The title of a 1966 movie directed by John Frankenheimer and starring James Garner. The film chronicals a racing season in the life of fictional Formula 1 race car driver Pete Aaron and his competitors. While much of the acting is wooden, and the storyline is, for the most part, melodramatic drivel, the racing footage remains to this day the best ever filmed. The Monaco scenes especially are wonderful. They were shot just prior to the actual Monaco Grand Prix on the real circuit, using dressed up Formula 3 cars. Many of the actors, including Garner, did their own driving, with the extras slots being filled by real F1 drivers. The techniques employed by Frankenheimer to get the racing shots were so successful that, despite all the advances in filmaking and special effects since 1966, he returned to them 32 years later for the car chases in 1998's Ronin, another movie which exists pretty much as backdrop for fast cars. The film also marked the Hollywood debut of Japan's greatest actor, Toshiro Mifune, and there are also cameos by British Formula 1 stars Graham Hill and Jim Clark.

100 years of Grand Prix Racing (1894-1994)
Important Events and Changes

1894: The first relevant Motorsport event was held in France. The event was organized by a french newspaper Le petit Journal and was run over 126km between Paris and Rouen. A steam-driven tractor finished first but was disqualified as it was not thought to be a practical road-going vehicle. First prize was jointly awarded to the next finishers - a Peugeot and a Panhard-Levassor, with an average speed of 17km/h.

As these events became more popular the quest for speed led to 7 and 8 litre engines and even one 16 litre version! The chassis and brakes couldn't match the pace of engine development until the 35h.p Mercedes was introduced in 1901. The racing version was modified to a 9 litre engine and produced about 60 horsepower. It became a consistent winner and other manufacturers followed suite and further developed their cars to keep pace.

1906: The first official Grand Prix was held near Le mans around a 64 mile course. Of the 32 cars to start the race only 11 actually completed the 12 laps. The winning entrant was a 90h.p Renault which utilised Detachable Rims allowing relatively fast tyre changes (2-3 minutes instead of the usual 15). By this time speeds were reaching up to 100mph.

1928: Grand Prix/Formula racing was abandoned due to escalating costs and few perceived benefits. This brought in the era of Privateer drivers who were either privately funded or, in some cases sponsored by specialist manufacturers. An important factor in the future of Formula 1 (in particular) came in 1930 when Alfa Romeo enlisted Scuderia Ferrari (Run by Enzo Ferrari) to direct all of their racing efforts.

1950: Introduction of the World championship consisting of 7 races, events were listed as follows:

  • Switzerland
  • Britain
  • Monaco
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Italy
  • Indianapolis (Indy 500)
In 1951 a driver named Juan-Manuel Fangio won his first championship. Fangio has since been hailed by many as one of the greatest drivers of all time.

1952-53 were dominated by Ferrari who won 30 out of the 33 races run. The formula also changed at this time restricting engine capacity to 2 litres (naturaly aspirated) or 500cc (supercharged).

1955: On 11th June '55 the Le Mans Grand prix played host to the worst motorsport accident of all time when the Mercedes driven by Pierre Levegh collided with another car at 130mph. His car launched into the air and landed on the crash barrier. The force of the impact caused the engine and front suspension to come loose, crashing through the crowd and resulting in 83 deaths, with over 100 more injured.

1958: Between Grands Prix Fangio and Stirling Moss (teamates at the time) both entered in a 500km race in Cuba. Moss took the chequered flag after Fangio was kidnapped by Cuban rebels in support of Fidel Castro. Fortunately he was released unharmed after the race.

1961: Formula change to a maximum of 1500cc engines and a minimum weight of 450kg. Supercharging was banned at this point amongst arguments that the new rules would slow the races down and lose public interest. It seemed that the arguments were well founded and in 1963 the rules changed again to allow 3 litre (3000cc) engines.

1968: A major event in the sport in this year was the rule change to allow tobacco advertising and sponsorship. This effectively ended the era of the privateer driver (who could no longer keep up the funding and research needed to remain competitive). Amongst the first companies to take advantage of this were Gold leaf tobacco and Marlboro. This year also saw the introduction of aerodynamic 'wings' which are used to increase downforce, allowing for faster cornering speeds.

1969 By this time the cars were becoming very complex machines, and in 1969 both Matra and Lotus created the first 4WD racecars. Unfortunately for them the possible advantages of the setup did not overshadow the less than ideal side effects which included "heavyness" in steering and bad understeer.

1975: After 11 years out of the spotlight, Ferrari had regained the top spot in Grand Prix racing by winning both the contructor and driver championship titles.

1976: In this year the season was extended to 16 races. It also saw the first (and only) six-wheeled racecar. It was produced by Tyrell and had four small front wheels instead of two.

1977: Renault designed and raced the first turbo car in this year with their 500bhp 1.5 litre engine (by the mid 80s they were producing over 1000bhp) and lotus began experimenting with Ground effects by using a specially shaped underbody section. With this new technology the front running cars were able to corner at 3G compared to about 1G in the 60s and 0.6G in the 50s.

1982: Rule changes in this year banned the Moveable skirts which provided much of the car's downforce. This forced manufacturers to lower the cars to approximately 25mm ground clearance which in turn nessesitated much firmer suspension which had a travel of only milimetres. In 1983 the rules were further refined to exclude flat Undertrays which removed any ground effects from the car.

1987: Lotus develops the first Active suspension technology which herald the beginning of the "Active car era".

