The One Genuinely Modern Pleasure
What do Aldous Huxley, Lawrence of Arabia, Richard III and James Joyce have in common? They all appear in the first few pages of this remarkable new book. To say that its avowed intent is to tell the history of speed on two wheels would be to understate its sheer variety. The reader is pinged from 19th century Europe to the 2007 oil boom film There Will be Blood via road racing in Ireland, WWII and a volcanic eruption in Indonesia.
The book is roughly split into two parts. The first covers early racing pioneers – Brooklands, US board-track racing (Motor Sport, July) and the birth of the TT. The second focuses on land speed records and introduces characters you simply couldn’t make up. Examples? The wonderfully named Eric Crudgington Fernihough, an eccentric Cambridge engineering graduate who dedicated his life to setting and breaking motorcycle speed records. And German Ernst Henne, who in 1926 fell into a coma after crashing and fracturing his skull. An obituary was published in the local paper, but Henne woke up and discharged himself from hospital only for the horse pulling his carriage to bolt and pitch him out, knocking him unconscious again. “Every time I woke up to see people in white coats I knew something must have happened,” he said.
Time and again the reader finds themselves marvelling at Oxley’s depth of research and uncanny knack for alighting on the killer fact that illuminates a racing curio. But he never loses sight of the broader picture, which gives the book its fine sense of historical context.
This self-published work is both a labour of love – and a triumph. JD
Available only from www.matoxley.bigcartel.com
ISBN: n/a, £27.95
A 50th Celebration
Landscape photographer, racing enthusiast and a former marshal, Roger Lane has been involved with Thruxton since it opened in its current form in 1968 – and here’s the charming proof.
It is self-published, will be printed to order and the photos are lovely. Many were taken when long telephoto lenses were scarce – and that’s a good thing. Although action shots are plentiful, much of the content revolves around the paddock. It’s not often that a Ferrari works transporter pitches up near Andover, but one did in 1969.
There is some accompanying text, with personal reminiscences from such as local favourite Tiff Needell, 1968 clerk of the course Grahame White (still active with the Historic Sports Car Club) and current circuit manager Bill Coombs, but they are a background complement to a very fine archive.
The only downside is that there is very little footage from beyond the first few years. Scope for a companion volume, perhaps? SA
Published by Roger Lane
Available from blurb.co.uk/b/8605537
£34.19 (hardback) or £29.19 (softback)
Shock and Roar
The life of the modern-day BriSCA F1 stock car driver
And now for something completely different… Randon is not a particularly prolific author – it is 18 years since he wrote The Sound and the Fury, his first book about the world of BriSCA stock car racing – and this is in a similar vein.
It is not about BriSCA’s essence or evolution, but a series of extended, affectionately assembled profiles about the folk that populate this all-too-often overlooked sporting sub-culture. Many are from established racing dynasties and all are united by a passion for a form of automotive combat that is far more sophisticated (both technically and tactically) than the wider world generally assumes.
Many self-published books follow a certain design template, but this is a cut above the norm – perhaps not surprising given that the author’s varied background includes stints as a horse racing correspondent for The Daily Express, editor of Motorsport News… and graphic designer at The Racing Post. SA
Published by Factor UK
ISBN: 978-1-5272-2370-7, £20
BRM: A Mechanic’s Tale
We live in a Kindle-rich age that some believe heralds paper’s imminent demise as a publishing medium, yet book companies continue to pump out reprints. A curious anomaly, or a clue that tradition isn’t necessarily doomed?
Veloce is particularly active when it comes to recycling its back catalogue – and this was written by a man who served with BRM from 1951 through to the mid 1960s, an age when mechanics tended to travel in dawdling leviathans rather than on EasyJet Airbus A320s and when set-up was guided mostly by feel, instinct and a socket set.
There is much in here about the racing, but plenty too about life on a road that was far less straightforward than it has since become. The engaging prose is accompanied by a diverse photo archive, covering action, people, technical details and the need to crane team trucks onto boat decks because that was the most practical way to reach Casablanca. It’s a glorious reflection of an age when travelling meant something more adventurous than scanning a boarding pass in your smartphone. SA
Published by Veloce
ISBN: 978-1-787112-27-8, £30
All My Porsche Races
Derek Bell & Richard Heseltine
Think of Derek Bell and a Rothmans 956 normally springs to mind. There’s more to him than that, of course, but that bond is strong enough to merit a book – and here it is.
It’s a blend of Heseltine’s diligent research with Bell interjecting insights – and Bell admits he remembers less than his co-author has unearthed!
This is at its most revealing when Bell discusses his prodigious team-mate Stefan Bellof. There is a genuine feeling of affection towards the German, plus hints of exasperation over a lost world title in 1983, but it’s mostly the former.
This is a whistle-stop tour – and a fine coffee table companion. JP
Published by Porter Press
ISBN: 978-1-907085-65-9, £45