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|Location||Watkins Glen, New York (USA)|
|Prints issue||LIMITED EDITION 50 prints ONLY|
|Shooting date||1er octobre 1978|
In 1973, Niki Lauda seemed just another young journeyman driver. He had used limited cash and bank loans to secure competitive rides, with little success. Down to nearly his last dollar, Enzo Ferrari watched him force his uncompetitive BRM to the front and believed he had potential. With that, everything changed. From the moment he joined the Scuderia in 1974, he became a bonafide World Championship contender.
Systematic and unrelenting, he immediately began to wring speed and consistency from a car and team where there had been nothing, but confusion and finger-pointing. He captured his first World Championship the next season, and dominated the 1976 season while battling for his second title until his horrific crash at the Nurburgring brought him literally within a few seconds of burning to death. He received last rites, but rose from his expected deathbed to race 43 days later at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. He would be carried to his car, his bleeding wounds covered in bandages, to finish fourth. It was the most heroic return in sports history. While he would ultimately lose his title by one point to his friend, James Hunt in ’76, he would retrieve his crown in 1977. Lauda would walk away disillusioned in 1980, return in 1982 and win his last championship in 1984.
Here in 1978, Lauda’s still painful scars are clearly seen through his helmet eyeport. Lauda put his undeniable stamp on these years with a life more improbable than fiction and more inspiring than possible. His bravery simply transcended sports to become a metaphor for tenacity. Just as he could reach down inside a racing car to find those hidden seconds, he reached down inside his soul and summoned the strength of will to not just survive, but to return and fight. Who else on that grid would have had as much unwavering dedication to stay the course? Sterner stuff is rarely seen in life, rarer still in sports; Niki Lauda’s life defines the word “tenacity”.
I made this image with a Nikon F2, and a Nikon 180mm f/2.8 ED-IF lens, using Kodak Tri-X film rated at 400 ASA, 1/250 second at f/2.8, the afternoon of October 1, 1978, at the Grand Prix Circuit at Watkins Glen, NY, USA.