A Race With Infamy book review

Forever associated with the Le Mans tragedy, Lance Macklin’s story is tinged with sadness, yet his life was colourfully chaotic

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There’s a joke that runs “But apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”

Lance Macklin’s story is similar: what else do you know about him except his central part in the appalling 1955 Le Mans tragedy?

In this small hardback Jack Barlow shows the rest of the picture, of an attractive, careless figure born of wealthy parents who never truly applied himself to his many projects. While his father started Invicta and Railton cars and the Fairmile Marine firm, Lance lacked business or financial sense and seemed perpetually broke. Not that it stopped him living the high life across the Continent.

Hardly lavish, with small images, the book depicts a man liked and respected by his racing peers, with superb car skills which he just wasn’t interested in exploiting. Calling on many sources including family interviews, it’s a rounded life, though a touch overconfident in telling us what Macklin is thinking.

Describing the crash Barlow writes it like a novel, with direct speech which may or may not be supported by the evidence, such as “Macklin ran down the pitlane shouting ‘It’s all Hawthorn’s fault’…” and “That night Macklin slept badly, his mind filled with images of Hawthorn’s brake lights”. Entertaining to read but it raises the odd doubt about veracity.

Still, it’s rich with colour; Macklin’s life was never dull, whether commanding a motor torpedo boat in World War II, selling a Facel Vega to Mick Jagger, stopping his Aston during a race at Spa to pick up a beer (captured in a Klemantaski photo), kidnapping his children to New Zealand or buying a chip shop and leaving one of his poor wives to run it. There’s a quote here from her: “As a friend and a lover he was great, but as a husband and a provider he was a disaster.”

At least in New Zealand he wasn’t constantly asked about Le Mans, which seems to have haunted him. Barlow describes his sad decline in Spain, when he thought the radio was talking about him and the crash.

Oh, and the racing is in there too: sports cars for Aston Martin, 11 GP starts for HWM, crashing on Targa Florio – and, despite winning the F1 Daily Express Trophy at Silverstone, never quite breaking through (his pal Stirling Moss called his a wasted talent).

It’s not the racing you’ll remember from this but the image of a restless, unfulfilled man – who would have been a great companion on a night out.

 

A Race With Infamy  
Jack BarlowVeloce Publishing, £20
ISBN 97817871178776

 

August 2022 book reviews in brief

Secret Fords Volume One  70s AND 80s: RS Icons Limited Edition

Steve Saxty

If you like sporty trim and you’re of an age where the mid-life spread has not only set in but declared squatter’s rights, spicy Fords from the ’70s and ’80s will no doubt be up your street.

Steve Saxty was once a product designer at Ford and went on to work at Mazda, Porsche, Jaguar and Nissan.

With feverish dedication, a soupçon of humour and period sketches and images (Ford Ghia in Turin was partial to an orange curtain backdrop) you’re transported back to an age where an RS2000 was your dream car. Volume One first appeared in 2020 and sold out, but this limited edition special (600 copies) has an accompanying extra about the Rallye Sport (RS) brand. In the main book, lost Escorts and Capris abound; one of the Granada coupé concepts is a gem, “like the old Paul Bracq-design BMW 6”, says the author.

The companion is more of the same: just look at that Cortina XR6!
LG

Seven Spoke Publishing, £84.95
ISBN 9781838223267

 


Lime Rock Park: The early years 1955-1975

Terry O’Neil

At 24x33cm, 680 pages, with 1070 images and 135,000 words, this early history of Connecticut race track Lime Rock Park could double as a training aid if you were contemplating taking part in the World’s Strongest Man (or Woman!). It’s hefty. How many have been to this circuit, let alone are able to compose an in-depth elegy to its lower-league status? Step forward Terry O’Neil – a resident of our own West Midlands, would you believe?

Once past the idea that it might take 20 years to work through the info and stats, it’s easy to become absorbed in the minutiae. Attacked chronologically, it’s well-written, tables are laid out in iTunes-style clarity and the posters, tickets and programmes are – as the Americans might say – eye candy.
LG

Dalton Watson Fine Books, £170
ISBN 9781854433169