The green hell!!!
It may seem strange that the German Grand Prix, and it's iconic venue the Nürburgring, are only mentioned in passing in the film. But therein lies a story.
You see, it's not that Frankenheimer didn't want to film at such a classic circuit. Of course he wanted to film there, and in fact he did. He reportedly shot 27 reels of film over the course of the race weekend.
But for the second time that man Steve McQueen casts his shadow across the story of the making of Grand Prix. McQueen and director John Sturges had sewn up a watertight contract with the venue at the start of making their own film, "Day of the Champions" which eventually became "Le Mans". This meant that all of Frankenheimer's footage had to be discarded, all 27 reels of it.
The ironies here are several fold. First of all, despite the setback, Frankenheimer still completed his film within the year, whereas McQueen and Sturges's film would take take another five years to come to fruition.
Secondly, McQueen and Sturges's film became "Le Mans", obviously based on Circuit de la Sarthe, not Nürburgring. And finally, John Sturges eventually quit during the making of Le Mans, and didn't even get a credit.
So perhaps there was more to McQueen's reluctance to take the role in Grand Prix, and maybe there was more to his supposed falling out with James Garner than meets the eye.
Frankenheimer and Garner were in fact direct competitors to Sturges and McQueen, and it must have rankled that Grand Prix was released a full five years before Le Mans. It must have also added insult to injury that Frankenheimer's film was so obviously brilliant, innovative, ground breaking, and most importantly a film that put the sport front and centre.
The Nürburgring is one of the most famous, and most daunting race tracks in the world. It's status is legendary. The Nordschleife, a 14 mile long section of the track, which winds it's way around the Eiffel mountains has fascinated, and frightened drivers since it was built in 1927.
Size 9.44 x 6.29m, 30.97 x 20.63ft
Length: 14.2 Miles, 22.8 km
The circuit consists of several sections, the Nordschleife, the Sudschleife, and the GP-Strecke.
The full layout, the Gesamtstrecke, combining the Nordschleife, and the Sudschleife, was fully 17 miles in length, though this was last used for major events in 1929.
After World War II the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring became the main venue for the German Grand Prix as part of the Formula One World Championship (with the exception of 1959, when it was held on the AVUS in Berlin).
By the late 1960s, the Nordschleife and many other tracks were becoming increasingly dangerous for the latest generation of F1 cars, and Jackie Stewart famously nicknamed it "The Green Hell" following his victory in the 1968 German Grand Prix amid a driving rainstorm and thick fog.
Various safety improvements were made to the track, but in reality the track was just too long. It would have required five times as many marshals, and medical staff as a typical grand prix, emergency access and TV coverage was difficult, and the weather could be completely different around the track.
The last German Grand Prix to be held on the Nordschleife was in 1976, the infamous race where Niki Lauda crashed his Ferrari, and was badly burned.
Results & Standings
|Scott Stoddard||Jordan BRM||0|