Picture: Dario Franchitti in a McLaren M6B
Grand Prix legend Nigel Mansell CBE was one of four greats to be inducted into the Motor Sport Hall of Fame during a star-studded awards ceremony yesterday (7th of June). Roger Penske won the US Racing category and Barry Sheene topped the Motorcycle poll, while Brian Redman joined them in recognition for his huge success in Sports Car Racing.
More than 20,000 enthusiasts voted for their favourites, with the winners being announced during the prestigious event at the Royal Automobile Club’s Woodcote Park Clubhouse. Among the racing stars in attendance were Dario and Marino Franchitti, Richard Attwood, Howden Ganley, Mark Blundell, Perry McCarthy, Gordon Murray, David Brabham and Darren Turner.
Tony Brooks was also there, helping renowned artist Tim Layzell unveil a new work depicting the victory of team-mate Stirling Moss in the 1957 Pescara Grand Prix. The British ace was interviewed by Motor Sport’s Simon Arron and shared his memories of Moss, Pescara, and his time driving for Vanwall.
Mansell topped the Formula 1 category, the shortlist for which also included Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth, plus Gilles Villeneuve. The 1992 world champion received his award from Patrick Head and spoke about the many highlights from his illustrious career.
“Driving Nelson Piquet’s T-car at Brands Hatch during the 1986 British GP stands out. I had one chance to get past him and took it – it was the perfect race. Then there was 1987 at Silverstone, and boxing-in Ayrton Senna at Hungary in 1989. So many great memories.
“The  Williams FW11B was awesome. We had different engines at every race, and sometimes got through five in a weekend. The rate of development was enormous. In qualifying, the most we ever got was just over 1500bhp – to drive those cars and get wheelspin in sixth gear while you’re between the barriers at Detroit was fantastic.”
The US Racing award went to Roger Penske, who saw off competition from Mark Donohue and AJ Foyt. John Watson and Dario Franchitti made the announcement. “He’s a human dynamo,” said Franchitti. “He pushes the limits every week, and nobody has a bad word to say about him.”
“This is truly an honour,” said Penske, “especially to be recognised in such a talented class. Any successful business and race team is only as strong as its people so, although it’s my name on the award, it’s for all those who make Penske what it is today.”
Last year’s inductee Derek Bell helped to decide the shortlist for the Sports Car Racing category, with the ever-popular Brian Redman topping the vote. Redman won the Targa Florio, Spa 1000km and Sebring 12 Hours in a long and varied career, and beat the likes of Mario Andretti in Formula 5000.
Nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen presented the Lancastrian ace with his award. “This means a great deal,” said Redman. “It’s a great honour and I’m delighted. I drove an awful lot of sports cars, and had a tremendous relationship with Chevron and Lola. The GT40 was one of my favourites, too, then I had two great years with Porsche. I have super memories of sharing with Jacky Ickx – I think he was the best of all those I raced against.”
Contenders in the Motorcycle Racing category included Mike ‘The Bike’ Hailwood and road-racing legend Joey Dunlop, but two-time Grand Prix world champion Barry Sheene was selected as this year’s inductee. The larger-than-life Londoner won the 1976 and ’77 500cc titles – becoming a household name in the process.
The award was presented by ‘Fast Freddie’ Spencer, and received by Barry’s sister Margaret Smart and his former mechanic Martyn Ogborne.
“In 1980, I was 18 and had never raced outside the US,” recalled Spencer. “I came over for a match race and won, beating Barry – but he was the first person to come up afterwards and say, ‘Good job’. Then, in 1982, I was signing autographs with him and we’d been there about an hour. I began to stir and he said, ‘Where are you going? We stay here until the last person has their signature’. That was the Barry I knew.”
There were two new prizes for 2017 chosen by Motor Sport’s editorial team. Mansell presented Murray Walker with the Inspiration Award, the two men delighting in sharing memories. “To be a commentator,” said Walker, “you have to be enthusiastic about what you’re talking about, and I was definitely that.
“Then you have to know what you’re talking about,” he added with a smile, “and some people suggested that I didn’t!”
David Brabham and Subaru’s Paul Tunnicliffe were on hand to give the Industry Champion award to Prodrive boss David Richards.
“In the early days,” said Richards, “it was just a case of survival – as it is with most businesses, but especially in motor sport. It’s been remarkable and – rather than any single championship victory or rally win - I’m most proud of the fact that we’ve built an extraordinary team that’s enthusiastic and is always anticipating the next project. You have to create the right environment for people and develop their creativity. It’s no good being blinkered.”
Earlier in the day, Redman was among those who gave spectacular demonstrations of famous cars and motorcycles on the Captain’s Drive. He took the wheel of a Ford GT40 and was followed by John Watson in a Chevrolet Camaro that evoked the famous 1969 Penske-run Sunoco car. Prodrive’s rally success was represented by a Porsche 911 and a Metro 6R4, while Dario Franchitti put in two thunderous runs aboard an ex-Bruce McLaren M6B Can-Am car.
Baker-turned-racer Paul Hollywood had an emotional ride on a 1960 MV Agusta that had been raced by the late, great John Surtees. The Henry Surtees Foundation was once again the Awards’ charity partner, and a 1972 Surtees TS10/2 was on display at Woodcote Park.
“The voting was really close,” said Motor Sport editor Nick Trott. “They’re all great inductees – it’s a roll-call that celebrates the greatest stars, which is exactly what we wanted. It’s particularly good to see Brian Redman here, and not holding back in the GT40!
“I’m really pleased that we’ve had support from the racing community and our partners. The whole thing has been a fitting tribute to the sport we love.”