When it began in 1985, the tough 500km Wellington Street Race quickly gained an international reputation. This was no smooth purpose-built circuit. It was a bumpy, twisty, 'round-the-houses' event where city streets were converted overnight into a race track.
It was a narrow unforgiving alleyway with no hay bales or safe run-off areas. To make a mistake meant going into the wall. Only tough cars and top drivers had a chance of surviving — let alone winning. It was only a matter of time before Europe's top touring car team would arrive to accept the challenge, and pit their skills against the Kiwi and Australian drivers who had dominated the early years of the race.
In 1988 Team BMW Schnitzer came to Wellington and won. In 1989 they returned — determined to make it two in a row. The drivers were Roberto Ravaglia (Italy), Emanuele Pirro (Italy), Fabien Giroix (France) and Steve Soper (UK). They were led by their charismatic team boss and tactician Karl 'Charlie' Lamm and accompanied by their entourage of wives, girlfriends and mechanics.
This documentary was filmed during their stay in New Zealand. It questions some of the myths and mystique surrounding the team. Are they playboys, highly paid petrol-heads, entertainers or professional sportsmen? To the motor racing fan, this offers an informative look behind the scenes at what it took to win the 'Wellington 500'. To the curious, it is a fascinating glimpse into the lifestyles of the rich, famous ... and fast.
Sadly, after falling prey to local political squabbling, the Wellington 500 would be run for the last time in 1996. But those who were there remember it as the most thrilling era of New Zealand saloon car racing.
Monaco Monza Macao Wellington was the first documentary I ever made. So I was understandably nervous about capturing on film all I'd need in order to make it a good story. But I needn't have worried — the amazing drama just unfolded before us and the 'storybook ending' was more than I could have hoped for.
My most memorable moment was in the lead-up to the event when the team were doing some promotional activities for BMW New Zealand at Pukekohe racetrack. Emanuele Pirro, one of the drivers, said to me "If you want to make a film about motor racing you must know what it is like to drive fast. Get in!"
He took me on some 'hot laps' around Pukekohe and changed my life! I'd never been that fast before. I felt sick, I wanted to vomit, but most of all I wanted to do it again and again! Within weeks I had bought my first racing car and for the next five years I competed in sports car racing events. I even won a minor local series. But most of all, filming this documentary made me realise what a special breed racing drivers are. I went on to make my other motor racing documentary Trio At the Top.