Reviews, August 2009

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Mark Donohue
Technical Excellence at Speed
Michael Argetsinger

Mark Donohue fans can at last add a new title to their bookshelves. Technical Excellence at Speed will make an essential companion to The Unfair Advantage, published 34 years ago.

The book sets out to describe the path Donohue took from his formative years at school, where his love of fast cars and racing was born, through his life and career until his untimely death during practice for the Austrian Grand Prix in 1975.

Each moment of his life is detailed to such an extent that unless you are a huge Donohue fan, it will seem a challenging task to get through the entire book. If you are indeed a committed devotee of the man, this will give you unrivalled information and background to his personal journey from club driver to all-American racing superstar.

Argetsinger has spoken to family, friends, drivers and team members who all contribute personal accounts of Donohue’s life and career. Dubbed ‘Captain Nice’ by the media, Mark could just as easily be found in the garage helping prepare his car as making himself available to fans after a race.

His well-earned reputation for development and testing prowess has often overshadowed his talent as a driver. He did, of course, have the necessary speed in spades, and this book illustrates why he continues to be an inspiration to a new generation of drivers and fans. DC
Published by David Bull Publishing, ISBN 978 1 935007 02 9, $39.95

Fuerza Libre 1919-1942
Grand Prix, Sports Cars & Specials Racing in The Pampas
Guillermo Sánchez

The phrase “found in South America” often raises a sceptical eyebrow, as more than one ‘bitza’ has been rehabilitated this way. But Fuerza Libre reminds us just how many top-end European machines found their way to Argentina in particular, so it’s not surprising that many Alfas and Ferraris have returned from the country over the years.

Fuerza Libre is a loose term which translates as ‘free power’. This was the category which accepted obsolete Grand Prix cars and out-of-date racers which between the wars arrived in Argentina to race, even if it meant subjecting your GP Alfa or V12 Delage to a cobbled street circuit. Sanchez’s research is intricate, with diversions into hybrids, tracks and personalities, and a colour section with maps and posters plus results. The English/Spanish text is crammed, but the photos are marvellous. GC
Published by Bonvivant Editions, ISBN 978 987 05 4882 9, $110

Fast Ladies
Female racing drivers 1888 to 1970
Jean-François Bouzanquet

Female racers have always been a rarity, and they still are. But while female involvement in motoring goes back to 1888 and Bertha Benz, the first woman to drive a car, it was Camille du Gast who proved both that women have the competitive gene and that discrimination is endemic. She drove big cars in several races from 1901, but was excluded from the Gordon Bennett cup by virtue of “female excitability”.

This well-researched work throws up forgotten names such as jet car pilot Betty Skelton, though Jean Bloxham is missing. Despite the purported cut-off date, it runs into the ’70s to include the woman who has most completely rivalled her male opponents, Michele Mouton. Most impressive is the picture research, which shows lesbian racer and Nazi spy Violette Morris at home and the first shot I’ve seen of Bob Cowell after he became Roberta… GC
Published by Veloce, ISBN 978 1 84584 225 3, £29.99

Go Like Hell
Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans
A  J  Baime

Launched for this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, Go Like Hell will be a favourite among race fans. It charts one of the most famous stories at La Sarthe concerning the Ferrari/Ford deal that went wrong and the consequent battle between the two manufacturers.

Instead of glossing over the story that produced this epic battle, Baime looks into the two companies’ histories and how they operated during the 1960s.

Well written and well researched, the book doesn’t include full race results or car histories, but does tell a good version of a well-known Le Mans gem. EF
Published by Transworld Publishers, ISBN 978 0 593057 95 7, £18.99

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