By Michael Diner ISBN 1 85227 841 2
Published by Virgin Books, £30.00
Setting out to write a definitive history is a daunting task. None more so than when your subject matter is something that is held in such esteem by so many people. Nevertheless, that is the task that author Michael Oliver set himself when he tackled Lotus 49— The Story of a Legend
Cats like Colin Chapman’s 49 raise such emotion in people that you run the almost constant danger of offending somebody no matter what you write. Oliver, to his credit, seems to have overcome this problem by adopting the only method that really works — research. In-depth interviews with all the players involved make his book as error-proof as they come. Just glance at the list of acknowledgements to appreciate just how much effort has gone into making this a reliable piece of work. From drivers (Amon, Andretti, Brabham, Gurney et al), to engineers (Costin, Duckworth, Blash, Endruweit, Tauranac, Dance), Oliver has spoken to them all and it is this that makes the book so strong.
If you like facts, figures, horsepower outputs and valve angles, they are all there. But, more importantly, so are stories from those closest to the 49’s creation. Andretti’s obvious enthusiasm from the first time he drove it, tells you more about the machine that Chapman created than any points table.
If I have a gripe, and it is a small one, it is that the design of the book doesn’t live up to the content Picture usage is far from adventurous and swathes of the book are a rather unappealing trawl through grey pages. This should not, however, detract from what remains an impressive tome.