Ayrton Senna: the Team Lotus Years by Johnny Tipler. ISBN 1-902351-16-9, published by Coterie Press, £34.95
How can there possibly be anything else to say on the life and career of Ayrton Senna? The divinely gifted Brazilian has been the inspiration behind several rain forest devouring tomes already, his brilliance given enhanced mythical status by his dreadful fatal accident in 1994.
Most of the books published about Senna have understandably focused on the years when he was at the top of the tree, pedalling a Marlboro-liveried McLaren to three world championship titles in 1988, ’90 and ’91, but this one, as its title suggests, concentrates on his stint at Lotus between 1985-87.
So far you may be getting the impression that we approached this book with cynicism – and you’d be right. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover that Tipler, who worked in the JPS Motorsport press office (bet he’s got some cool retro jackets that would earn him a nice bit of dosh on ebay!) has produced a very readable book, not just about Senna, but covering the story of Team Lotus as it picked itself up after the death of inspirational founder Colin Chapman at the end of 1982.
Tipler has interviewed most of the important figures from that era at Lotus, and the impression you get is of a team that suddenly found itself lacking in direction but gradually rediscovered its mojo, helped in no small part by Senna.
Senna joined Lotus after a messy divorce from Toleman, and in his early days at Lotus was a courteous, impressionable young man devoted to his team for the betterment of all concerned – including himself. Then, as the demands on his time grew, he inevitably became less ‘one of the lads’ .
There are nice touches in this book, including Sid Watkins’s tale of how Ayrton visited the London Hospital alone because he was suffering from Bell’s-Palsy, a condition which froze one side of his face and almost put him out of action at the start of 1985. Senna’s appointment was after that of a wheelchair-bound Indian lady- the Brazilian personally pushed her down to the consulting room. It’s good to hear of a legend showing normal human kindness.
If there is a gripe with this book, it’s that the three seasons in question have been broken down into race-by-race summaries, a format which inevitably becomes heavy going at times. But the between-seasons material, on Senna and the whole Team Lotus story of this period, make this book well worth a serious look. — MS
Incredible Moments in Motor Racing compiled by Mike Jiggle. ISBN 1904879 58 6, published by Cyan Books, £20
The royalties from this book, in addition to the auction value of the original manuscript, will be donated to NARA The Breathing Charity. So best not to slag it off, then. Jiggle deserves credit for collaring an extraordinary number of racing drivers – and not just the obvious ones – and then getting them to relate their foremost motorsport memories. Some boil down to very little such as Sir Stirling Moss’s entry: ‘winning the Mille Miglia in 1955’. Others, such as Kelvin Burt’s urine sample story are entertaining. Same too for Ian Flux’s ‘damp seat’ Willhire 25 Hours recollection.– RH
BMC Competition Department Secrets by Marcus Chambers, Stuart Turner and Peter Browning. ISBN 1 904788 68 8, published by Veloce, £24.99
This is a fun read, detailing the underbelly of BMC’s competition department. Written by a triumvirate of former managers, it gives an insight into how they functioned within – and despite – BMC and Leyland. Including many never seen before documents, it paints a refreshingly honest picture. It’s especially interesting to learn how much the drivers were paid and the terms of their contracts: some of them really couldn’t negotiate.
The images are wonderful, too. We particularly liked the one of Nancy Mitchell door-handling an MG Magnette saloon. Entered in the 1956 Tulip Rally, her event was over before it started after a scrutineer ran a magnet over the, ahem, standard car and discovered the body panels were made of aluminium.
Excellent stuff. — RH
If You”re Not Winning, You’re Not Trying by EV Productions, available from www.classicteamlotus. co .uk. £15
A super-entertaining, if short, film translated on to DVD from the original master. Centering on Lotus’s F1 efforts in ’73 there’s some cracking footage of Fittipaldi and Peterson in their prime, interspersed with potted interviews with the boss, Colin Chapman. And lots of footage of him throwing his cap in the air at the races. The fly on the wall feel really makes this an essential viewing experience; and that’s before·you witness a lap of Monaco riding with Jackie Stewart, and Jody Scheckter’s British Grand Prix start line shunt – in slow motion.
With an introduction from Clive Chapman, and a technical overview of the classic Lotus 72, DVD extras include on-board footage of Emmo as he guns 72/5 up Goodwood hillclimb in June, its DFV singing its little heart out. Phwaar. — RH
Renault F1 1977-1997 Beyond the YellowTeapot by Gareth Rogers. ISBN O 75 24 35531, published by Tempus, £25
Expecting another Formula One potboiler, this is actually a good read, charting the rise of the Régie from 1970s pitlane joke to prominence as an engine supplier.
There aren’t much in the way of revelations but the author does recount in some detail how and why Renault returned to grand prix racing after the best part of 70 years and why it initially went down the turbo route, along with the politics surrounding the decision.
With a year-by-year summary of F1 seasons, potted driver biographies and useful results tables, it’s reasonably comprehensive and thoughtfully laid out, too. Images are crisp, many of them from Renault’s own archives, and repro befits the asking price. It is a bit of a Renault puff piece in places but don’t let that put you off. — RH
A Mini and the last Liège by Mike Wood. No ISBN. Published by Mike Wood. £ 4.95 plus 50p P&P
The Liège-Sofia-Liège was perhaps the most daunting of all rallies of the day. While Minis ruled the early ’60s rally roost, none had ever finished this gruelling Belgian event until 1964 when two intrepid Englishmen, John Wadsworth and Mike Wood, lasted the distance despite innumerable obstacles.
Wood has collected together his recollections, along with masses of original paperwork, to produce an excellent little booklet that recounts their ‘revolutionary’ methods of changing Mini drive couplings and approach to dealing with autobahn traffic jams. All very entertaining.
Written with wit and self-deprecating humour throughout, this fun little gem is available by sending cheques made payable to Mike Wood at 5 Lamb Row, Sabden, Clitheroe, Lancashire, BB7 9DX. — JD