Book Reviews, June 1966, June 1966

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“Great Racing Drivers” (Edited by David Hodges. 175 pp. 11 3/16 x 8 1/4 in. (George Newnes Ltd., Tower House, Southampton Street, London, W.C.2 42s.)

With so many books about racing cars, great races, race circuits and so on, we have often wondered when the drivers, treated individually rather than as a collective subject for scientific analysis, or singly as in their various personal biographies, would appear.

This book fills the gap, or partially does so—I say only partially, for it is a cross-section of autobiographies of some of the great drivers down the years, from 1898 to 1961—but only a cross-section, because drivers of today are ignored and, indeed, the selection of “greats” includes only 29 drivers. Moreover, various specialist writers were commissioned to write about a driver or drivers of their fancy, so that hero-worship can be sensed where a dispassionate appraisal might have been more appropriate, and there is some inconsistency, inasmuch as treatment differs from author to author, and a driver’s outstanding victories are catalogued in some cases but not in all. Moreover, some chapters are superficial, one contains information afterwards questioned in a footnote, an American record is claimed as a L.S.R. when it was not recognised in Europe, and there are other inaccuracies.

This is, then, a rather casual study of the top-rank racing drivers down the ages, written as different authorities saw and assessed them. Thus we have Ickx on Camille Jenatzy, W.F. Bradley writing about Felix Nazzaro, Robert Benoist and Louis Chiron, von Frankenberg dealing with Lautenachlager and Caracciola, Scott-Bailey giving his impression of the American Bruce-Brown, Kaufman telling us of another American, Ralph de Palma, S.C.H. Davis writing about Georges Boillot, the idol of France (it is interesting, in view of what has passed in these pages in recent months, that he gives Boillot’s dramatic retirement from the 1914 French Grand Prix as due to engine trouble), and Posthurnus bringing back to memory Segrave and Rosemeyer. They commissioned Gianni Canullieri to write of the Ascaris, Antonio and Alberto, Eason Gibson to promote his unquestionable champion Nuvolari, Walkerley to contribute chapters about Fagioli, Birkin and Etancelin, while there is Gianni Martin on Varzi, Seoniger on Stuck, Eves on Wimille, Gibson again, on Sommer, Boddy on Seaman, Editor Hodges on Lang, Bloemker on Wilbur Shaw, Lurani on Farina, Kirbus on Fangio, Philip Turner on Hawthorn, Gregor Grant on Collins and Jenkinson on Moss—so it comes out at less than Is. 6d. per driver.

There are also plenty of excellent pictures, each driver getting a full-page illustration as well as action shots; it is significant of the dearth of fresh illustrative material that the publishers proclaim proudly that some are now published for the first time. This is a Temple Press book published by George Newnes Ltd.—W.B.