Reviews, January 2016

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Porsche 917

Archive and Works Catalogue 1968-1975

Walter Näher

Yet another book about the 917? Yes. Just another book about the 917? No. First published a few years ago in the creator’s native German, Näher’s definitive tome is finally available in English.

No rivet is left unturned, but that’s scarcely surprising as the author worked on the car in period. That has allowed him access to an extraordinary wealth of source material, including blueprints that underline the skimpy framework beneath the 917’s voluptuous skin, data sheets, photographs of cars being built and as much technical detail as will ever have been available inside the factory. 

Despite the book’s heft – it must weigh almost as much as a Porsche V12 – the text is highly digestible, much of it being delivered in short, bite-sized chunks. It will certainly appeal to chassis number aficionados, but not to them alone.

Much of the action photography is exquisite, although some is plain startling – not least a series of images showing what little is left of the first long-tail 917 after Kurt Ahrens had aquaplaned from VW’s test track. Apparently, the contemporary factory test report read very simply, “The handling of the long tail with the new body was not satisfactory…”

Perfectly true, but only a sliver of the full tale. This is produced every bit as beautifully as it is illustrated and it’s hard to know how best to describe it. ‘Thorough’ is far too
weak a word. SA

Published by Delius Klasing

ISBN 978-3768838375, £85

Grand Prix Ford

Ford, Cosworth and the DFV

Graham Robson

The 1980 Spanish Grand Prix said everything about the Ford Cosworth DFV. It might have been classified a non-championship race, but all 22 cars that started had a DFV behind the driver. Thirteen years after the engine made its debut, that is quite a statement about its longevity and effectiveness.

Graham Robson’s history of the DFV could not be more comprehensive. It is as detailed as it is photographically glorious and will be the key reference for anyone needing a large dose of DFV, but a bit of additional thought with the reader in mind would have helped.

Telling a story that covers a significant period is best done chronologically, so Robson’s choice of listing every DFV-powered F1 car alphabetically is a tad annoying as you lose sight of how motor sport developed alongside the engine.

That aside, it is hard to imagine a more complete work on the most influential engine in the history of racing. OO

Published by Veloce

ISBN: 978-1-845846-24-4, £65

Madness On Wheels

Edited by John L Matthews

Group B was, and still is, the most extreme version of rallying ever seen. For a few short years, 500bhp monsters bucked and snorted their way through forests, deserts and towns, inches from outstretched arms and dangling legs. Legendary rally weapons were born and heroic drivers created images and stories that now seem the polar opposite to the sanitised version of rallying we now have.

The Madness on Wheels documentary that first appeared in 2012 carried astonishing accounts from rallying royalty such as Ari Vatanen, Michele Mouton, Jean Todt and many others, cut together with unbelievable footage of the sport at it’s dizzying best.

This gripping and extensively researched book is the transcript of interviews held with drivers, team managers, journalists and spectators who recount personal experiences of the Group B era.

Incredibly, the authors were able to track down not only someone who was hit by Joaquim Santos in his RS200 on that fateful day in Portugal when he went into the crowd, killing three spectators and injuring many others, but also Santos’s co-driver, Miguel D’Olivieri. Their thoughts and recollections of that event are spine-chilling and worth the purchase price alone.

This isn’t a conventional approach to telling a motor sport story, but by reading these great interviews in full, we get a unique insight into a time when rallying was indeed madness, and danger lurked round every blind bend. DC

Published by Bigger Picture Films

ISBN: 978-0-9932401-1-9, £19.99

Ferrari 250GT SWB 

Autobiography of 2119GT

Doug Nye

I wonder why we use the English term ‘short wheelbase’ and not what the prototype was styled – Passo Corto? I guess Ferrari 250PC lacks that ring.

Next in Porter’s Great Cars range, this is a forensic dissection of the life of one of the most famous of these sports cars, a car
that augments its innate desirable qualities with race success and famous drivers and caps it all with a legendary motor sport figure as its current custodian. This is one of the two Rob Walker cars, both TT winners for Stirling Moss, which wore that enthusiastic entrant’s blue livery with white nose stripe, and it now belongs to Formula 1 technical and strategy guru Ross Brawn.

The level of detail in this large, heavy volume is immense, as Nye gives a chapter to each of the car’s front-line races (only eight in Walker’s period, but it won six), as well as giving us profiles of ‘the cast’ – Walker, Mike Parkes, Jack Sears, Tommy Sopwith etc – who were close to the car early on. Every aspect surrounding 2119GT gets this detailed attention, backed by lavish photography, period programmes and adverts to enliven the pages. As you’d expect, Nye’s deep knowledge of Ferraris – especially this one which he drove often – serves up a comprehensive story of how these gorgeous vehicles were developed from the first 250GTs, along with the variations between road and race examples, but Brawn’s insight into both design and ownership of this wonderful car is a unique bonus. GC

Published by Porter Press

ISBN 978-1-907085-23-9 £60

Two Summers

The Mercedes-Benz W196 R Racing Car

Robert Ackerson

Robert Ackerson‘s race-by-race story of Mercedes-Benz’s two-year foray into Formula 1 during 1954-55 leans heavily on contemporary magazine reports – including Motor Sport – and there are some gems to be unearthed if you can see beyond the rather cluttered presentation. Denis Jenkinson’s description of the open-wheel W196 as “a rather gormless single-seater of vast width” being one and Karl Kling’s revelation that his anxiety during the 1954 German Grand Prix was caused by noticing “a sharp taste of petrol” on the fourth lap. Imagine how Lewis would react to that.

There is much to enjoy in the text, but the beauty of this book is in the glorious pictures, despite some haphazard captions. The Daimler Archive is the main source of some wonderful images that shine a light on a remarkable car, plus the men who conceived and drove it. OO

Published by Veloce

ISBN 978-1-845847-51-7 £75

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