Book Reviews, August 1977, August 1977

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

“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.

* * *

“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.

W. B.

* * *

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.

* * *

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…”

* * *

Speed Limits

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.

* * *

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.