You love MotoGP, I love MotoGP, but no one else loves MotoGP. That’s because no one’s ever done a good job of capturing and communicating the spectacle, the thrill and the shear heart-in-mouth drama of a motorcycle race into a format that works away from the track. Except English director Mark Neale. His latest film, “Fastest,” tells the story of the dramatic 2010 season, which saw Valentino Rossi foiled in his attempt at a 10th World Championship, first by younger riders like Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo, then a broken leg. It goes on sale in the US today and it’s a masterpiece.
I haven’t followed MotoGP in earnest in about two years. That’s not because I’m not interested in it, just because it’s so difficult to watch. Only broadcast late at night, with terrible editing and commentary on Speed Channel, I can’t really watch it on TV. I could subscribe to MotoGP.com, but my 13-inch laptop screen’s not really going to give the full experience of a motorcycle race, is it?
With little insight into the personalities behind the sport and nothing beyond race action coming through official channels I, and many others like me, have just tuned out. The series’ official channels have utterly failed at translating the most exciting sport in the world to its audience.
But, 30 seconds into a screening of the film here in Los Angeles, Ashlee, Sean and I were utterly riveted. Opening with a slow-mo, multi-angle replay of some serious Rossi-on-Lorenzo action, we were immediately sucked back in to motorcycle racing.
And it continues like that throughout the film. Never-before-seen angles, splashed across the big screen, in slow motion. You can almost feel the crashes and you’re biting your knuckles every time a pass is made. This is motorcycle racing.
Mark doesn’t stop there either. Cut away from an amazing pass and cut to a shot of Rossi driving his car to the next race, laughing about that girl Stoner’s complaints. Nobody has this level of access and Mark makes the most of it. There’s continual candid interviews with Rossi, Lorenzo, Stoner et al.
Wrapped before his death, Simoncelli also makes frequent appearances in Fastest, lending it an inadvertent air of sadness. Watching Super Sic race and listening to him talk about racing so passionately, you can’t help but be overwhelmed by a sense of loss. It’s coincidence, but Fastest is probably going to be the best remembrance of Simoncelli there is.
Compared to his previous MotoGP films, “Faster” and “The Doctor, The Tornado and The Kentucky Kid,” Mark had much better access to archival footage this time around. Dorna now digitizes thousands of hours of footage from every weekend, the vast majority of which is never, ever aired. Fastest is able to combine this footage with behind-the-scenes insight and those candid interviews to both fully capture the on-track drama, but also tell the human story behind it.
Fastest is a wake up call about just how exciting and meaningful MotoGP is. If you watch the racing, used to watch the racing or wish you watched the racing, you’ll be absolutely enthralled. Fastest is MotoGP the way you want it to be.