A dash of the Irish in hard covers

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If you want a modestly priced book with which to relax after perusing all the serious ones, I recommend The Paddy Hopkirk Story —A Dash of The Irish (Haynes Publishing, ISBN 1 84425 1101, £18.99), in which the full career of this champion driver is told with the co-operation of Bill Price.

It is full of amusing detail about the jolly Irishman who over five decades gained outstanding successes in every kind of event from modest club trials and driving tests to winning outright with Henry Liddon in the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally. Stage scores and a list of mods to their Mini Cooper S are included. Their close second in the BMC 1800 in the 1968 London-Sydney Marathon is described, with other great drives in events like Alpine Rallies, at Le Mans and in important trials, and on to the more recent historic revivals. It is technically informative about the enormous variety of cars which this driver used during a long and rewarding career, the driving techniques, and much more — interesting for example that the Mini, renowned for its excellent road-holding (written off on 12in wheels on the Circuit of Ireland Rally) was “like a pig”, but that the Austin 1800 was thought of as a good rally car, if rather sluggish.

The serious stuff is nicely balanced with the humorous, including descriptions of Paddy’s friends, drivers like the young Jackie Stewart who could lap Silverstone in a big Austin-Healey faster than Mӓkinen and Aaltonen, and Jimmy Clark, who surprised Hopkirk with an ability to drive rally sections as fast as he raced. Hopkirk drove so many kinds of cars that there is something for almost everyone. An eight-page appendix lists these, from a 1952 VW to a 1994 Mini Cooper, with all those other Minis Paddy used so very effectively in rallies and races. Registration numbers and the outcome of each event are listed and much information disclosed about car preparation, tyre types, costs, bonuses, and Paddy’s many businesses etc, interspersed with the fun, the girls, the families, even houses occupied — it’s all there. The 299 stunning pictures add to this, and I can excuse a late A7 two-seater being captioned as a Chummy.

There is even a picture of how Paddy first drove a 250cc invalid carriage and then Triumph motorbikes, which his father insisted had sidecars in order to slow them down. Don’t miss this one!