The real story behind Niki Lauda's rivalry with James Hunt

The Formula 1 rivalry between the late Niki Lauda and James Hunt in the second half of the 1970s received its Hollywood treatment just a few years ago with the release of “Rush,” in which Lauda was played by German actor Daniel Bruhl and Hunt was played by Chris Hemsworth.

The rare big-budget American film about racing, directed by Ron Howard, focused on the dramatic 1976 season that opened with Lauda ahead of Hunt in the first two races, and saw Hunt disqualified after winning the Spanish Grand Prix, as marshals determined in a post-race inspection that his car was too wide. The film also recreated Lauda’s harrowing crash at the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, which Lauda tried to get called off due to rain. Lauda suffered severe burns in a crash when a control arm broke in his Ferrari car, forcing it to hit an embankment and catch on fire. He lost several weeks of the season recuperating in the hospital but was back to challenge Hunt very soon, unable to stay away from the competition.

The film was described by Lauda himself as being “80 percent accurate,” and F1 fans who were familiar with both racers could pick out the parts of the story that had been dialed up or dialed down for Hollywood purposes. For example: one fellow racer instead of four, as shown in the film, actually stopped to pull Lauda out of his burning car. There are other smaller inaccuracies in the film, some more noticeable than others to those very familiar with that racing season, but 80 percent accuracy is actually pretty high for a feature Hollywood film about Formula One.

Now, how the season really unfolded is covered in this no-less-harrowing BBC documentary, which was produced long before “Rush” was filmed, and contains numerous interviews with those who were there, along with plenty of period racing footage.

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