Book reviews, December 2003, December 2003

Ronnie Peterson: Formula One Super Swede
By Johnny Tipler
ISBN 1 902351 07 X
Published by Coterie Press Ltd, £34.95

If you enjoyed our Ronnie Peterson story last month, then you’ve already started reading this, for it was a precis of the opening chapter. In a way that’s already praise, but reading the whole work confirms the amount of research that Tipler has done. He allows friends and team-mates to talk at length about the man, including flaws, and seems to quote everyone who mattered. Portraying the man first and the racing driver afterward avoids the usual career history trap, and pages from private Peterson albums are a bonus.

Tipler gives much detail about whether Ronnie should have survived the crash, but concludes there was no malpractice. Which may or may not comfort those who miss a great racing character. GC

Safari Rally: 50 Years of the Toughest Rally
By Reinhard Klein, John Davenport and Helmut Deimel
ISBN 3927458082
Published by McKlein, £57.99

Reinhard Klein is known to have an eye as much for the landscape as for his rally car subjects, and if ever an event majored on its scenery, it’s the Safari. Or rather it was, since this cinematic event no longer fits inside a TV screen, and has been sidelined from the WRC.

If you never got there, this luxurious book gives a flavour of the heat, the mud and the eye-watering colours which framed this arduous challenge. Air support was crucial to the Safari, and Klein made good use of it to offer us some stunning aerial views, along with telling details of cars, crews and local life.

With both English and German text, and dotted with roadbooks and programmes, this is a lavish picture of the toughest rally of all. GC

The Powers Brokers: The Battle for F1’s Billions
By Alan Henry
ISBN 0760316503
Published by Motorbooks International, £16.99

Alan Henry has worked close to Bernie for years, and has seen him sailing smoothly on despite all the complaints about excessive control and the staggering costs of Formula One. But, as AH illustrates, the big money goes hand in hand with the intense coverage we now enjoy, and no-one in the paddock is going to give up their private jet anytime soon.

The book offers a clear view of how Bernie made, managed and distributes those billions, and how Max Mosley and the team chiefs fit into the system. The big players talk seemingly frankly, but it’s not Henry’s fault the major questions are left open. Has Bernie played fair? Is the rival F1 series a serious threat? Were the ’83 Brabhams legal? Even an insider like Henry is forced to conclude “we may never know…”

But he does make one definite statement: the British GP will survive. Bernie will never be the man to cancel it… Illuminating but frustrating. GC

Jim Clark: Racing Legend
By Eric Dymock
ISBN 0760317038
Published by Motorbooks International, £24.99/£14.99

Eric Dymock knew Jim Clark from before either of them began their respective careers, and since the former’s profession turned out to be writing about the latter’s chosen field of activity, it’s comes as no surprise that Dymock penned such a fine biography.

This revised edition, now also available in softback, adds a new picture section and includes a moving letter from Dan Gurney, but retains the clean, attractive layout which makes it a pleasure to read. There’s plenty of factual detail, down to the routine at Clark’s old school, but Dymock also tries to draw some conclusions about his behaviour.

Nor is he afraid to be critical: though regarded with great affection by almost everyone he met, Dymock points out that the shy Scot could be unchivalrous, even belligerent. For those who never met Clark, it feels like a very truthful picture. GC

Bentley Specials and Special Bentleys
By Ray Roberts
ISBN 0 9545 398 O X
Published by RayRoberts Booksellers, £100

This must be the first book I have seen which begins on p447, but as ours is just about the only magazine which still numbers pages through the year I should be attuned to that.

This is Vol 2 of Roberts’ work on the non-standard Bentleys, and it not only adds cars modified since the fascinating Vol 1, but throws in scads of marque history, technical facts, race results, marque specialists, estate cars, art, dashboards, personalities, motoring jokes…

In fact it’s too crowded with information, not all relevant, and is confusingly laid out, with dozens of `chapterettes’, hefty picture sections, and pages of tables listing Bentley entries in obscure events.

There’s a ton of interesting stuff in here, but it’s about three books in one. An impressive but overwhelming bit of research. GC

Corvette Thunder: 50 Years of Corvette Racing
By Dave Friedman
ISBN 0-9743986-0-8
Published by Guldstrand, US $75

Most authors keep it secret that they know little or nothing about the subject before they began their book. But historian Dave Friedman cheerfully admits it — “I’m a Ford man” — before offering us this rich and complete picture of Corvette racing.

Like his fine Shelby Daytona book, this is mainly pictorial, showing the ‘Vette mature from underpowered concept car to American hero.

Ignoring the trend for exhaustive results tables, Friedman lets the photos drive the tale, with informative extended captions taking us from crew-cuts and crossplies to slicks and sponsors, right up to Le Mans this year. Maybe it’s my black-and-white tinted spectacles, but for me the most evocative part is 1960-70, with Corvettes hanging off Pikes Peak and smoking across the Bonneville salt. GC