SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — “Ford vs. Ferrari” movie directors had its biggest stunt planned for the 24 Hours of Le Mans scene. They were going to launch a Ferrari replica racecar 100 feet into the air, and stunt driver Derek Hill was going to be the first to encounter the wreck.
Derek Hill — who is the son of legendary Ferrari team racer and 3-times Le Mans champion Phil Hill — asked stunt coordinator Robert Nagle what he should do when his Ford GT40 reached the chaos.
“Usually these things are very well choreographed. But he just said, ‘Do what you would normally do. You’re a racing driver. Avoid the accident,'” said Derek Hill, a former professional racer.
In addition to the fake Ferrari launching above him, metal crash boxes with cameras equipped inside tumbled toward his car. Derek Hill pulled a 180-maneuver to prevent the cages from smashing through his windshield.
“I ended up spinning in front of the other two cars coming up behind me,” he said.
The LA Times described the scene as “a horrifying sequence in which a Ferrari crashes next to a Le Mans bridge.”
“That was the most exciting day on set. Anything could happen,” Derek Hill said.
High-speed scenes for the historical drama were filmed at several different Georgia and California locations, but the movie’s most impressive set was constructed at a private airport runway in Santa Clarita Valley, where set designers constructed its own Le Mans, France’s famed racetrack.
The stars of “Ford vs. Ferrari” — Matt Damon playing automotive visionary Carroll Shelby, and Christian Bale playing racer Ken Miles — held their own behind the wheel during less-dangerous scenes. Bale trained at a racing school ahead of “Ford vs. Ferrari.”
“What a talent Christian Bale was behind the wheel, he just seemed like a natural. I could tell he wanted to get behind the wheel because every time we were at a different location, you’d see him take out a car and just go play around. He would just takeoff down the straightaway full speed, just out of the blue,” Derek Hill said.
Damon had experience driving fast from the “Bourne” movies. Derek Hill, who knew the real-life Shelby, said Damon did a great job playing the “larger-than-life” Texan and portraying his personality.
“(Shelby) was one of the greats. His presence filled a room and he was just a funny guy as well. He and my dad raced a lot in the early years. I had a chance to race for Carroll Shelby at one of the historic races I did in England in one of the Cobra Daytona Coupes. We had some really good times together,” Derek Hill said.
While Miles was known as a loose cannon who spoke his mind, he also had an instinctive engineering ingenuity.
“There was no wonder why Shelby gravitated toward Ken Miles to develop the Shelby brand and help develop the cars. He was integral in helping develop those GT40’s that won Le Mans,” Derek Hill said.
By 1966, the GT40’s left Ferrari’s beautiful cars in the Le Mans dust.