The BBC has left the public bewildered after dropping the second of three planned instalments of its ‘Racing Legends’ series. As is stated fairly categorically on the series page on the BBC website here (at least at the time of writing), ‘there will be 3 episodes’.
According to the original press release, this series was to have featured 1) Sir Patrick Stewart, formerly Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise, meeting his boyhood hero Sir Stirling Moss; 2) Sir Chris Hoy, Britain’s most successful Olympian, telling the story of his hero Colin McRae; 3) TV chef James Martin meeting his idol Sir Jackie Stewart.
All three episodes were due to have been aired in the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve but all mention of the McRae programme disappeared during the week before broadcast. Both the Moss and Stewart programmes have subsequently been shown but the McRae episode has disappeared and is extremely unlikely to see the light of day.
Responses from the BBC to enquiries from motor sport fans have been varied – reportedly including statements that there are contractual, copyright and legal issues involved. WRF understands from a well-placed source that there is a considerable degree of nervousness permeating the BBC at the present time in the wake of the Sir Jimmy Savile debacle.
According to the amended press release for the series (which has moved the Stewart programme to episode 2 and the McRae programme to episode 3 with a ‘TBA’ broadcast date), Colin’s father Jimmy McRae ‘speaks movingly about the tragic accident that claimed his son’s life’. In the current climate it’s therefore logical to expect that any programme which celebrated Colin’s life would have exposed the BBC to further criticism with regard to the welfare of children.
The fact is that although Colin McRae’s life and career were an inspiration to millions, the 2011 Fatal Accident Inquiry into his death in a flying accident found the 1995 world champion responsible for the crash which ended his life and those of his five year-old son, his son’s six year-old friend and another adult friend of the family. This cannot have been news either to the BBC’s commissioning team… but clearly someone got spooked at the eleventh hour.
A barometer of where the public opinion is at present came in the Telegraph’s review of the opening Racing Legends show with Sir Stirling Moss. In the eyes of motor sport fans it was a perfectly likeable documentary, but Stirling’s familiar trenchant views on the 1955 Le Mans disaster – admirably unchanged from that day to this – made him, in the reviewer’s eyes, ‘too different from the rest of us to be terribly likeable’.
In the Twitterverse, the dropping of the McRae programme was clearly news to Sir Chris Hoy, who tweeted: ‘Not sure when BBC racing legends prog about Colin McRae is on, for those of you asking’. Meanwhile one of the show’s production team, Lindsey Green, insisted in her feed that it will ‘Probably be on early next year’.
While rally fans have been left disappointed, so too are those who participated in making it… not least the owner of the Sunbeam Ti that underwent expensive restoration work in order for Hoy and Jimmy McRae to take the wheel of the car. WRF hopes that the McRae programme can be edited into a form that is more palatable to the BBC’s fear of the British public – ideally with more content on the rivalry between him and Britain’s other ‘lost’ champion, Richard Burns.