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Race for Glory: Audi vs Lancia film review

Stefano Mordini’s biopic delves into the life of Cesare Fiorio at a tumultuous time for Lancia. Here's what we thought

Published: 16 Feb 2024

Race for Glory: Audi vs Lancia recounts the famous World Rally Championship season of 1983, where Audi’s all-conquering Quattro was met by the fierce retaliation of Lancia and its O37.

Or so it should’ve done. Instead, the film focuses mostly on retelling the story of Lancia team boss, Cesare Fiorio (Riccardo Scamarcio), and the lengths and inventive tactics he resorted to beat rival Roland Gumpert (Daniel Bruhl) and his then-revolutionary four-wheel drive system.

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The story begins by introducing Fiorio mid-interview, who not only demonstrates his passion for motorsport and desire to win from the off but also acknowledges that Audi has the financial and industrial might that Lancia simply does not.

We then cut to Audi testing its Quattro at the Oberbayern proving ground in Germany and are introduced to Gumpert, who appears (meaningfully) for all of five minutes beyond this point. Surely if you’re going to cast Bruhl - who you may remember as Niki Lauda in 2013’s Rush - you ought to make use of his considerable acting talents a bit more.

Anyway, the audience is then presented with the best part of the film at this stage: sound. The Quattro’s inline-five is recaptured with immaculate detail, including the full range of goosebump-inducing turbo flutters. The same can be said of just about anything audio-related in Race for Glory, music choices included.

It’s a shame, then, that this is often met by blurry action shots, and an overuse of point-of-view and face zooming throughout the racing sequences. There was plenty of potential here: they had the cars, they had the audio spot on, and clearly, the videographers were great when they needed to be. But almost constantly focussing on the wrong thing leads to serious frustration as a viewer.

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Following is the audience's first sighting of Lancia’s Walter Rohrl (Volker Bruch) before the film continues ahead to the championship itself - spotlighting just three of the 12 events which happened in real life. This really kills any sort of drama and completely detaches you from wanting to care about the racing. A quarter of Lancia’s greatest championship-winning campaign? Come on.

Director Stefano Mordini does do well to highlight Fiorio’s ingenuity, including scenes where he hilariously deceives FIA officials into believing he’s met the homologation production number to allow the O37 to race, or when he dissolves an ice-ridden Monte Carlo Rally with salt to counter the car’s flaws on snow.

But while these scenes were good, the vast majority of his interactions are filled with dreary dialogue which does very little to excite you. Pity, since this is the Cesare Fiorio who had already overseen plenty of silverware for Lancia by the time this happened, so it's not like they lacked for source material.

The film closes by announcing that, while inspired by true events, much of the story has been reworked to ‘dramatise’ the events for narrative needs. What exactly was wrong with the original story? Effectively, they took a great plot line and turned it into a lifeless one.

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It’s a tough one to digest, Race for Glory. We were looking forward to it since this is arguably the most incredible season of rallying ever witnessed. So much tension and fantastic racing to explore and exploit. Instead, you’re left feeling disappointed.

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