Reviews – books, June 2007

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The Grand Prix companion

Alan Henry

With the possible exceptions of caravan and lawnmower racing and Formula Talbot, almost all topics have now been covered in the field of motorsport literature. 

This offering, however, is different. Veteran motor racing reporter Alan Henry has edited his vast bank of knowledge and condensed the results into a user-friendly miscellany that bristles with facts, figures and anecdotes. 

The highlights include a mobile phone conversation with Niki Lauda as the triple world champion taxis one of his own commercial jets in Rome and an admission that the author can’t tell his Gianmaria Brunis from his Zsolt Baumgartners. 

Poignant in parts. Delightful throughout. SA

Published by Icon Books,
ISBN 1840467967, £9.99 

City of speed

Joe Scalzo

The subhead reads ‘Los Angeles and the rise of American racing’, and Scalzo brilliantly recounts the history, legends and tall tales to emerge from the West Coast’s speed-hungry hub. 

It’s thoroughly researched but far from dry: the author acts as narrator with a rapid-fire, often very personal delivery. It’s well illustrated, too: laugh at the account of counterfeit Frenchman Leon Duray’s Miller exploits, stare in disbelief at the images of Mike Mosley’s roadster eating Armco and marvel at the picture of a bra-less Jayne Mansfield being ferried around the Pomona raceway in an Elva Courier. 

Scalzo is a joy to read and this is worth buying if only for the often scabrous text and captions. He pulls no punches: “Nineteen sixty-three, the season when rear-engine flu really caught hold, Hank the Deuce spent lots of his FoMoCo’s jack entering in the 500 a matched set of flimsy fiberglass bathtubs filled with gasoline and covered with stressed-skin.

“Of course, these Lotus-powered-by-Fords were the brain strokes of Chapman, and wherever Chapman went, it seemed, drivers died. His flyweight products had already made cadavers out of some of the globe’s top chauffeurs; at Indy they’d almost take out a trio of 500 champions.”

It’s a must for anyone enamoured of American motor racing lore, with plenty to enthrall the casual reader. More, please. RH

Published by Motorbooks,
ISBN 0760327203, £25 

Montlhery – The story of the Paris Autodrome

Bill Boddy

A hardback, 232-page reprint of Motor Sport founding editor Bill Boddy’s excellent 1961 volume charting the history of the historic track outside Paris, which opened for racing in October 1924 and which used to stage the French Grand Prix.

An extra chapter has been added, updating the story to include post-1961 action.

Part of the massive appeal of this book is in the wealth of detail which is included, covering the races that took place there on the various layouts, including the super-fast banked section. 

Also covered are speed record attempts, for which the name of Montlhéry is equally well known. It includes stories of some of the heroes who pushed the boundaries on their way to setting records at the circuit – including George Eyston and the remarkable Gwenda Stewart – and a number of evocative contemporary pictures in black and white. NP

Published by Veloce Publishing, ISBN 1845840526, £17.99

Unraced… Formula One’s lost cars

SS Collins

The legend on the dust jacket reads: ‘The previously untold stories of cars that defined an era.’ No, we don’t know what that means either, but this is still a good and extremely interesting effort. 

Collins has thoroughly researched the stories behind nine machines that never troubled a grand prix grid. Research in the UK, Germany, France and Japan has unearthed a host of technical data behind  stillborn projects and those that were plain uncompetitive.

The book covers the Honda RC100/RC1.5x (1993-1995), Lola T95/30 (1995), DAMS GD-01 (1995), Honda RC2x (1995-1996), Dome F105 (1996), Lola T97/30 (1997), Honda RA099 (1999), Premier1 prototype (2001) and McLaren MP4/18 (2003), and also includes a list of all F1 projects (raced and unraced) from 1995 to 2005. 

While not a criticism as such, concentrating on the last decade or so means there is still scope for a definitive history of the many unraced pre-90s F1 chassis; Kieft, Cisitalia, Pearce-Martin and the like. How about it, Sam? RH

Published by Veloce Publishing,
ISBN 9781845840846, £25

CONDENSED READS

Mille Miglia

Anthony Pritchard

All about the great Italian road race, with sections on its origins, prominent drivers and cars, and the races. There’s also a digest of the aftermath of Alfonso de Portago’s accident which brought it all to an end after the 1957 event. A good selection of illustrations and accounts from participants leaven the mix but it’s a shame the few colour photos are not used well. NP

Published by Haynes,
ISBN 9781844251391, £35

Jet blast and the hand of fate

John Ackroyd

As an engineer and designer, Ackroyd has been involved in all manner of cars from the pedestrian Enfield 8000 to the altogether quicker Thrust SSC. And that’s before you consider the jet ’bikes and hot air balloons. A cracking read. RH

Published by Redline Books,
ISBN 9780954435783, £29.95

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