A season-long pit pass into the MotoGP paddock, following the stars of the Premier Class around the world and seeing what goes on behind the scenes – now that is something dreams are made of.
Not many people will ever get that chance, but ‘FASTEST’ director Mark Neale has provided the next best thing, with his film chartering the 2010 MotoGP season.
The sequel to 2003 film ‘FASTER’, ‘FASTEST’ tells the story of a new era in MotoGP racing, as past master Valentino Rossi struggles, after a horrific injury, to keep young pretender Jorge Lorenzo at bay.
Gaining unprecedented access to all sixteen races, Mark was able to show us a side to racing we rarely see. A UK native but currently living in America, Racer interrupted Mark from his morning cornflakes to get the lowdown on what it took to make the film.
What was the inspiration for ‘FASTEST’?
I’ve ridden bikes since I was 12 years old – I’m a lifelong biker and now a film maker, so it seemed like the natural step to make films about bikes.
Work started on the first film [FASTER] in 1998, and I’ve been working very hard from around 2007 to get ‘FASTEST’ made. It’s not an easy process and it’s very important to be able to work with the big companies like Dorna to get the access you need to make a film like this.
‘FASTER’ was all about the big rivalries within the sport, and it was shot around the time when Valentino Rossi was a dominant force within racing. I think that the tide is turning against Valentino now and the new generation is coming in, so I suppose ‘FASTEST’ is all about continuing the story.
I’m a huge fan of the sport and the guys that do it and I think that their story deserves to be told – that’s why I made the films.
There is a lot of focus on Rossi in the film. Was this planned, and did the plan change when he crashed and picked up that horrific injury?
Yes the plan definitely changed when Rossi got injured. For the few weeks after the injury, the film was dead in the water – I was on my own and there were doubts as to what would happen with the film.
Amazing then, that just 41 days after he broke his leg so badly that it pierced the skin, Rossi was back riding again in Germany – how do you think he managed it?
Well yes it was amazing, and that meant that the film actually turned out more or less how I thought it would, which is testament to Valentino’s fighting spirit. I suppose the question is: how can anyone carry on at the level he has done for so long? The bottom line is he loves the sport. He loves the joy, thrills and personality that it gives him – plus he’s still after Agostini’s record and I’m sure he’ll carry on chasing that for as long as possible.
Rossi is the guy who you can always rely on to do something crazy, brave – whatever you call it – and get in to a scrap. He’s losing it a bit now, but we’re lucky to have seen him in our lifetime. I’d liken him to the racing equivalent of Muhammad Ali – one of the all-time greats.
The film touches upon the safety issues within racing, highlighting several crashes that caused serious injury and even death. Obviously after Marco Simoncelli’s death, questions over safety have been raised, but could any more be done to make racing safer?
I don’t see how you can ever make racing safe. It’s a dangerous sport by nature and that’s part of the draw. Marco was an awful loss – he had the talent and desire to win and was totally capable of being a future world champion.
What was the target audience for ‘FASTEST’? Was it just aimed at bike fans or looking to attract a broader audience and introduce them to the sport?
Well the first goal was to make the film appealing to the broadest audience possible. But at the same time, it’s crucial not to piss off your main core audience that you know will watch the film – and that’s bike fans!
I did actually test the film out on a few non-bike fans – some American housewives – and let me tell you, if you can impress those ladies then you’re on to a winner! They did actually enjoy it though – I think it was the big personalities of the racers that appealed to them.
Was there anything that you missed on camera but would have loved to get in to the film?
To be honest, in a film like this you’re always struggling for access. Negotiations with Dorna are tough – I was forever saying ‘can I just get five minutes with Vale please?’ and more often than not the answer would be ‘no!’
I would have liked to get more shots from inside the pits, in the garages and inside Rossi’s motorhome! I think that they give you a real personal touch and they show you another side to the riders.
Another one of your films, ‘CHARGE’, is on the subject of ‘zero-emission’ motorcycle racing. What do you think the future holds for this type of racing?
It’s hard to see zero-emission racing becoming popular any time soon. Electric bikes don’t give you the same shiver and thrill as proper petrol bikes, which is why I think they’ll always be an interesting sideshow rather than the main event.
There’s an argument to say, what will happen if, in three or four years, the technology has improved so much that the electric bikes are the fastest in the world? I don’t think that they’ll ever replace the petrol bikes but I do follow their progress with interest.
Will there be a third film after ‘FASTER’ and ‘FASTEST’? And what will you call it?
Haha, I’ve joked about this one before actually. I certainly hope that I get the chance to make another film because I have really enjoyed making both so far and there is so much more still to be told. I’m not too concerned that I called this one ‘FASTEST’, leaving me nowhere to go with a third name though, because they are so hard to put together that, if I can agree a deal with Dorna, then the name will be the easy part!
I haven’t got a clue what it would be called at the minute – someone did tell me that, instead of calling my electric bike racing film ‘CHARGE’, I should have called it ‘SLOWEST’!
‘FASTEST’ is full-length documentary, available on DVD in the UK from the 11th of June 2012. Check out www.mneale.com for more details on the director.