James Mangold’s film “Le Mans 66” (“Ford v Ferrari”) about the 1966 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be released in theatres. The movie focuses on the duel between Ford and Ferrari, led for the American marque by Ken Miles at the wheel of one of the Ford GT40s designed and prepped by Carroll Shelby, played by Matt Damon. Here Peter Miles talks about his father, the hero immortalised by Christian Bale on the big screen.
Have you seen “Le Mans 66″ (“Ford v Ferrari’)?
Yes, I saw a private screening with Christian Bale.
– Did you collaborate in the making of the movie?
I gave Christian Bale info about my dad from press clippings and magazine articles, and I showed him personal photos and shared audio recordings with him. Bale was looking to remain as faithful as possible to my father. I also met Caitriona Balfe and gave her snapshots of my mother and described her as best as I could.
– What do you expect from this film?
I hope it will show people that personal relationships, joint efforts, dedication and commitment can bring very positive results.
– How familar are you with Le Mans?
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a very interesting race that seems to be getting more and more competitive, down to the wire now more so than ever, year after year. Today’s cars are rather reliable and can endure what has essentially become a 24-hour sprint. Unfortunately, the TV coverage in the U.S. is not ideal and I sometimes find it difficult to follow the event.
– Have you already been to Le Mans?
The last time I went to Le Mans was in 1965 with my father. It was an extraordinary experience despite his being forced to retire with mechanical problems. After that year, I have not yet returned.
– What does the 24 Hours of Le Mans mean to you?
I appreciate the engineering aspect, the technological developments, the research done to make the cars as reliable as they are fast for 24 hours. I have a great deal of respect for the people who dedicate themselves to the challenge.
– Are you a fan of motorsport?
Yes, I love motorsport, with a slight penchant, I admit, for vintage races.
– Which discipline most interests you: endurance, F1, IndyCar, NASCAR?
My favourite discipline is F1, but I will say I think certain rules these days are unreasonable, like finding yourself at the back of the grid because you had to change out a gearbox. All those penalties are incomprehensible. I also like NASCAR, but I find races on oval circuits less exciting.
– What do you remember about the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans?
I have mixed emotions of course because I wanted my dad to win and I think he could have done it. But, when too many people are involved in the decision-making, that’s when things rarely go well. My father knew the car could have finished the race with no problem despite the car’s pace. The engine had 15 hp more at the chequered flag than it did at the start! I understand the New Zealanders (McLaren and Amon, Ed.) saw things differently, that they thought they deserved to win because they had followed the directives of the team much more closely. However, if it’s true that McLaren said: ‘I don’t know who was supposed to win, but I didn’t want to lose,’ then he lost some of my respect because he took advantage of the situation. But in the end, they all wanted to win, so I can’t really hold it against him.
– Did you watch the race on TV?
– How would you describe Ken Miles as a driver and as a father?
He was often absent after joining forces with Shelby. I didn’t see him very much because he was working. He was great about including me in many of his activities, taking me to testing sessions for example. He also played with me with my remote-controlled car. He was quite active working around the house and in the garden and expected my help. In the evenings, he often sat his armchair and read.
– What do you think about Christian Bale who plays your dad?
I think it’s wonderful that an actor of his caliber agreed to play my dad. He set out to look and act like my father, but that’s difficult when you’ve never met the person.
– What is your favourite car from the 24 Hours of Le Mans?
The 1966 Ford GT40 of course.