Nick Mason: my love for motorsport was “inevitable”

TV presenter and motor racing champion Alain de Cadenet and Italian architect, writer and presenter Francesco da Mosto have joined forces to create a film based around the about the legendary Sicilian motor race, the Targa Florio.

A Sicilian Dream is a theatrical documentary about the rise and fall of the Florio Dynasty in Sicily, and the Targa Florio – the longest-running road race in the world. It follows the history of the two races, through the memories of personalities who both watched and took part in them.

I spoke with Italian motorsport fan and drummer of Pink Floyd, Nick Mason, about the film and how motorsport has influenced his life. Nick is a close personal friend of Alain and has motor oil running in his families veins.

MD: Are you looking forward to seeing the film?

NM: Yes I am, Alain [de Cadenet] is one of my oldest friends and is partially one of the reasons I ended up doing what I was doing. I think he’s a great presenter and jovial character. And anything to do with motorsport and the great races of yesteryear. I’m fairly certain it will be a jolly evening.

MD: How did you become so passionate about Italian motorsport?

NM: Well, it was all my father’s fault. My father, Bill Mason, made documentary films, initially for Shell, and inevitably a lot of those were to do with motorcars and motor sport and he ended up making films about Le Mans and the Mille Miglia, which he drove and then a whole series of films on the history of motorsport.

He also used to race himself; he had a vintage Bentley. I was sort of brought up in that environment completely. It was sort of inevitable really that I would end up being involved.

MD: Is this film similar to the work your father produced?

NM: It’s different, but I think it’s the kind of thing he might have enjoyed doing now. I mean a lot of what he did was the assembling of old footage. The Mille Miglia film he actually filmed from the passenger seat of a Ferrari in the race. I think he would have absolutely approved of this kind of movie.

MD: I believe that you have spent time racing yourself, haven’t you?

NM: Yes I have, and that’s sort of where I met Alain many many years ago. Well it must have been in the mid 70’s I guess. 25, 35, probably 40 years ago now.

MD: Was Alain the one who got you racing?

NM: Yeah, I suppose. Alain was very helpful to me when I moved on from historic racing to what was then modern racing.When I went to Le Mans, for instance, for the first time. He’s a very supportive guru to have for those sorts of occasions. He’ll talk you round the circuit.

One of the great things about motor racing is the generosity of spirit; competitors who will spend quite a lot of time teaching newcomers the best way around the circuit. I certainly had Alain showing me around Le Man, just in a road car, showing me what to look for.

MD: What is it exactly that you love about racing?

NM: Well, I think it’s probably a combination of things rather than just one thing. There is obviously the adrenaline rush of driving fast cars, of driving near the limit. The limit of the car and the limit of your ability which aren’t always the same.

But I also get a lot of pleasure from the rest of it. I like working on the cars, I like restoring a car that has fallen into disrepair. And the history; I think there is something wonderful about driving some of the old cars, knowing that this was the sort of car that Fagioli drove.

It’s a multi-faceted thing really. It’s the enjoyment of the cars, not just being involved in the actual driving.

MD: Do you have a large collection of your own?

NM: I like to think it’s a modest collection, but other people seem to think that 40 cars is slightly bigger than modest. I’ve had lots of fun with all the cars over the years.

I never set out to collect them, or end up with as many cars. I’ve got the cars that I drove at Le Mans in 79 and 1980. I’ve got cars that I rebuilt in the 70’s and have raced ever since. It’s not that one wants to collect all these things, otherwise it’s a bit like selling your children.

MD: Do you have a favorite car?

NM: I would say I’ve sort of got three favorites rather than just one. A pre-war Aston Martin, because it is the first car I ever raced. I’ve still got it, I still race it and my kids race it and my wife races it and it’s been around for a long time.

A Birdcage Maserati, because I still think it’s one of the best racing cars ever made since 1959. It’s so balanced and it looks great and it drives wonderfully and it punches above its weight. It was successful in its heyday and is still successful today against much bigger cars.

Then finally, the Ferrari 250 GTO, because it makes me look so clever to have bought it two years ago.

MD: Have you been to where the film is set, in Sicily?

NM: No I haven’t but it’s one of those things that I want to do one day. They do have a sort of retro race there now, so it’s on the list of things that would still be fun to do.