Book Review

Cecil Clutton Reviews –

“The 200 Mile Race”by W. Boddy (Published by the Grenville Publishing Co., Ltd., 15 – 17 City Road, London, E.C.1 Price 8/6 net).

This book will appeal to different readers in different ways, but however it is regarded, Boddy has done a very useful and necessary job in writing it. In the introduction he writes of his hope that the book will be “the first of a series which will put the Sport in better perspective” and continues:

“There are various approaches to the subject, as I am well aware. I have chosen to write of a particular race, rather than of a make of racing car or the exploits of any one driver, because in this way, as I see it, the spirit of the thing is preserved, the cars are seen in action, as it were, the speculation of pre-race days recaptured. This, I think, is the correct approach in an age where statistics and planning and research tend rather to overshadow sport and the satisfaction of undertaking something for its own sake.”

This approach makes one realise the great possibilities for books of this kind, and such series as the French Grand Prix, Coupe de L’Auto and Le Mans.races all offer excellent book-matter. The 200 Mile Race is particularly interesting to the student of design, since it affords a history of light-car development during its most fertile years. For, although the series was discontinued from 1929 to 1935 inclusive these years were, in fact, doldrums so far as design was concerned, and the actual years of the race -1921-28 and 1936-38-cover the most active periods of design, except for the earliest childhood of the E.R.A. concern.

As a race, the earliest and latest were the most exciting, and the 1926-7-8 contests lost interest through lack of competition and spectators. But in the opening years competition was red-hot, and the entries showed the utmost diversity of design. The powers and speeds attained from these early 1 1/2-litre cars were altogether remarkable, and are quite difficult to exceed today on fuel of similar octane value. The author has evidently undertaken a vast amount of research and, to many people, the technical data included will prove the most valuable and interesting part of the book.

1925-8 still took place at Brooklands, but with the introduction of artificial corners. Whereas in the earlier years the field had been fairly closely matched and of diverse design, these later races showed the unassailable superiority of the G.P. formula cars and robbed the race of much of its interest.

When the series was resumed in 1936 it was at Donington, and this was perhaps one, of the most exciting races which has ever taken place. In general, the author-very wisely – employs a factual, unimpassioned style, relieved by occasional welcome touches of dry humour; but in 1936 his enthusiasm runs him into considerable literary exaltation, effectively recapturing the fever of that remarkable occasion, which turned on whether Seaman, driving. the evergreen Delage, without a pit stop, could stave off Lord Howe on a potentially faster E.R.A. which, however, had to refuel. That he did so is now history, so that identical cars won the race in 1928 and 1936.

That all this vital history, both of racing and racing-car design, has been gathered together in concise form is a most useful work, competently achieved, and the book is an important addition to motoring literature. It is, too, made additionally valuable and enjoyable by virtue of the copious plans and illustrations with which it is adorned. It is a pleasing touch that a foreword is supplied by H. J. Morgan, secretary of the Junior Car Club, under whose aegis the 200-Mile Race has been run; and that the book is dedicated to “those who derived enjoyment from long-distance motor races in England between the wars.”