American sports car racing has a long and illustrious history. The upcoming 12 Hours of Sebring was first held in 1952. We’re talking about decades of thrilling victories, agonising defeats and everything in between. It’s practically impossible to tell all the stories from one such event far the less those from decades of races. Yet certain moments are bookmarked in our minds whether we’re racers, pit crew members, owners, officials, or fans.
There are golden moments that demonstrate talent, courage and the astounding results of what happens when men move in harmony with machines. While there are other times that define the sport due to an unbearable loss. The lights which shone so brightly that when they went away, the world seemed a slightly darker place in their absence.
There is a Kickstarter campaign until February 25, 2016 for Hurley Haywood & Peter Gregg: The Untold Story. This full-length documentary is described as a “never-before-seen look at the rise to fame and the road to tragedy of one of the greatest teams in sports car racing history.” Haywood is one of the world’s most accomplished endurance-racing drivers. However his story is deeply interwoven with that of Peter Gregg. They raced together, blazing a trail from victory to victory and were considered unbeatable; but it wasn’t meant to last.
We were most pleased to chat a bit with filmmaker, Derek Dodge, about this project:
MLAS: You have an extensive television background including three Peabody Awards for your work with CNN. How did you get involved with this project?
Derek Dodge: Most of my professional experience has been in the television industry. That said, filmmaking has been my passion since I was a kid. I went to film school in NYC and have been involved with a number of independent film projects, but this is the first feature-length documentary that I’ve personally directed. I became interested in the story when I had the great luck of meeting Hurley Haywood at Watkins Glen. I wasn’t familiar with his history, so I did my research and I was hooked. I met him again at Road Atlanta and proposed the idea of making a film together.
MLAS: Did you have any previous interest in motorsport?
DD: I’ve always loved cars, especially Porsches. But it wasn’t until just a few years ago that I became interested in sports car racing. The first sports car race I ever went to was the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Needless to say, that was quite an introduction to the sport!
MLAS: How long ago did work on the documentary start?
DD: The idea for the film began almost two years ago. And we’ve been shooting on a regular basis for a year and a half. This is definitely a passion project and so I try to do shoots whenever possible, but it’s not always consistent.
MLAS: On the Kickstarter page, there’s mention of your small team. How many people have worked on “Hurley Haywood & Peter Gregg: The Untold Story?”
DD: Right now it’s just me, my editor and our producer. Plus all the wonderful people I get to interview. When you learn filmmaking in NYC you become accustomed to doing a lot with a little. You’re usually shooting with small crews in tight spaces. So I’m used to working with a small team. Plus I like the intimacy that it brings. I think that intimacy makes its way to the screen.
MLAS: What are some of the challenges you and your team have faced on this project?
DD: The biggest challenge has been researching and finding archival materials. We’ve been thankful to have support from many people involved in the sport, but we’re still looking for more people to help us find photos and footage from that era.
MLAS: Do you believe this as a film that people who aren’t familiar with motorsports would appreciate?
DD: That’s my goal, honestly. There have been films made about racing, but what’s so unique about this particular story is the human element. And by focusing on the people more than the sport, I hope this film will be relatable to an audience beyond fans of motorsports.
MLAS: What do you hope will be imparted to the film’s audience?
DD: There is a glamour and prestige to sports car racing. But like most things in life, our perceptions can be very different than the reality. I hope the film will help audiences reflect on the fact that we are all human, including race car drivers. And most importantly, I hope the film brings attention to the many accomplishments of Hurley Haywood while honoring the memory of Peter Gregg.
MLAS: Here’s the big “elephant in the room” question: what if the goal isn’t met by February 25th?
DD: I will cry for a bit. (Just kidding) If we don’t meet our Kickstarter goal, we’ll keep moving forward. We’ve come a long way with the film already, so we’ll find another way to get it finished. It just may take a little longer than we hoped.
A Final Word
Motorsports, especially sports car racing, changes every year. As with all things that hope to survive time’s decay, it adapts to suit and flourish in its environment. It wasn’t long ago that two long-running series became one. (They’ll work out the kinks eventually.) We also know exactly when driver rankings are released by the torrent of social media fury. (They might never work out the kinks in that one.)
Still modern race cars are faster and safer. The materials and technology available today are like science fiction compared to what Peter Gregg used to build a near-unstoppable championship race team in the 1970s. Yet for all those advances and futuristic designs, truthfully, the people make it all worthwhile. They’re who we cheer for and high-five at the chequered flag regardless of where they end up on the results sheet. Unfortunately they’re also who we pray and worry for when the red flag comes out as sirens wail.
It’s interesting that of all the superheroes in the comic book pantheon, Hurley Haywood and Peter Gregg were nicknamed Batman and Robin. The Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder were ordinary human beings who accomplished great feats. They didn’t have the luxury of superpowers like Superman but overcame insurmountable odds to defeat many worthy adversaries. However despite their triumphs, there always came a time when they faced the dawn: shaken, wounded and sometimes.
Hurley Haywood & Peter Gregg: The Untold Story is an important one and deserves to be told. We heartily encourage you to help make that happen. As mentioned earlier, this Kickstarter campaign closes on February 25, 2016. They also need help to find photos and footage of the racers from that time, so if you or someone you know can help please contact Derek Dodge. The official Facebook page will have instant campaign updates, etc. We can do this, My Life at Speeders!