“The Le Mans 24-hour Race,” by David Hodges. 140 pp. 7 1/2 x 6 1/2 in. (Temple Press Books Ltd., 42, Russell Square London, W.C.1. 18s.)
Here at last, after some feeble former attempts, is a decent history of the great Le Mans race, from the first of the series in 1923, to last year’s Ferrari-dominated race. Each year’s race is dealt with separately, the text a summary rather than a tedious account of every crash and retirement. But the results are given in full, down to the 30th and last place even for the 1923 contest, and retirements and the fastest-lap holders are listed, so that these tabulated results alone are invaluable to serious motor-race historians.
But this compact book goes much further. All manner of absorbingly interesting photographs will he found therein, not sensationally, but entirely adequately, reproduced. For the first Le Mans race, Hodges uses pictures of the Excelsiors leading the Lorraine-Dietrich, Chenard-Walckers and lone Bentley at the start, Duff’s Bentley at the primitive pits, and the winning Chenard et Walcker rounding the pavé-surfaced Pontlieue hairpin. Other years are covered pictorially even more generously, and I was fascinated to find pictures of S.A.R.A., Aries, Overland; Tracta, Chrysler 72, Caban, Stutz, etc., as well as those of the expected makes. Not all are 100% sharp, many are akin to postage-stamps in size, but to include them is a praiseworthy feat for an organisation thought to have scrapped all its negatives when war broke out. Georges Roesch should buy this book, if only for the picture of one of his Talbots chasing an Alfa Romeo in the 1930 race.
Add to the informative pictures and text, graphs and maps of the historic circuit of Le Mans, much-changed down the years, an explanation of the complicated Le Mans rules, an appendix on the prizes, and detailel analyses of all the cars, from Abarth to d’Yrsan, with a breakdown of their placing and performances – a remarkable achievement, this, which shows that Jaguar has the highest percentage of starters to finishers, 47.9%, against Bentley’s 46.7%, another table telling us that in all 1,364 have started at Le Mans, not, counting the Rover-B.R.M., French cars, followed by British, predominating, 541 to 436 – and even an index of the drivers, with nationality and years they drove at Le Mans, from C. M. Abate to M. de Zuniga. Formidable!
This is how motor-racing history should be written and illustrated, although more diverse races such as the French G.P., deserve fuller coverage. But for the Le Mans race the wordage is about right. I commend it highly. I see that the book is sub-titled “Classic Motor Races,” which suggests that Temple Press have further books of this sort in mind, thus perpetuating an idea I think I probably pioneered with the Grenville book about the J.C.C. 200-Mile Race. The foreword to David Hodges’ book is by M. Jean M. Lelievre, President de l’Automobile-Club de l’Ouest. – W. B.