“Ford v Ferrari” looks at a racing rivalry that “transcends sport”

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The greatest rivalry in racing history and a battle that transcended sport is about to play out on the big screen. “Ford v Ferrari” looks at the competition between America and Europe in the 1960s at the famous sports car race, 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Less than half of the cars that start at Le Mans finish, and more than 20 racers have died over the race’s 96-year history, “CBS This Morning: Saturday” co-host Jeff Glor reports. In the 1960s, the Ford GT40, equipped with a massive new American engine, took on the most dominant team racing had ever seen: Italy’s Ferrari.

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The story on-screen features Matt Damon as the car’s designer, Carroll Shelby, and Christian Bale as driver Ken Miles. The stunts were coordinated by Robert Nagle, a former race car driver who has worked on more than 80 films including “Baby Driver,” “The Fast and Furious” franchise and “Black Panther.” But, this movie was different, he said, because of how the GT40 changed racing.

“It’s just a beast,” he said. “And the speeds that it would attain had never been seen before.”

It was the beginning of America taking on Europe in racing, said A.J. Baime, who wrote the book, “Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans.” Ford Motor Company had tried to buy Ferrari, he said, but when Henry Ford II, grandson of Henry Ford, failed to do that, beating them at Le Mans became a grudge match. Ford poured nearly bottomless resources into trying to win with the GT40.

“It transcends sport,” Baime said. “You couldn’t make it up, because it was a rivalry that pit two of the most powerful men, not just in the automobile industry, but two of the most powerful men in the world, that actually pit two continents against each other at the most famous race in the world during the golden age of racing.”

Stuntmen and racing drivers Derek Hill and Alex Gurney did work for the film and have personal connections – their fathers won at Le Mans.

“Derek, what do you want people to understand about what your fathers did back then, as they watch this today?” Glor asked.

“These guys were in it doing a life or death sport and they knew that they risked their lives every time they got behind the wheel,” Hill said. “You know, you were racing to win, but you were also trying to survive out there.”

Gurney even got to play his dad in the movie. “What does it mean to you to get to play your dad?” Glor asked him.

“It’s a strange feeling,” Gurney said. “It’s probably the perfect role for me because I’ve done no acting at all and don’t know what I’m doing.”

The depiction of the races was as realistic as possible using very little CGI. Nagle helped design a vehicle nicknamed “the Biscuit” that puts the actors in a car on top of a flatbed rig, operated by a professional driver. The vehicle goes about 100 mph, and another goes 150 mph, Nagles said.

Nagle spent dozens of hours training Bale, who he says was the most dedicated student he’s ever seen. “He knows exactly what to do with the car to make it look as if he’s doing what he’s doing and completely sells it,” he said.

“Ford v. Ferrari” will be in theaters Nov. 15.

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