Reviews, February 2014

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Grand Prix Zandvoort

Mark Koense

Some of the content will be familiar, following our extensive photographic preview in last November’s issue, but the finished product is perhaps even better than we’d dared hope.

The book commences with some early circuit sketches and morphs via an entertaining letter from Sammy Davis (after conducting a track inspection, he urged the circuit developers to have no more than one 30mph corner every two miles, to avoid strain on braking systems… and low average lap speeds “that would not be a good advertisement”) into a glorious pictorial history that reflects the highs and, occasionally, lows of Zandvoort’s stint as a Grand Prix host between 1948 and 1985.

I attended a Zandvoort GP only once, when Niki Lauda scored his final world championship victory in ’85, and walked away having no idea that F1 might not return. It was a privilege to experience the venue’s distinctive atmosphere and this book rekindles several memories… and also makes me wish I’d been able to attend previously.

The best bit is perhaps saved until first. Attached to the front cover you’ll find a DVD containing a documentary that traces Zandvoort’s history via a series of films that are for the most part unfamiliar. Fronted by former racer and all-round good bloke Jan Lammers, it is slickly produced and a perfect complement to what follows. SA

Published by Tuvalu Media, ISBN 978-90-820270-0-6, €89

World champion by a technical knockout

A racing season with Porsche, Helmut Zwickl

Veteran Austrian writer Zwickl raises a point in his introduction. When asked to consider a reissue of a book first published after the 1969 campaign, he reveals that, “My initial reaction was, ‘Nobody will be interested these days’.”

We suspect they might, not least because, as Zwickl acknowledges, “Despite having reported more than 560 Formula 1 Grands Prix, the long-distance races of the 1960s were the greatest and most exciting time.”

In 1969, Porsche’s Ferdinand Piëch permitted the author free access to the factory team’s pit – and that formed the basis for a blow-by-blow account of the company’s successful conquest of the International Championship for Makes (seven wins from 10 starts, although it was allowed to count only its best five results).

It’s a textual and pictorial triumph. There is one particular shot, on pages 106-107, of Jo Siffert hammering around the Monza banking in a long-tail 908, with only a precariously positioned photographer, perched on the banking’s top lip, for company.

That alone is almost enough to justify the cover price. SA

Published by Petrolpics, ISBN 978-3-940306-26-5, €79

Inspired to design

Nigel Bennett

With five Indy 500-winning cars to his credit Nigel Bennett sits high in the racing roster, but he got there from the less glamorous though crucial field of tyre engineering. Those years at Firestone (not to mention building the obligatory 750MC special) meant meeting all the crucial F1 figures, helping him progress to Hesketh, chief engineer at Lotus, then designer for Ensign, Theodore, Lola and finally Penske, where he garnered five championships. Latterly he aided the FIA overtaking project, and designed power boats too. Naturally the book majors on the technical with analysis of how and why each design was formed, but Bennett also offers personal insights – Chapman claiming credit for discovering ground effect, or learning that Tyrrell managed with only 35 people and overnight sacking 10. There are ‘down-time’ tales too – an ill-fated boat ride with Emerson Fittipaldi, getting lost in the snow with Al Unser – to add entertainment. Informative and frank – even over his own mistakes. GC

Published by Veloce, ISBN 978-1-845845-36-0, £35

A chequered life

Richard Heseltine

Alan Mann, John Coombs, Col Ronnie Hoare, John Willment… the list of 1960s team patrons is long and illustrious. Among them, Graham Warner is often overlooked – unfairly so. This book, written by a regular contributor to Motor Sport, attempts to redress the balance.

Richard Heseltine was on the staff at this magazine when he wrote a feature story about The Chequered Flag, Warner’s car dealership, race team and, later, top rally equipe. That contact led to a collaboration between author and subject and the publication of this book nearly 10 years later.

The Chequered Flag race team was established largely on the back of Warner’s own (very respectable) exploits in a Lotus Elite – sporting what would become a trademark reg plate, LOV 1. Meanwhile his founding of Formula Junior constructor Gemini put the name on the single-seater map, and in time the team, always smartly turned out in white and black, would run rising aces of the day: Jackie Stewart, Jacky Ickx, Piers Courage, Chris Irwin and more.

Warner dabbled (expensively) in the music business after quitting the sport, but burst back in the 1970s as a rally entrant of Fiat Abarth 131, glorious Lancia Stratos and Triumph TR7. The story concludes with a return to his first love, aviation, and the restoration of a Blenheim bomber.

Warner’s has been a full life and the pages are dense with facts and anecdotes, plus wonderful B&W photos sourced from the man himself. The choice of font to ingest so many words could have been better, especially for the older enthusiasts to whom this book is likely to appeal… But to disciples of motor sport’s ’60s and ’70s golden eras, the eye-strain will be worth it. DS

Published by Veloce, ISBN 978-1-845844-13-4, £30

Cunningham

Richard Harman

If there’s one thing we associate with Briggs Cunningham, it’s Le Mans. In his constant quest to win it with an American car, the wealthy sportsman entered 29 different cars and raced there 10 times. Victory never came, but his white and blue machines were everyone’s favourites, and the man himself universally popular. Author Harman says that of all the people he interviewed he heard not one bad word about Briggs, who despite immense wealth – his wedding present Mercedes SS was delivered by Caracciola – seems to have been a modest man and a genuine enthusiast.

Though a huge book – two big volumes in a slip case – Harman gets to the racing after just a few pages on Briggs’ early life, and if there’s a disappointment, it’s here. Cunningham’s racing, his team and his cars are described in immense detail, including lengthy histories for each car in his extensive historic collection, and it’s an impressive research feat, packing in results tables, profiles of all Cunningham drivers, team paperwork and 1500 photos on top of race-by-race descriptions. Yet somehow there is little about the man and what drove him after success on track and on water in the America’s Cup. It’s definitely a racing history, not a biography. But it’s a highly comprehensive history, and if you can handle the price it’s certain to contain any information you need. GC

Published by Dalton Watson, ISBN 978-1-85443-260-5, £225