“The Works Escorts”by Graham Robson. 255pp. 91 in. x 7 in. (Haynes Publishing Group, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ, £5.95).
Several people have, from time to time, attempted to chronicle the lives of the various works rally cars which have been built at the Ford Competitions Department at Boreham Airfield, but they have mostly just scratched the surface. What is more, they tended to ignore (or perhaps they weren’t even aware) that the only items common to, say, a works Escort on the Welsh Rally and the “same” car on the RAC Rally may have been the seats, dashboard and number plates. Graham Robson, a rally historian whose personal experience includes periods as a leading British navigator, competitions manager at Standard-Triumph, Autocar staff writer and development engineer at Chrysler in Coventry, goes much deeper than the surface and has written an authoritative book on the progress of works Escorts, tracing the history of each car built and providing much-researched information which, to our knowledge, has not even been on record at Boreham itself.
But don’t be left with the idea that this is merely a historical work with a tedious appendix listing the sorties and successes of Escorts. It does have such an appendix, of course, and a painstakingly accurate one at that, but it also traces events leading to the conception of the car and the people responsible for those events. Robson pulls no punches; he is a straight talker who writes the same way. He describes one co-driver as cockily-confident, a mechanic as all arms, legs and –, and the various works drivers exactly as he feels they should be described. He wastes no time on polite preludes, gets straight to the point and relates countless anecdotes and tales within a tale which add punch and sparkle to a book whose title suggests no more than the biography of a machine.
We checked on several facts and they were correctly logged, even down to the fate of one car which was stolen after being used for practice before the Acropolis Rally. We remember the incident well, for the theft took place at Athens Airport where we ourselves had parked the car, later spending a whole day attempting to convince the Greek Police that it had, in fact, been stolen, a process which was necessary in order that the team member in whose passport the car’s details had been stamped on entry would later be allowed to leave the country without it.
Altogether a fascinating and absorbing book, profusely illustrated, which knocks other attempts at chronicling works Escort history into a cocked hat. – G.P.
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“Formula 1—The Art and Technicalities of Grand Prix Driving” by Niki Lauda. 245 pp. 9 3/5 in. x 6 in. (William Kimber & Co. Ltd., Godolphin House, 22a, Queen Anne’s Gate, London, SW1H AE. £8.95.)
The number of enthusiasts, from lorry drivers to schoolboys, who ask our advice about becoming a professional racing driver are legion, alas, the answer has to be discouraging. But this implies that books about what such a profession entails, about how a racing car is set up and controlled, and the human qualities which are essential to being a top-rank (or perhaps even mediocre) F1 racing driver, are needed. We have had good ones in the past, by Piero Taruffi (whom Lauda acknowledges in his Foreword), Paul Frère, and the more academic one by Denis Jenkinson. But as Lauda observes, that when the intense technicalities of Grand Prix racing are understood the “show-biz” aspect recedes—Niki Lauda truly believes that if you follow the art from the drawing-board to the cockpit you ‘must agree that this is so.
What he has done, then, is to write comprehensively in collaboration with DiplomIngeniuer Dr. Fritz Indra and Herbert Völker, using exclusive technical photographs taken by Heinz-Pieter Finck, about present-day F1 racing. The English translation is by David Irving. The result is a book of considerable importance. Lauda not only takes you through the preparation and driving of a modern GP car but reveals his own emotions and techniques on the track. His decision to quit the Japanese and forfeit his World Championship title at Fuji last year, his accidents, his opinion of the ten toughest corners on today’s tracks (at Montjuich, Brands Hatch, Interlagos, Monza, Mosport, Nurburgring, Zeltweg, Silverstone, Watkins Glen and Zandvoort), and outlines of what Niki regards as his toughest race, his easiest race, the most dangerous situation he has been in to date, and his favourite track are all part of this book, along with the engineering data, the various aspects of driving in a F1 race, testing at the scientifically-equipped Ferrari track, etc. In addition there are interviews with Lauda by Volker and that dramatic one, in full, with the broken-English left in, with Harry Carpenter for the BBC, after Lauda was recovering from his very serious accident at the Nurburgring. The book is extremely well illustrated, with technical pictures, colour shots, and good, clear photographs of some of Lauda’s rivals, and the text is very appealing and clear, indeed, might have been written by an Englishman. One is astonished that Lauda should have had time to devote to such a long and revealing book (certainly his convalescence after the Nurburgring crash didn’t allow time, as it did S. C. H. Davis to write his first book, after -a motor-racing accident) but if it is “ghosted” you would never know.
On the subject of keeping fit, one gathers that Lauda sets far more store by an adequate amount of sleep than in excessive exercise, but he says he likes tennis—and one wonders whether Lauda’s reactions and judgement are sharper even than those of top tennis professionals, who do not always get the ball over the net at first service? I think this an important book, by a very serious-minded, completely-professional modern racing driver.
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Cars in Books
From “Unfinished Journey, the Autobiography by Yehudi Menuhin (1976) I find the following account, written by the famous violinist in 1920, at the age of four:
“A cheque for 800 dollars was sent him (the father) by his grandmother, to buy him a violin . . . Wisely my parents decided that half of this very considerable sum was enough to spend on a beginner’s violin and diverted the rest towards the cost of our first car. I can’t now determine which purchase added more to my happiness. Our new car, a little open four-door Chevrolet, without roof or windows offered an airy journey unblemished by fumes. I actually liked the smell of gasoline in those days before lead was put into it. Our journeys always spurred my father into song. He was a careful driver, never exceeding 15 miles an hour in our first year of car ownership, then venturing as fat as 18 while holding those who overtook us at 20 to be reckless adventurers. Private cars were still rare, and to own a car meant access to the countryside without today’s pollution or crowds. Our car gave us direct contact with nature and seemed itself to feel it. Up steep, narrow winding unsurfaced tracks it would labour to the top of some pass, there to boil dry from its own exertions, obliging its to bring water to temper its heat and calm it down, rewarding our patience with vistas of beauty…”— W.B.
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The Things They Say. . .
Radio interview with T. S. Eliot by E. W. F. Tomlin (printed in The Listener, 28.4.1977): “. . . When the subject of cars arose he told me that he had only once owned a car; a low-chassis vehicle, which had the disadvantage of exposing him to the noxious fumes of all the bigger models. His expression of mild revulsion as he said this was comical…”
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Last month’s Editorial, having been written before the revised speed-limits in this country came into force and not being subsequently corrected, may have given a wrong impression. The permitted maximum speeds in this country are now 60 m.p.h. on ordinary roads, 70 m.p.h. on dual-carriageways and Motorways. The point we wished to put over was that there are many miles of ordinary country road where 70 or 80 or more m.p.h. is safe. Our proposal of abolishing all speed-limits, and substituting heavy fines and endorsements for dangerous-driving charges involving an accident, must be considered in the light of suggestions that the present endorsement period may be increased from three to four years—in any case, the three-year period runs from the infliction of the endorsement, not from the date of the offence.
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Getting it Right
For the record Gareth Morgan arrived at the RREC Rally described in p. 830 last month in a Rolls-Royce Dawn, not in a Cloud, and the former Rolls-Royce owned by Mr. Williams was a 20/25, not a 25/30. And the footnote to Mr. Dean’s letter on p.’ 861, by using the word “can” when .”cannot” was intended, prolonged the debate as to whether an engine can start up by itself, to which theory the Editor does not subscribe. For these and a few minor type-setting errors, our Apologies.—Ed.