Book reviews, June 2015, June 2015

Where The Writer
Meets The Road
A collection of articles, broadcast intros and profiles
Sam Posey

There aren’t so many drivers who can write, or vice versa, but Sam Posey competed in top-level events – Indy 500, Le Mans and Grands Prix – and had a parallel career at the typewriter, writing for Road & Track from its inception, and at the commentary mike.

This is a compilation of writings – programme entries, on-air bios, thought pieces – which bring a different slant to the racing business, whether it’s succinct word sketches of Jim Hall and Mark Donohue, atmosphere pieces about the Speedway Motel, or memories of his Challenger having a new roof welded on overnight when it proved over-etched.

All are short, making this a good lunchtime dip when you’ll find background to the Calder BMW Art Car he drove (the team was so pleased with the publicity they planned dinner on Saturday, expecting the car to fail) or the throwaway comment that while driving a Ferrari 512 down Mulsanne in those scary-aero days he looked over at the 917 of Pedro Rodriguez “white as a sheet, steering like mad with no response…” Despite some erratic layout, an entertaining read. GC

Published by David BullISBN: 978-1-935007-27-2, $29.95

First Principles
The Official Biography of
Keith Duckworth
Norman Burr

Blackburn was something of a boom town during the UK’s industrial revolution and seems an appropriate place of birth for an industrial revolutionary such as Duckworth, who died 10 years ago but whose influence continues to be felt. Cosworth, the company he co-founded in 1958, might no longer have its name on the cam covers of a modern Grand Prix engine, but it supplies many components at every level of the sport, is heavily engaged in a number of performance road car programmes and continues to provide the loudest heartbeat at many a historic event.

The story begins with an anecdote about his future mum taking a sidecar trip along Southport Sands (upsetting a couple of po-faced Daily Mail readers in the process) and goes on to plot the career of a man whose exceptional achievements earned him an OBE without the wider public every really knowing a great deal about him.

Author Burr has done a very good job of stitching the various bits together and there is much, much more within the covers than the book’s compact dimensions imply: the type is particularly small – so much so that it looks almost Dickensian.

Worthwhile, in a word. SA

Published by Veloce ISBN: 978-1-845845-28-5, £35

Joey Dunlop
King of the Roads
Stephen Davison

It seems barely possible that 15 years have elapsed since motorcycle racing lost Joey Dunlop, the Isle of Man TT king who perished while taking part in a minor 125cc race near Tallinn, Estonia.

Originally published in 2000, this largely pictorial work draws on the wonderful archive of road-racing photographer Stephen Davison, who was but a young boy when he first watched Dunlop in action. His images pick up the story in 1977 – when Dunlop scored the first of his record-breaking 26 TT wins – and take us through to the time of his passing.

Davison covered a great many of Dunlop’s races, but admits they didn’t speak terribly often. Each went about their own business, a few steps apart, and the candid portraits are absolutely dripping with character. Compared with any contemporary motor sport equivalent, driver or rider neatly groomed, sponsorship patches just so, obligatory cap masking facial features, those of a grime-stained Dunlop are vastly superior.

And the action shots? They’re pretty inspiring, too. SA

Published by Pacemaker ISBN: 978-1-84717-685-1, £12.99

The Porsche 924 Carrera
Evolution to excellence
Roy Smith

In publishing terms this is arguably as niche as ‘niche’ gets. That might explain the limited print run (just 1500 copies) and a price of significant heft.

The 924 Carrera was an attractive car, on road or track, but was designed as a stop-gap and never destined for a long shelf life. Given which, its life story was passably busy. Author Smith has left few nuts or bolts unturned through more than 300 pages, his prose bisected with graphs, technical documents and photos of everything from 924 Carrera GTs at Le Mans to pressure sensors and transaxles.

Thorough, then. SA

Published by Veloce ISBN: 978-1-845846-45-9, £75

The Racing Car:
Ferrari 250 GTO
Doug Nye

This is the first interactive e-book I’ve read – viewed – consumed – what is the right verb? Anyway, once you’ve downloaded it it becomes very like our digital magazine version, combining running text with photos that turn into video – and of course sound. And if there’s one element that brings the mental picture of Ferrari’s glorious GTO into focus, it’s the spiralling shriek of that V12 filling its lungs. Even through laptop speakers.

With respected historian Nye as author it’s a comprehensive story, with inside detail from a man who has driven several of the beasts plus a fine spread of images. While conventional in structure – driving sensations, the genesis, technical outline, race history etc – this production also lets you zoom into a cutaway drawing to see close-up photos or watch onboard footage of a GTO racing. It’s more than just pictures that move, though: here it’s the author, or owner Nick Mason, talking to you, a degree of involvement no book can offer. Cheaper than print; for Mac users only, though. GC

Published by Monza iTunes e-book, £8.99

America’s Star-Spangled Sports Car
Karl Ludvigsen

Let’s get the obvious out the way first: if you’re not a Corvette fan, this 750-plus page book probably won’t have a lot to interest you. But even if you’ve only got a passing fancy in the history of Chevy’s sports car or GT racing in general, there’s a huge amount of information contained within.

Ludvigsen deftly weaves through the car’s different eras, moving from the many Corvette concepts via GM’s marketing campaigns to John Greenwood’s lairy race-prepared versions. Although the motor sport angle is a big attraction, one of the most interesting aspects of the Corvette’s history is its design stages – the general impression of the American car industry is that it ignored European achievements for too long, but even in the 1960s GM’s designers were looking to Porsche et al for inspiration.

Reasonably priced for a book of its size, Ludvigsen’s effort might still be expensive for the non-enthusiast. But there’s a wealth of fascinating history inside and that makes it well worth a look. ACH

Published by Bentley ISBN: 978-0-8376-1659-9, £37.50