit and whatever it was he learned was applied to HTA.

A wonderful shot from HTA

A wonderful shot from HTA

Some of the same subjects that Neale has previously covered come up again in this film, but the movie introduces it's audience to the information as if they have no experience with MotoGP or motorcycle's. This is by no means to say that it's boring to MotoGP fans, but it intentionally attempted to make itself a documentary that could be watched by anyone without feeling out of their element or like they're missing information. It's an honest view on MotoGP at both its best and worst, when world champions are won and when lives are lost and everything in-between.

This really is a can't miss for anyone who even lightly follows MotoGP. Neale's first three MotoGP documentaries, "Faster", "Faster and Faster" and "Fastest" are different in many ways from "Hitting the Apex", but HTA still merits watching even if you've seen any of the first three. However, because of their major similarities I opted to only include Neale's latest MotoGP doc on this list.

When Playboys Ruled the World

This is not only the oldest documentary on this list, but focuses on an era several decades before the other documentaries listed. Despite that, it's still quite good; the production value is high and it does a great job of standing the test of time.

When Playboys Ruled the World

When Playboys Ruled the World

James Hunt & wife

James Hunt & wife

The film centers on Barry Sheene and James Hunt, "the playboys of Motorsport" as they were called, and the time in which they were on top. Even though one drove a car and the other a bike, the two were still very much one in the same and its seemingly for this reason that their friendship was born.

Immensely amusing and genuinely entertaining this documentary focuses on the characters and personalities that make this film really shine. The story is told through those that surrounded the two men at the peak of their careers both on and off the track. The actual racing career of both men are covered in this doc, but it's hearing accounts of their shenanigans off the track that make this a fantastic movie. There's admittedly an undertone of misogyny in many parts of this film, those behind the making of it were not shy about covering the many (and I mean many) "sexploits" of Sheene and Hunt. That being said it was a different, less socially enlightened, post 1950's era and I wouldn't go as far as to call this movie offensive.

Sheene on the grid

Sheene on the grid

It's impossible not to notice the profound differences between today's racing and that of the 1970's. The lack of politics and media coverage involved in racing in contrast to today's is remarkable, not to mention the state of track safety and protective gear technology. As it's awesomely put in the film, "This was back when racing was dangerous and sex was safe". This movie sheds light on an era that anyone like myself who was too young to know anything about, but is nonetheless an important chapter in motorcycle and Motorsport history.

Barry Sheene and his wife

Barry Sheene and his wife

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Arborist

39 months ago

Sheene and Roberts is my era, I hope that a film is eventually made of Sheene's career as it was epic. However, this was a brutal time in motorcycle racing and it's best captured in the original 'Road Racers' film featuring Joey Dunlop and other fabulous road racers. The second instalment 'Road' is also very good, though poignant and sad.

https://youtu.be/Ak9Fql6UYB4

https://youtu.be/SLI2r8pyla0

champers

92 months ago

@OGSXR600 Nice one. Picked up two titles I didn't know about.