“Motor Racing Management,” by John Wyer. 152 pp., 8 in. by 55/16 in. (The Bodley Head, 28, Little Russell Street, London, W.C.1. 18s.)
John Wyer, who served an apprenticeship with Sunbeam in Wolverhampton and later joined Solex Ltd., has since the war been a familiar figure in motor-racing circles as the conscientious competitions-manager of the David Brown racing organisation. He has recently vacated that post to Reg Parnell in order to manage the engineering side of Aston Martin and Lagonda, and Wyer marks his retirement from competition activities with an excellent book on motor-racing management.
He is not first in the motor-book race under this heading, for S. C. H. Davis got one in under a similar title some time ago. But Wyer writes an exceedingly clear explanation of what modern motor racing is about and the complex duties of a team manager, so that what purports to be a textbook with a decidedly limited field will, in fact, prove enthralling to the thousands of enthusiasts who wish to know as much as possible of what goes on behind the scenes. Wyer leavens his learned explanations with some pleasing anecdotes, although one would have liked more of these, especially in the chapter devoted to drivers, and perhaps one day we will get them in a Wyer book of pure reminiscence.
This is a very readable book, with its chapters on policy, preparation, administration, time- and chart-keeping, mechanics and pitwork, practice and race-control strategy and tactics, etc. The author does not mince matters relating to the expense of racing and its commercial import to professional teams. He scarcely believes in racing with “catalogue” sports cars, remarking that even as far back as 1933 the M.G. Magnette with which Nuvolari won the Ulster T.T. was “as far removed from any production car as some of the present-day ‘prototypes.’ The car was supercharged and even the minimum cycle mudguards so beloved those days were omitted, so that the car was indistinguishable from models taking part in current events for true racing cars.” This sent us scurrying to John Thornley’s great work “Maintaining the Breed.” While this does not give the lie to Wyer’s theory, one is reminded from it that the K3 M.G. was completed from prototype to finished form in less than six months and a team of cars, prepared in three weeks, was sent to the Mille Miglia, to finish first and second in the 1,100-c.c. class.
Wyer deals with every possible aspect of race preparation, from handling drivers and getting the best from the mechanics, to how to make best use of practice periods, transport problems and the rest of it. In excellent English, with the touch of the classical scholar in places, he gives us an exceptionally interesting discourse, of more use as a means of explaining what motor racing is about to wives and girl-friends than many drivers’ autobiographies. Indeed, Wyer makes you feel that the drivers, vital as they are, do not get as much out of racing as he who manages their team! There are fearless passages in which Wyer explains why he has little use for conventional lap-charts, and about his own methods of race strategy and control. He does not shy from the difficult question of the value of racing to manufacturers and here we are interested to note that he sees in the Volkswagen a car of racing heritage—after having been slated in some quarters for the attention we have devoted to this unique beetle we were inspired to read: “The effects (of racing) are apparent, also, of course, in national temperament; for an Italian is practising for the Mille Miglia every time he uses his car, and anyone who has driven on the Como-Milano autostrada on a fine Sunday evening, and compared this stimulating experience with the Brighton road on a Bank Holiday, will know only too vividly what I am trying to convey. The same applies to some extent in Germany. Mercedes would be a too-obvious example, and the current 300SL one of the very few production cars which can claim genuine pure-bred descent from a racing car. But in the humbler German cars, notably of course the Volkswagen, one sees those qualities suggestive of a racing heritage, which endear themselves to a discerning driver.” Wyer also pays a well-earned tribute to racing mechanics.
Wyer’s book has adequate illustrations, some of them “trimmed” rather unfortunately, but in which mechanics John King and Jack Sopp, etc., are included, and there are plenty of reproductions of lap-charts, racing data sheets and other pieces of equipment with which the text deals. We are not sure, however, whether Reg Parnell, Tony Brooks and Uhlenhaut will be pleased to find themselves on the back of the dust-jacket, labelled “members of the pit-staff “! — W. B.
” Gentlemen, Start Your Engines,” by Wilbur Shaw. 320 pp., 8¾ in. by 5⅝ in. (The Bodley Head, 28, Little Russell Street. London, W. C. 1. 25s.)
This is the autobiography of the great American racing driver, Wilbur Shaw. You can tell it is an American book by just glancing through it; for example, the eye catches a picture of Shaw in the cockpit of his car holding a live lion-cub, and his car is labelled a Blu-Green Special and has a lifesize lion’s head painted on the scuttle . . . On another page we see Shaw sitting on a kitchen chair holding “a special hydraulic steering wheel,” a piece of training equipment we feel sure Moss and Hawthorn should invest in at once!
This is a story with plenty of excitement and fairly lurid dialogue but the business side of racing isn’t overlooked. Perhaps the Bugatti O.C. can tell me about “Johnny Bugatti — the son of the famous Antole Bugatti, manufacturer of the most expensive and popular car made in France at that time,” who appears on pages 167 and 172!
Shaw is sparing with technicalities but many schoolboys will love his book, which gives a good impression of the American scene. After all, it only costs the equivalent of four gallons of the best petrol — W. B.
“Motor Racing,” by Stirling Moss, which we reviewed (as “Stirling Moss’ Book of Motor Sport “) in October, 1955, has re-appeared as a Scottie Special at 2s. 6d. and as such is good value and a fine idea for filling Christmas stockings — 142 pp., 62/5 in. by 4.8 in., soft covers. Transworld Publishers, Ltd., Park Royal Road, London, N.W.10.
The. 38-page A.O.C.Handbook is a repair manual covering Alvis Firebird, Speed Twenty and Twenty-five, Silver Eagle, Firefly and 4.3-litre cars of 1932-39. Some of the contents will assist 12/70 and Silver Crest owners. Loose-leaf binding is used to facilitate amendments. This book is the work of A.O.C. members, edited by R. E. Spain. It is available to Alvis Owner Club members only, at 12s.6d. post free. Details from K. R. Day. 31, Lawrence Avenue, New Malden, Surrey.
“Plastic’ Car Body Design and Construction for the Amateur.” by R. A. Martin, is a 51-page soft-cover book with copious illustrations, which should be of value to the many “specials”-builders who now work in this medium. It is available at 9s. 6d. from “Simplast,” North Lodge, West Fleet, Weymouth Dorset.
That extremely valuable reference book of road facts, “Basic Road Statistics,” is now available in its 1956 edition, price 1s., from the British Road Federation, Ltd., 26, Manchester Square, London, W.1. Road mileages in relation to traffic, types and numbers of vehicles registered (including trams, horses and diesel-engined vehicles), employment in the transport industry, etc., are covered in this unique and useful book.