Book reviews, April 2004, April 2004

Triumph and Tragedy

By Yves Kaltenbach, ISBN 095467670X Published by Automobiles Historiques limited, £50

This was the season when sportscar racing really came alive: by 1955 Jaguar had launched its D-type, Ferrari had a new six cylinder, Maserati was joining in with its 300S and Mercedes started an endurance programme after moving into Formula One in ’54.

So the stage was set, and what Yves Kaltenbach brings us is a beautifully written and extremely well illustrated account of this memorable season.

The book includes an analysis of the cars, short profiles of the leading protagonists, full reports of the races — including the historic Mille Miglia win by Moss and Jenks — and a results section.

The book is worth the £50 cover price merely for the in-depth chapter chronicling the events at Le Mans when the Mercedes driven by ‘Pierre Levegh’ flew into the crowd with such terrible consequences. BSJ

The Last Road Race

By Richard Williams, ISBN 02 97645587 Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £9.99

Famed sports writer, Richard Williams’ latest work isn’t just the story of the 1957 Pescara Grand Prix despite its title. The tale of Stirling Moss’s victory on the 16-mile Italian road course is the backdrop against which the author provides a series of snapshots of a halcyon period in motorsport history.

As one would expect from Williams, the research is exhaustive — he has sought out the surviving drivers in action that day and even tells the reader how much Moss earned for his three hours of toil — and the writing is fluid. You’ll whizz through its 130 or so pages in a matter of hours. Two collections of pictures by veteran Bernard Cahier set off the work perfectly.

An eminently readable and very enjoyable book. GW

Birdcage to supercage

By Willem Oosthoek, ISBN 1854432052 Published by Dalton Watson Fine Books, £80

Proving that there can never be too many good books on sportscar racing, Willem Oosthoek has just published this cracker on one of the most charismatic cars of the 1960s: the Maserati Birdcage.

This well illustrated and beautifully designed large-format book is not about the first Birdcages, even though they provided the warm-up. Instead, it is focussed on the rear-engined Birdcages from Tipo 63 to 65.

Dutch-born banker Oosthoek spent 15 years researching the 338-page whopper of a book and it shows. He traces every twist and turn of the passage from the earlier front-engined cars through to the Tipo 64 and 65, cars that were known as the Supercage.

It is only when one looks under the skin of the Tipo 64 or 65 that you realise why they were dubbed such — their aluminium-clad chassis were made from even smaller gauge tubing than their predecessors. BSJ

Motor Racing: The Golden Age

By John Tennant ISBN 1844032035 Published by Cassell Illustrated, £30

This 300-page hardback is a photographic celebration of “when the cars were fast, the drivers were furious and the photographers the bravest men on the track”. It is packed with some tremendously evocative shots of all that was best in racing from the 1930s to the 1960s.

Published by Cassell Illustrated, this book follows on from the massively successful Football: The Golden Age and Cricket: The Golden Age and celebrates every aspect of motor racing from Formula One to sportscars and even covers the Land Speed Record assaults of the period.

There are more than 275 photographs, many of which capture the glamour of the tracks, as well as the speed of the cars and the sheer effort expended by the teams.

The foreword for Motor Racing: The Golden Age is written by someone who understands all of these ingredients implicitly: three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart. BSJ

The Chariot Makers

By Steve Matchett ISBN 0752856499 Published by Orion, £16.99

The subtitle for this book — Assembling the Perfect Formula One Car— gives the author’s game away. And Matchett should know better than most because he was a mechanic with the Benetton grand prix team before starting out on a successful career in technical journalism.

It is the way that this book was conceived that explains its intention. A delayed flight at a fogbound airport in New York left Steve Matchett with 12 hours on his hands and, for company, a trio of grand prix enthusiasts passing the time by trying to piece together the perfect Fl car.

With the idea in place, Matchett starts off by looking at what makes a good chassis and builds out wards from there, taking time to explain each component in detail. It’s a good idea, done well. BSJ

The Rough Guide to Formula 1, 2004 Season

By Bruce Smith ISBN 1843532468 Published by Rough Guides, £6.99 This annual guide to the forthcoming season is the latest from the Rough Guide publishing house. Its beauty lies in the fact that it is pocket-sized and crammed with facts and figures about the teams, drivers, circuits and, of course, historical statistics.

Author Bruce Smith has also included a useful section looking at the equipment, the rules and the procedures. In short, he’s covered all that a fan should need for the season ahead.

The reader is left without any colour photos and most of the pictures used are only small. Yet with a cover price of just £6.99 you couldn’t expect more.

The book’s other shortcoming can hardly be blamed on the publisher or the author: it had to go to press before F1 minnows Jordan and Minardi confirmed their drivers. BSJ