The Shelsley Walsh Story by Simon Taylor. ISBN184425 090 3, published by Haynes, £30.00
Before we get accused of bias, yes Simon Taylor is the author. And yes there is the lingering threat of a P45 appearing in the internal post should the review be less than glowing. Fortunate for us, then, that it’s actually a very enjoyable read, recounting the history of the hallowed Worcestershire hillclimb — all 100 years of it — in a comprehensive and enthusiastic manner.
With Sir Stirling Moss providing the introduction, the chapters are thoughtfully broken down into decent-sized chunks, from the Midland Automobile Club’s embryonic meetings not long after the birth of the motor car to its role as an international sporting venue during the inter-war years and onto the birth of the British Hillclimb Championship and the many bespoke specials which have competed at this daunting venue. Add in a chapter on Shelsley’s female competitors as well as comprehensive appendices and this is a fitting record of a much-loved British institution.
Aside from Chris Mason’s masterwork Uphill Racers and Jeremy Bouckley’s Drive It: Hillclimbing, there have been few works on this idiosyncratic form of motorsport. Yet despite centring on just the one hillclimb, this is a pretty effective overview of the scene as a whole. The author, an occasional competitor himself in everything from an MG Metro 6R4 to the Stovebolt Special, is patently a fan of ‘climbing and it shows. Yet it’s not just about the stars of the sport: there can be few other books that feature both Hans Stuck’s Austro-Daimler and Nic Mann’s improbably quick Morris Minor (the car which turned this reviewer onto hillclimbing in the first place).
And there are some cracking images, many never before published. Marvel at Sir Malcolm Campbell’s bravery as he tames his very-out-of-shape Sunbeam V12, cringe as Phil Scragg communes with nature in his HWM-Jaguar on the approach to the Esses and try to suppress a giggle at Karl Schollar’s barking six-wheeler Farley MkII ‘go-cart’.
If there are niggles, it’s that the design is firmly rooted in the ’80s and picture reproduction isn’t too hot in places, but this doesn’t detract from what will likely prove a popular read in Shelsley’s centenary year. Here’s to the Big 200. — RH
The Amazing Summer of ’55 by Eoin Young. ISBN184425114 4, published by Haynes, £17.99
1955: Moss and Jenks win the Mille Miglia, Tony Brooks comes out on top at Syracuse, Alberto Ascari drives into the drink at Monaco and Pierre Levegh ploughs into the crowd at Le Mans. Written with wit and wisdom, this is an enjoyable if occasionally harrowing read; great to dip into or tackle in one sitting. But there are reservations: including James Dean’s death in his Porsche is a bit tenuous, and it was a surprise to learn that the car fell onto subsequent owner George Barris, killing him instantly. Especially as we only spoke to him in January. — RH
Indianapolis 500 & IRL IndyCar Series Official Yearbook, 2004. ISBN 1903135 46 X, published by Hazleton Publishing, £30.00
As usual, this is a workmanlike annual from Hazleton. Profiles on Indy Racing League champion Tony Kanaan and Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice are accompanied by a long review of the Month of May, short reports of each IRL race and a detailed team-by-team analysis. Nice touches are tributes to the late Rodger Ward and a feature on the Unser dynasty, although these do get a touch number-crunchy in typical American style. Talking of which, all the stats you could ever want from the 2004 season are handily here in table form. You’ll probably want to skip over the feature on the Chevrolet Corvette pace car (this is an official yearbook, so you get the nods to sponsors as well), but if you’re a fan of the IRL then you should cough up the readies for this book. — MS
The Forgotten Races: Three-litre Formula One non-championship races,1966-83 by Chris Ellard. ISBN 954535 20, published by W3 Publications, £19.99
Ellard has spied a glaring gap in the published history of motorsport and dived in with both feet. And we should be grateful that he has. Taking its cue from Mike Lang’s Grand Prix! series, this book rounds up all those races (53 of them) that have been run for Formula One cars since the birth of the three-litre rules in 1966. It’s not too pretty, especially with its newspaper-style column format, but The Forgotten Races, if used as a complement to other indispensable record books by Lang, Steve Small and Peter Higham, is an excellent reference work — ensured by reports, full results and a table of all race starters. Don’t expect a riveting read, but if you want to be reminded of obscurities such as the LucasMartin and the Questor Grand Prix, this is for you. — MS
Pebble Beach Remembered by Art Evans. ISBN 9705073 5 6, published by Photo Data Research, £34.95 (in UK, call 020 8566 7344 )
Another scrapbook-style effort by Evans, this time celebrating the fondly remembered Pebble Beach races run from 1950 to ’56. Once the premier road-racing venue on the US West Coast, it’s about time someone wrote about it, but this isn’t so much a history as a compilation of event programmes and race reports from the SCCA’s magazine Sports Car. So you get lots of period flavour and some wonderful images of backyard specials mingling with exotica from Europe. Unfortunately, repro isn’t perfect but, as the author opined after our review of his last book, this is in keeping with the scrapbook feel and bargain price. And there’s much to like here. If you reckon a Testarossa looks at its best wearing a Mobil Pegasus logo, chances are you’ll want to add this to your library. — RH
Sports Racing Cars by Anthony Pritchard. ISBN184 4251381, published by Haynes, £25.00
Pritchard has selected 50 cars from the history of sportscar racing, from the 1923 Lorraine-Dietrich to the 2003 Bentley Speed 8, and tells the story of each. The book focuses on the technical aspects of the cars and methodically trawls through the races they contested. Laudable enough, but when you read that Bob Wollek won the 1984 and ’85 Le Mans in a Joest Porsche (it was Klaus Ludwig) and in the same chapter you’re told that in ’82 “for the first time Porsche raced with sponsorship, from the Rothmans tobacco company” (what about Martini in the 1970s?) you begin to doubt the accuracy. Also, Jarier in a Matra at Clearways is captioned as Ickx at La Source. And I’m surprised at the absence of the Audi R8 and McLaren F1 GTR. Perhaps this reflects the author’s periods of interest? — MS