2 August 2014 | l_rawjalaurence
A Familiar Tale of Hubris and Self-Interest
In the mid-Eighties rallying was an incredibly popular sport, attracting attendances larger than those of Formula One. Spectators loved to see the sight of cars speeding round a variety of tracks, while enjoying the daredevil thrill of getting close up to the cars and running out of the way just as they were about to get knocked down. The manufacturers responded to this popularity by creating more and more powerful cars, secure in the knowledge that if they achieved success, the sales of said cars would shoot up. First Lancia, then Audi and finally Peugeot enjoyed successes: it was mostly due to their achievements in rallying that the Peugeot company was saved from financial ruin. Richard Heap and John L. Matthews' documentary captures something of the daredevil spirit of those days, where the manufacturers surpassed themselves in creating new models, and the drivers enjoyed the thrill of driving them. Once-famous figures such as Ari Vatanen, Walter Röhrl and Michele Mouton recall how much they enjoyed their work, even though they were continually faced with the risk of serious injury. As the cars grew more powerful, so the concern for safety - of drivers and spectators alike - decreased. The number of accidents increased, reaching a peak in 1986 in Portugal, when a car plowed into the spectators, causing multiple deaths. From then on, rallying's days of mass popularity were numbered. The sport continues to this day, but it lacks the risk-element that made it so popular three decades ago. What MADNESS ON WHEELS reveals is how hubris and self-interest on the part of those involved in overseeing the sport, as well as the manufacturers themselves, led to the profusion of accidents. No one really cared about safety, so long as the cars went faster and faster and the crowds kept coming. When the inevitable happened, the organizers and the manufacturers were quick to blame one another without really considering how they had been solely responsible for the tragedies. If nothing else, the documentary warns us about the risks of unrestrained capitalism and its relentless pursuit of success at any price.