Reviews, August 2005

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Golden Age of Motor Sport: Volumes one, two and three — DVD. 80mins, 80mins, 75mins,  www.throughthegears.net, £16.99 each

Dubbing anything a ‘golden age’ is a dangerously subjective thing to do but, after almost four hours of self-indulgently ignoring the missus, kid and cat and immersing myself in this footage, I’m inclined to agree with the title of these superb DVDs.

The first two are essentially mid-to-late ’60s promotional films for Alec Mildren Racing, the self-proclaimed “biggest motor racing team in the Southern Hemisphere”. Which it probably was. Mostly these have a home-movie feel — ‘After the race had settled down we wandered up to Corner X to study the drivers’ lines’ etc — but are all the more charming for it. You really get a sensation of speed from the handheld cameras, especially at the fantastic Lakeside track in Queensland.

Mildren ran single-seaters in the Tasman Series, as well as an Alfa Romeo GTA and Ti Super in the touring car events and a TZ2 in sportscar races — often all on the same day — for star drivers Frank Gardner and Kevin Bartlett. Usually they were at the front of the touring/sports races, and in the Tasman events lurking just behind the international aces. But such was the team’s enthusiasm that its films are loaded with footage of Hill, Clark, Stewart, Amon, Brabham and Rindt. 

Volume three is propaganda stuff for Repco/Brabham. Among the 1965 Tasman Series segment there are some thrilling sequences from the scarily fast Longford road circuit in Tasmania, where Bruce McLaren won a sensational race from Jack Brabham. Having said that, the images from Brabham’s glorious ’66 European season are disappointing.

But that’s a minor gripe. The remainder of the film in this series veers from the glorious to the unexpected (the 1969 Japanese GP at Fuji, with banked first turn). My favourite bits? Bartlett’s stunning car control in the TZ2 at Warwick Farm, and the realisation that the Aussies have always had better grid girls than the rest of the planet. — MS

***

Williams FW14B: the evolution & development of the Williams grand prix car 1991-93  by Andy Mathews and Sean Kelly, ISBN 0-9754127-0-1, published by Hilton Lifetime Publishing, £19.99

A renowned model maker, Mathews produced a 1:12th scale version of the FW14B, and then set about putting together this book with statistician Kelly. It’s labelled as a “technical-photo review”, but there are also short written portraits of all the major players from the Williams-Renault team of this period and potted recaps of each season. It’s a pretty competent and — more crucially — accurate run through of a dominant era for Frank’s lads.– MS

***

Sports & Prototype Porsche au Mans 1966-1971 by François Hurel, published by Editions du Palmier, www.editions-palmier.fr, €50

Another month, another comprehensive history by the prolific Hurel, who is rapidly becoming a Le Mans authority. Following on from his Alpine and Ford works, this hardback centres on an era when Porsche nearly bankrupted itself in its bid to win the 24 Hours. Much has been written about the subject before (and in English), but there’s plenty of fresh gen here. Aside from the race-by-race, entry-by-entry summaries, the author has spoken to many of the drivers, but it’s interviews with the likes of aerodynamicist Robert Choulet of SERA that really captivate — you will genuinely learn something new. The layout is crisp and there are some wonderful images too. But there are annoying errors, not least the naming of Scooter Patrick as the father of current IRL darling Danica. — RH

***

Driven Man: David Richards, Prodrive and the race to win  by Alan Henry, ISBN 0-7603-2175-2, published by Motorbooks, £16.99

A book on David Richards has to be a good idea. He is, after all, the most eloquent and charismatic of British motorsport empire builders. The problem with ‘Driven Man’, however, is that this is a book with an identity crisis. Richards got quite involved with the whole process, and you’re not sure whether you’re reading a sporting book with a business context or a business book with a sporting context. The entitling of one chapter as ‘Creating the Prodrive brand and reputation’ suggests it’s the latter. Dig further and there is some good stuff, especially when Henry’s prose is allowed to flow. Rather dangerously, DR promised at the launch that in 10 years’ time, when he’s finished with the sport, there’ll be a really candid book. Let’s hope he leaves Henry to his own devices for that one! — MS

***

Coupe Gordon Bennett 1905 by Patrice Besqueut, ISBN 2-914920-45-8, published by Editions du Palmier/Menoshire, €35

A non-grand prix race series where teams gain points for their country and not the drivers? No, not the new A1 GP series, but the Gordon Bennett Cup. There were only six GB races, and this focuses on the last, run in 1905 on an 85-mile road circuit near Clermont-Ferrand. Even if you don’t read French, the photos alone make this a wonderful browse. The Auvergne Automobile Club made a complete photographic record not only of the race but also of its track survey, the preparations and the eliminating trials. The result is a feast of detailed shots of the road, the villages, the entrants and the officials — even the notorious local donkey which regularly knocked over passers-by. Besqueut supports his descriptions of drivers and cars with reports and memoirs of the time. Fascinating. — GC

***

Stirling Moss Scrapbook 1955 by Philip Porter, ISBN 9550068 5, published by Porter Press International, £34.99 (£75 deluxe edition)

Worship of the racing knight continues apace in this large-format offering based on Moss’s personal scrapbooks, private diaries and photo albums. This, the first of an intended year-by-year series, centres on his remarkable 1955 season. Reading the period press reports, you do get a feel for how much the then relatively hirsute Moss was revered: a globe-trotting hero to millions, just as at home ensnaring some young beauty as besting all-comers on the track. Which makes it entertaining to dip into, not least for the wonderful images (we especially liked the one of him in the Bond Minicar) and to see some of the ads he used to front. It’s perhaps a little over-designed in places but don’t let that put you off. Bound to sell out. We look forward to the next instalment.– RH

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