1989: The friendly rivalry (read: fierce personal duel) between teamates Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna came to a head when Senna attempted a dangerous overtaking move on his teamate. Prost refused to move over and the two collided and ran off the track. While Prost left the car furious Senna insisted on a push-start from the marshalls, pitted to get a new nose section and went on to win the race. He was later disqualified. Prost left the team soon after but that did not prevent a similar event the following year when Senna did much the same thing to his Ferrari. Incidently this Ferrari was the first car to feature a semi-automatic gearbox.

1993: New regulations ban several Driver aids including Active suspension and Traction control amongst others.

1994: Cornering at over 180mph, Ayrton Senna's car bottomed out, causing him to lose control and run head on into a wall. A steel rod punctured his helmet and skull and he was pronounced dead upon arrival at hospital. Despite the controversial events described above many consider Senna to be the greatest driver ever. To this day he is the only Formula 1 World champion to die in a Grand prix. Senna's passing was the start of a new era in the sport largely dominated by Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, along with the McLaren racing team.

Today: The last decade has been a time of constant development in the sport and the gap between the top few teams and the "also rans" has widened over this time. Recent rule changes have attempted to even things up a little and so far the 2003 season appears to be more of a mixed bag than previous years but exactly how effective the changes will be remains to be seen. Over the sport's evolution it has become a multi-billion dollar show and is almost universally considered to be the pinnacle or motorsport. The only sure thing is that next year's cars will be better and the show will be faster than ever before...

In 1966, director John Frankenheimer turned out a pair of films that could not possibly be more different in subject matter and execution: Seconds and Grand Prix. Frankenheimer did not want to make Grand Prix, but was forced by the studio to do so after Seconds died a miserable death at the box office.

Grand Prix, on the other hand, was a tremendous hit, and remained Frankenheimer's most financially successful film until 1998's Ronin. The script by veteran playwright Robert Alan Arthur (who co-wrote All That Jazz with the late Bob Fosse), ultimately focuses too much on the soap-opera level problems of the drivers and their families, but it's when the film gets on the racetrack that Frankenheimer and cinematographer Lionel "Curly" Lindon (who did a season as Night Gallery's director of photography) blindside you.

When faced with the challenge of filming a lengthy race in such a way to make it interesting for film audiences, Frankenheimer decided he wanted to have the camera become part of the actual race, so he and Lindon designed a special camera and harness that could be attached to the front driver's-side of the car, giving the illusion that the viewer was riding on the hood during the race.

You've seen this same shot about a million times over the years in every car chase that's been filmed. You have John Frankenheimer and Lionel Lindon to thank for it. Until Grand Prix, no director had ever attempted to film a race or chase in this manner; nowadays, a director would feel like a fool not to include at least one such shot in an action film.

Movie Information

Running Time: 179 min.

Rating: PG

Director: John Frankenheimer

Screenwriters: John Frankenheimer, Robert Alan Arthur

Cinematography: Lionel Lindon


James Garner: Pete Aron
Eva Marie Saint: Louise Frederickson
Yves Montand: Jean-Pierre Sarti
Toshiro Mifune: Izo Yamura
Brian Bedford: Scott Stoddard
Jessica Walter: Pat Stoddard
Antonio Sabato: Nino Barlini
Francoise Hardy: Lisa
Adolfo Celi: Agostini Manetta
Claude Dauphin: Hugo Simon
Enzo Fiermonte: Guido

Atari 2600 Game
Produced by:Activision
Model Number:AX014
Atari Rarity Guide:2 Common
Year of Release: 1982

This Atari 2600 game is a very fun car racing game. You have an overhead view of the action. You race your car from left to right on a completely straight course. There is no turning. But there are lots of cars and oil slicks to dodge, (you can move up and down). This game can get going very fast, so fast that you have to dodge the other cars before they even come into view, (but that’s when it is the most fun). It will take a lot of practice to get really good at this game.

Most Atari 2600 games are pure garbage, nothing but spam in the form of little square plastic boxes. This is one of the few exceptions. This game is simple, but it is super fun. You can enjoy it for however long you wish, and then just put it away. There is nothing to learn, and no complicated controls to master. This game is essentially a clone of many different early arcade driving games, dating back to pre-video electromechanical games.

From the instruction manual:
Tips from David Crane, designer of Grand Prix.

David Crane is an award-winning Senior Designer at Activision. His games
include Dragster, Fishing Derby, Laser Blast, and Freeway.

"Just as in a real Grand Prix race, feel and control are very important in
Grand Prix by Activision. The better you know your car and its responses,
the better you'll do.

"The more you play the game, the more keenly you'll anticipate the appearance
of other cars. To some extent, you'll be able to memorize the traffic
patterns and plan moves in advance. If you don't, the slowdown will happen
for you in the form of a crash, and you'll pay for it with a loss of valuable

"The cars ahead of you have left a lot of oil on the track near the bridges,
so, when you see a lot of oil slicks, watch for bridges ahead.

"And drop me a line between races. Good Luck!"

David Crane was the programmer on this title. David's Atari 2600 titles were pure gold. He was responsible for some of the most playable games on the platform, including Kaboom! and Pitfall. Atari game collecting would actually be worthwhile if all Atari titles were as good as Crane's.

This game is valued at around $2 USD. Games with boxes and manuals are worth more. The Atari 2600 is a machine whose time has come and gone. It was an awesome machine in its day. I even had one myself. I had an Atari 5200 and an Atari 7800 as well. But technology moved on, time moved on, and as it did it surpassed the console and the games. Today there are only a handful of Atari games worth playing in a world of modern games, and thankfully this is one of them. If you are still playing Atari games then you should probably have this one. It won't bring back your childhood, it won't give you a second run at getting a spot on the 1984 Olympic team, but it is sort of fun, which makes it better than 90 percent of the Atari 2600 games out there.

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