Book reviews, January 2015, January 2015
A Racer’s Soul
This slim volume has no pretensions to be the definitive Emerson Fittipaldi autobiography. That, hopefully, is yet to come. Instead, this book is a highlights package of the great man’s career, taken from interviews compiled by McLaren communications man Matt Bishop for the team’s regular website columns.
Fittipaldi promises to be outspoken and forthright, but being a gentlemanly elder statesman he’s rarely controversial.
Criticism of Clay Regazzoni’s already notorious race ethics during their battle for the 1974 Formula 1 title is hardly revelatory.
Inevitably, while he does cover Lotus, Chapman and Peterson, there’s a bias towards the McLaren years, and more on Copersucar and the Indycar years would have been welcome. But this is an easily digestible page-turner, attractively presented, that reminds us once again what a class act Fittipaldi was – and still is. DS
Published by Haymarket Media ISBN 978-0-575329-4-5, £19.99
Last Train from Yokkaichi
The title might resonate only with those who’ve had the privilege of attending a race meeting at Suzuka, but provincial Japanese railway stations breed a certain emotional attachment – positive or otherwise – within all those who’ve passed through them.
The front cover made me smile… as did most of what follows.
For those of a certain age, Henry (and his contemporary Pete Lyons) were passports to an impossibly distant place known as the Formula 1 paddock. In the mid-1970s, their words in Motoring News and Autosport provided frequent relief from double Latin on Thursday mornings, recording chassis numbers and fuelling dreams.
Available only in electronic form, this engaging autobiography touches on highlights of a career that took the author on a global voyage of discovery that began (more or less) at Snetterton.
The main focus is on people and personalities, rather than politics, and tales of sleeping at a young Niki Lauda’s parental home paint a picture of a world far removed from the one we now know.
For those lucky enough to have trodden a similar career path since the 1970s, it’s a reminder that we missed the sport’s social zenith – a terrific read for less than the price of a half-decent bottle of wine (and we’d also recommend one of those, by way of accompaniment). SA
Published by Haymarket Media Available through Amazon as an e-book, £5.99
The Business of Winning
Mark Gallagher is well placed to tackle the business angle of Formula 1. After an early career as a journalist, he moved into the PR and marketing spheres, eventually gaining the inside perspective upon which much of this book is based, at Jordan Grand Prix.
Eddie Jordan has become something of a comedic parody today, thanks to his purposefully ‘eccentric’ appearances on the BBC’s F1 coverage. But it should never be forgotten just how much he achieved as a team boss, not just in terms of results on track, but more particularly as a businessman. Unconventional? Of course. But as Gallagher shows, the Irishman’s methods worked and there were some good lessons to be soaked up in the Jordan cauldron during those heady days of the 1990s .
The intention here is to offer something other than a sports book. That can make it a little dry at times, plus there’s too much repetition from chapter to chapter. You could also argue that a book on the business of F1 should include some hard figures and detailed financial analysis of how teams run – which would be particularly pertinent right now.
But still Gallagher achieves a balance by blending his business philosophy with genuinely insightful anecdotal experience. DS
Published by Kogan Page Limited ISBN 978 0 7494 7272 6, £14.99
Journey to Le Mans
Written, produced & directed by Charlotte Fantelli
You’d be forgiven for thinking it was scripted, but Jota Sport’s remarkable victory in the LMP2 class at the Le Mans 24 Hours really did happen this way.
The British team overcame significant setbacks to conquer the super-competitive prototype second division, but with hindsight those problems couldn’t have been better timed. The film crew and production company commissioned to follow the adventure would surely agree.
The melodrama is milked somewhat as Jota owner/driver Simon Dolan takes centre stage. But the real stars are young chargers Harry Tincknell and Oliver Turvey, the latter finding himself parachuted into the team just two days before the 24 Hours begins, after lead driver Marc Gené is seconded to the Audi LMP1 squad.
Speaking of Audi, the influence of its excellent Truth in 24 film of 2008 is obvious. Like that documentary, this captures the true spirit of Le Mans – but on this occasion from the perspective of the plucky privateer. Le Mans fans will lap it up. DS
Produced by Fantelli Productions available on DVD (£7) and Blu-Ray (£14)
The Magnificent Monopostos
Alfa Romeo Grand Prix Cars 1923-1951
Moore’s previous books on the 2.9 and 2.3 Alfa Romeos have rightly become standard works. Now he concludes the trilogy with a book as magnificent as its title, which confirms his position as the prime Alfa historian.
Covering the single-seater racing cars from P1 to Alfetta, not forgetting the powerboats, the two volumes in slip-case cost £300. But if you are ever going to want information on these cars you’ll need to consult this, and judging by the previous works it’s a case of buy now as the 1000 print run is selling fast. Why? Because you won’t find this depth of detail and wealth of illustration anywhere else. Moore alternates between model development, race history and individual chassis biographies, eagerly tracing the sometimes convoluted trail of parts that went into a special then reformed into an Alfa, and quoting at length from his sources.
His research efforts have been unending, extracting clues from factory drawings to illuminate chronologies and even trying to trace a ship sunk with an engine aboard, all backed up by many magnificent photos and drawings with detailed informative captions. Gems such as Nuvolari checking his drinking tube before a race, the amazing befinned and chromed 1950s special built on a 308C, or the treasure trove of spares surrounding the Alfetta that Mike Sparken obtained from Portello all add fascination, and the presentation is excellent.
Packed with stories about the players as well as facts, this is a deeply impressive achievement. GC
Published by Parkside Publications available direct from [email protected] ISBN 978-0-982077439, £300