Pironi, The Champion That Never Was
It was only when this landed that one began to appreciate the dearth of previous English-language material on Didier Pironi. You think you know something about a subject, then realise that most of that was culled from reading Motoring News’s European F2 Championship reports in 1977 – and thereafter the weekly and monthly specialist press.
This promises to tell the full story, a labour of love on the part of an author who was a Pironi fan in his youth, but lost track of the Frenchman following his career-ending F1 accident at Hockenheim in 1982.
David Sedgwick has done a decent job piecing together the background details – no straightforward task, in a world where Pironi’s fellow racer José Dolhem was both cousin and half-brother – and managed to track down a handsome assembly of eye-witnesses, but at times this is let down by a lack of real insight from some of them… and also the author’s occasional tendency to sprinkle paragraphs with an unnecessarily dramatic flourish. He veers at times towards cheap sensationalism and also has a habit of labouring points: repetitively we’re told Pironi’s mother Imelda was ‘strong’, he and actress Véronique Jannot were ‘very much in love’ and that he was her ‘hero’ (a detail underlined twice in the same sentence).
The book is aimed at a general, rather than specialist, audience – and at times the tone seems overly simplistic – but for the most part this is an interesting overview of a driver whom history tends to overlook, perhaps because fate dictated that he would never fulfil his true potential, perhaps because his death at the age of 35 – in a powerboat accident, during the summer of 1987 – led him to drift imperceptibly (and unjustly) from the sport’s radar.
Interesting, but one can’t help feeling that it could have been better. SA
Published by Pitch
ISBN: 9-781-78531-349-3, £12.99
Touring Car Racing 1958-2018
The history of the British Touring Car Championship
Published to coincide with the 60th anniversary (ergo 61st season) of the artist formerly known as the British Saloon Car Championship, this is beautifully produced and, predominantly, a sumptuous photographic essay.
It’s probably something the author never dreamed he’d write. As a cub reporter Matt James was steeped in the twin cultures of single-seater and endurance racing; he wasn’t best pleased to be assigned to the BTCC, but that was circa 15 years ago and he remains there still, relishing every lap.
He provides short seasonal resumés and driver profiles, while the 1958-1992 photos come from Motorsport Images (home to LAT’s rich archive) and researcher Kathy Ager has done her customarily thorough job of finding period treasures. There are many here that will be as unfamiliar as they are appropriate. The more recent pictures come from Jakob Ebrey’s agency and are every bit as dynamic as their subject.
It’s not often you stumble upon a shot of double Monaco GP winner Maurice Trintignant racing a Ford Zodiac at Silverstone, but such are the curios that help to make this a very fine body of work. SA
Published by EVRO
ISBN: 978-1-910505-36-6, £60
Shutter & Speed vol 1
Self-published tomes are by nature of variable quality, but here’s one that’s nicely executed and targeted squarely at the bookshelves of this magazine’s core readership.
Having built up a significant archive of motor sport assets, documentary maker Gary Critcher has decided to produce his first book – a 122-page collection of photographs covering everything from Formula 1 to hillclimbs in Kenya via the 1962 Malaya Grand Prix. He has acquired the rights to many images from amateur collections, which imbues the whole with added charm and ensures that the content here should be fresh to all.
It is the first of two volumes presently scheduled and is available in standard form or as part of a 100-run limited edition that comes with a short DVD film featuring pre-race demonstration runs (by Moss, Fangio, Salvadori and others) at the 1967 British GP.
The book is not available from mainstream retailers but can be bought via www.shutterandspeed.com; a donation of £1 from each sale will be made to the Grand Prix Trust. SA
Published by the author with iStudio21
ISBN: 978-0-9575016-5-2, £15.00 plus p&p (£20 for limited edition with DVD)
Another Porsche 917 book, yes. Another race-by-race, chassis-by-chassis account, yes. What sets this apart is that writer Jay Gillotti is focusing purely on John Wyer’s Gulf cars. The singles collection or best-of, in music parlance.
John Horsman has been involved with Gulf 917, providing the foreword and some interesting asides. The track maps, complete with gearing, his photos and pitstop records are especially worthy of study. But away from that, much of this is familiar and other books are widely referenced. When some of the key characters are still happy to talk about the 917, this seems a bit of a missed opportunity. Derek Bell is quoted via someone else’s book, for example… For this kind of money, one expects more.
Elsewhere, Porsche’s image archive is (again) used comprehensively, but the photos of Pete Lyons and Rainer W Schlegelmilch are the ones that really stand out. So too does the snap of our own Jenks, looking up while deep in conversation with Brian Redman. JP
Published by Dalton Watson Fine Books
ISBN: 978-1-854432-99-5, £125