Reviews, August 2010

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LE MANS 1960-1969

THE OFFICIAL HISTORY OF THE WORLD’S GREATEST MOTOR RACE – QUENTIN SPURRING

Author Spurring’s opening assertion that the 1960s saw the making of the Le Mans 24 Hours is amply borne out as one peruses this handsome work, which captures the event’s colour, variety and atmosphere during a decade of rapid change.

Although notionally the first in a series encompassing the famed race’s 87-year history, it hardly matters if the undertaking reaches fruition: this is perfectly good as a stand-alone volume, sui generis.

The photography is plentiful, the prose crisp, and each year’s race is condensed into a series of short, detailed narratives disclosing less familiar facets, anecdotes and personalities. In fact, it feels surprisingly discursive for an official history. A case in point: did you know that Dan Gurney begat frenzied champagne spraying on the podium by shaking up his magnum in exuberance at winning with Foyt in 1967? What did they do before; sip contemplatively from a glass? Yes, as the photograph of Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien from 1960 on page 80 attests. Few venerable traditions or sacred cows survived the decade unscathed.

My only quibble is with the copious statistical data at the book’s end. Graphs, tables, pie charts, histograms and the rest are fine in mathematics textbooks, but here they are uninformative, confusing, and, worst of all, colourless. Le Mans in the Sixties was anything but that.

Overall, however, this is an intelligently conceived and executed volume, to be lingered over and sipped at leisure… like a good glass of champagne. IM Published by Haynes, ISBN 978 1 84425 584 9, £40

BLUEBIRD CN7

THE INSIDE STORY OF DONALD CAMPBELL’S LAST LAND SPEED RECORD CAR – DONALD STEVENS

We’ve had many works on Donald Campbell and his record attempts, but this one focuses on the metal specifically the design and build of CN7, the guided missile that took Campbell fils to 403mph. Stevens was part of the team that created the 4WD turbine machine, so is well-placed to explain how the Norris Brothers company (which also produced K7, the water record boat) set to building a Land Speed Record car.

With drawings, diagrams and photos he illustrates the design process and assembly, including unseen photos of the Utah crash and successful Lake Eyre runs. Intriguing details of what might have been had Campbell not died include CN8, an 850mph rocket car, and a scheme for a 1000mph device. Recommended for LSR fans. GC Published by Veloce,
ISBN 978 1 84584 280 2, £24.99

GERRY MARSHALL

HIS AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY JEREMY WALTON & GREGOR MARSHALL

Five years on from his premature end, Gerald Dallas Royston Marshall still invokes wonderfully happy memories whenever you see images of him flinging various Vauxhalls, Minis and, latterly, historic Aston Martins around at impossible angles.

His larger-than-life character is warmly documented by Only Here For The Beer author and long-time friend Jeremy Walton, with invaluable personal stories and pictures from Gerry’s son Gregor and the family archive.

Gerry’s antics, not only on
the track but also in the bar, are legendary, and this book goes some way to reminding us all that his record of over 600 wins in many classes, cars and distances came from a huge talent behind the wheel, not just in the clubhouse! DC Published by Haynes, ISBN 978 1 84425 648 8, £35

ALFA ROMEO & MILLE MIGLIA

ANDREA CURAMI

Alfa Romeo and the Mille Miglia have a rich history together. The Italian marque dominated the race during the pre-war years, winning 10 times between 1927-1940. Alfa also triumphed in 1947 and continued to make an impression through to the race’s final year in 1957.

This success is relived over 160 pages, which include some wonderful archive images and a full Alfa Romeo results section at the back. At fi rst glance the book seems promising – not only are the photos good, but the layout is clear and easy to digest. However, there is a major failing with regard to the text. The English prose sits next to the Italian text from which it has been translated, and frequent copy errors and poor grammar do not make for an easy read. EF Published by Giorgio Nada Editore, ISBN 978 88 7911 504 9, £29

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