A MOTOR RACING CLASSIC.
The welcome re-appearance of the late Sir Henry Segrave’s book “The Lure of Speed.”
WHEN “The Lure of Speed,” by the late Sir Henry Segrave, was first published in March, 1928, so great was. the demand for it from the motor-racing public that the book was quickly sold out. Accordingly, in June, 1928, a second edition was printed, and this in turn was soon absorbed and the book, being out of print, was no longer obtainable.
Now, in response to a steady demand, Messrs. Hutchinson & Co., Ltd., have re-issued “The Lure of Speed” in a new cheap edition at 5s., with the addition of a special concluding chapter written by J. Wentworth Day.
Re-reading the book after an interval of four years one’s interest is immediately held by the spell of Segrave’s adventurous career. His earliest attempts at motorracing were at Brooklands in 1920, at the wheel of a 1914 Opel, the actual car, incidentally, which was tested by one of our stall in the December, 1931, issue of “MOTOR SPORT.” But the chief value of the book lies in the history of the author’s activities in Grand Prix racing during the years 1922 to 1926, the 1922 Tourist Trophy Race, and the J.C.C. 200 Miles Races during that period. One is often tempted to look back on those Grand Prix days of 1922/1926 as the highest peak of motor-racing since the Great War, but at the back of one’s mind is always the doubt whether this opinion is merely based on the inevitable glamour of the Past. “The Lure of
Speed” removes this doubt, and explains the excitement and thrill of those days by the fact that an English team of cars competed in the Grand Prix races. For weeks before a race the thoughts of British racing enthusiasts were centred on the Sunbeam team, and every scrap of news regarding their showing in practice was devoured with great eagerness. And then came the unforgettable thrill in 1923 of hearing that Major Segrave had won the Blue Riband of Motor Racing, the Grand Prix of France, at the wheel of a 2-litre Sunbeam, against the pick of the Continental machines and drivers. This feat, of being the only British driver ever to win the French Grand Prix, was undoubtedly the finest achievement of Sir Henry Segrave’s distinguished career. At the same time, one’s gratitude to the Sunbeam Company for so gallantly upholding the British flag abroad is revived as one reads of these days of ” dering do.”
But when one says “the finest achievement” one is overlooking the fact that Sir Henry Segrave was the first man ever to exceed 200 m.p.h. on land—to say nothing of that truly terrific run of six kilometres at an average speed of 140.6 m.p.h. on a narrow road at the Boulogne Speed Trials. “The Lure of Speed” is full of incidents and details of extraordinary interest to all followers of the sport, for, with the exception of Charles Jarrott’s ” Ten Years of Motors and Motor Racing,” it is the only available record of an actual
Grand Prix driver’s experiences. In view of the fact that Segrave retired from racing owing to the decline of the out-and-out racing car, one cannot help speculating whether he would have returned to the cockpit once again to-day, when Grand Prix racing has recaptured the popularity of the 1922/1926 period, with the addition of extra speed. Certain it is that England would have a worthy champion defending her name, for in those days the record lap in nearly every race in which he competed was made by H. 0. D. Segrave.
One point is brought in to increased prominence by this book, i.e., the phenomenal development of the 750 c.c. cars of to-day. Says the author, “Within recent years we have seen 1,500 c.c. supercharged motor cars attaining speeds far beyond anything within the reach of vehicles that, twenty years ago, boasted engines of ten times their capacity.” Since 1928 a substitution of” 750 c.c.” for” 1,500 c.c.” brings this sentence into line with modern achievement.
“The Lure of Speed” should be on every motor racing enthusiast’s bookshelf, where, it is safe to say, it will not remain for long before it is taken down, and re-read with undiminished enjoyment. But in the end the final impression is of irreparable loss, both to Britain and to the reader, who will have gained a personal love for our most famous racing-driver.