A RACING MAN’S REMINISCENCES.
“THE LURE OF SPEED,” by H. 0. D. Segrave.
(Hutchinsons. Illus. I2S. 6d. net.) r ft HE field of literature dealing primarily with auto mobilism is but sparsely populated ; indeed, up to a month ago, there was but one book which
stands out in this .department of letters—I refer, of course, to Charles jarrott’s famous Ten Years of Motors and Motor Racing. But now this solitary volume is joined by another, and if the former will go down to posterity as an epic, Major Segrave’s enthralling book will rank as a classic.
The Lure of Steed is something more than an interesting addition to the Spring publishing programme, it is a definite monument to motor racing, as faithful an account of the greatest of all sports as it is to-day, as Jarrott’s Ten Years is of thirty years ago.
In writing The Lure of Steed, Major Segrave has accomplished a difficult task with great success. He has avoided the Scylla of Conceit, and the Charybdis of False Modesty ; with so successful a racing career it would have been understandable if he had allowed himself a few airs and graces, but this he nowhere does. Major Segrave has successfully eluded the great pitfall of all autobiography, he is nowhere guilty of arrogant humility, and it is, perhaps, this which renders his book so eminently readable.
And readable it is. Major Segrave has a direct, terse style, pleasing in its very simplicity. He recounts his histories in the plainest of phraseology, without verbiage or grandiose language. With a few words he describes eKactly his scenes, and the bluntness of his style is strangely vivid. While avoiding technicalities the book is impregnated with the very atmosphere of racing and automobiles. Major Segrave can be highly dramatic. Listen to his account of the run in the Boulogne speed trials of 1926, when he averaged over iv m.p.h. :— ” Then came the first of the hills. Up this we shot at
over 135 m.p.h. The car seemed only to touch the road in spots. Down over the other side of the hill we raced. One had the unpleasant sensation in the pit of the stomach which one gets when a lift goes down too quickly. Then came the second Hill, which was the steepest. just before reaching the top, the car hit a bad bump in the road, and bounced off into the off side gutter, leaving the ground at the crest of the hill and flying into the air, landing about thirty feet further on. In a blur I passed the finishing line a hundred yards beyond, and it was only then I realised I had been thoroughly and completely frightened for the first time in my life in a car. When I got out I could not stand properly for several minutes. I felt dead tired although the whole thing had taken under three minutes.”
He can also be amusing, as witness his account of how Prince De Cystria was frightened into the ditch.
” We were all three entering the village of La Membrolle where, owing to the streets being very narrow neither Guiness nor I could pass him (De Cystria). We in turn were being pressed by other cars following behind, so, to indicate to De Cystria that he should hurry a bit, Guiness put out his clutch and accelerated his engine, several times. De Cystria, looked wildly round, saw two enormous cars almost on top of him, swerved frantically from side to side of the road, and crashed into the palisades. The last we saw of him was the tail of his car sticking pathetically out of the match boarding, while planks, scaffolding, poles and debris rained on his head. I think no one was hurt.”
Not only does Segrave relate so vividly his racing exploits and the inside story of his record breaking attempts—notably at Daytona—but he has some considered opinions to set down regarding Speed, its uses and its future ; he also gives some excellent views upon road surfaces.
In addition to the seventeen chapters, running to 286 pages, there are twenty-nine excellent photographs in illustration. Altogether a book for every enthusiastic motorist to have, and we congratulate Major Segrave on his venture into the realm of letters.
R L. W.