Book reviews, July 2010, July 2010

Alfa Romeo
From 1910 to 2010
Maurizio Tabucchi

A century is a large slice of history to fit in a book, especially when it is such a packed century as the story of Italy’s greatest marque. (Other contenders are available.) Tabucchi’s book does not feel rushed, yet it manages to relate not only the mechanical story but also the politics and personalities who influenced the firm, lightening the text with drawings, brochures, badges and advertisements. There’s even a brochure for Romeo tractors, predating the link with ALFA.

Though the racing is the glamorous element, Tabucchi gives plenty of space to road cars, showing that if there was one thing Alfa never learned it was how to build a dull car. Even the bread and butter stuff is handsome. The odd commercial and 4×4 find their way in too.

Sidebars on characters such as Merosi and Piero Dusio remind one how much individuals can affect a company. There’s human tragedy too, in the tale of Ugo Gobbato who managed to balance war work under Nazi control with keeping the Alfa flame alive, but died in a drive-by shooting – from a Lancia.

Bringing the story right up to date with the cute Mito, Tabucchi does not omit the Formula 1 adventures or the wonderful 164 Procar, sadly stillborn. The photo took me back to a memorable day when I saw and heard this beast wailing around Donington. Even my own GTV6 sounded tame on the drive home…

An excellent choice for a one-volume history. GC

Published by Giorgio Nada Editore, ISBN 978 88 7911 503 2, €48

Formula 1 in the Zone
Clyde Brolin

Spirituality and motor racing: it’s not a comfortable mix. Whenever Ayrton Senna alluded to his faith and its influence on his racing, many would squirm. Not very ‘Stirling Moss’, is it?

That’s why Clyde Brolin’s thorough, 10-years-in-the-making study of such an intangible is so brave. He risked being laughed at when asking a roster of racing drivers including Alonso, Schumacher and Hamilton if they have experienced ‘out of body’ sensations in their quest to find the ubiquitous ‘zone’ of ultimate performance. Instead, the majority were happy to oblige.

It’s a fascinating book that delves deep into the psychology of sport. At times, the navel gazing wears a little thin, but still it’s a remarkable achievement. The most original motor racing book of 2010?

Without a doubt. DS

Published by Vatersay Books, ISBN 978 0 9564738 0 6, £9.99

Graham Robson

A timely entry in Robson’s Rally Giants series this, what with Ford having just lifted Lancia’s mantle of most successful WRC manufacturer ever, courtesy of Jari-Matti Latvala’s New Zealand victory.

Robson’s is a book of two halves, the first delving into the technical make-up of the various Deltas that graced the world’s rally stages with such ferocity – and not a little success – between 1987-93, and the second an overview of their competition history. Some fine images of this handsome car accompany the thorough text and no doubt Lancia fans will lap it up.

Two criticisms: I’d have liked to have heard more from team members and drivers involved with Lancia to add to the author’s own voice, and £16 seems a little expensive for a book of this size. GB

Published by Veloce, ISBN 978 1 845842 58 1, £15.99

J. Lemon Burton
Racing Cars
The Bugatti Trust/David Weguelin Productions

It’s no action drama, but Bugatti enthusiasts will enjoy this DVD of conversation with one of the best-known Bugatti dealers and racers. Jack Lemon Burton (now no more) bought his first Bug aged 16, and from the late 1920s on bought and sold vast numbers of them. Cutting from his garden railway to his photo albums, Burton talks cheerily about the cars – “I usually kept five or six to drive” – and the racing, from Brescia to 59.

A BOC founder, Burton had regular contact with Ettore, who told him not to import so many T50s as they weren’t his favourite, and shows us Ettore’s apologetic note when the Germans took over his factory. Burton frequently drove his GP Bugattis on the road, and also the Foster Royale, and there is film of this and various races. Enjoyable nostalgia. GC, £12.99