Racing legends Alain Prost, James Hunt, John McGuinness and Ross Brawn became the latest inductees to the Motor Sport
Hall of Fame, as the renowned British magazine kick-started its landmark 90th anniversary celebrations in style with a star-studded ceremony at London's historic Royal Opera House.
Now in its fifth year, the Hall of Fame annually unites a veritable who's who from the world of motor racing. World champions and race-winners from far and wide attended the glittering 2014 edition as the achievements of great drivers, riders and engineers were acknowledged and honoured in suitably auspicious surroundings in the heart of fashionable Covent Garden.
Already one of the most exclusive and illustrious clubs in motor racing - with eight founding members being joined by 17 inductees in recent years – and four further names were added to the roll call for 2014, with F1 world champions Prost and Hunt represented alongside Isle of Man TT legend McGuinness and F1 engineering genius Brawn, one of the key architects of Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button's title glories.
Brawn, indeed, was the mastermind behind no fewer than 16 F1 world crowns and all-bar three of Schumacher's 91 grand prix victories. The Englishman was presented with his award by former Le Mans 24 Hours winner and current British Racing Drivers' Club president Derek Warwick.
“I feel deeply honoured to receive this award,” Brawn, who is currently on an F1 sabbatical after leaving Mercedes last season admitted, “Obviously my career is very closely entwined with that of Michael - he and I grew up together in some respects. We could lean on each other and rely on each other, and I think, ultimately, our skills complemented each other.
“The season as Brawn GP was very special due to the circumstances that surrounded it and the desperate lows we all went through as a team. None of us knew over the winter months what the future was, but we all stuck together and worked hard to keep the hope alive. Gradually we realised we could survive, then that we had a good car and, finally, that we could actually win the world championship. Doing so was the pinnacle of my career.”
Next to be called was 1976 champion Hunt, whose high-octane life and career and irrepressible personality earned him celebrity status around the globe. Hunt's famous title duel with fellow Hall of Fame member Niki Lauda was, of course, immortalised in the BAFTA-nominated 2013 blockbuster Rush
, and Hunt's award was collected by son Tom.
“This is a huge honour, and I'm sure dad would have absolutely loved it,” Hunt Jr noted, “He was a very unique person and, for the family, it is very special to see him being held up alongside some truly great names. It's lovely to be accepting the award on his behalf; I'm sorry he could not be here to accept it himself, but I'm sure we'll celebrate in fitting style!”
The third of the 2014 inductees was McGuinness, a folk hero amongst two-wheel fans for his extraordinary 20 triumphs in the flat-out and fearsome Isle of Man TT race [ see separate story
], while the final trophy was awarded to four-time F1 world champion Prost, whose 51 grand prix wins, 41 fastest laps and 33 pole positions make him one of the most successful competitors in the history of the sport.
The Frenchman was heralded for his outstanding record by son Nicolas – an accomplished racer in his own right – and Motor Sport
's revered editor-in-chief, Nigel Roebuck.
“When I started out, I actually wanted to be a football player,” Prost revealed, “I wasn't interested in motor racing at all, but then I broke my wrist and because I couldn't play football, I had a go in a kart.”
Having explained motor racing's near miss, the Frenchman went on to contemplate his success.
“I'd say my 1986 title was the most satisfying of the four because, although we maybe didn't have the best car, we never stopped pushing and we benefitted from fantastic teamwork,” he reflected, “When you accomplish something that you perhaps shouldn't, it's extremely rewarding. I'm very proud of what I achieved.”
The evening concluded with a special F1 auction in aid of the Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust. Hosted by RM Auctions, six lots of autographed, 'money-can't-buy' grand prix memorabilia went under the hammer to raise vital funds for the sport's unsung heroes, without whose unwavering efforts the likes of Brawn, Hunt, McGuinness and Prost would, by their own admission, not have enjoyed the degree of success they did.
“The fifth Motor Sport
Hall of Fame was another outstanding event, bringing together the great and the good of our wonderful sport and celebrating the achievements of four true racing legends,” editor Damien Smith said, “On top of that, to raise as much money as we did for the Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust was phenomenal and means we can give something back to people who have themselves given the sport so much. What a fantastic way to begin Motor Sport
magazine's 90th birthday year!”