EPIC NARRATIVE OF PIONEERING DAYS.
TEN YEARS OF MOTORS AND MOTOR RACING. By Charles Jarrott.
(RADCLYFFE & HUTCHINGS, Illus. 7s. 6d. nett).
IN reprinting Ten Years of Motors and Motor Racing the publishers have rendered a real service to the motoring world, and it is incredible that Charles Jarrott’s book was ever allowed to drop out of print. To the rising generation of motoring sportsmen, with their Bugattis and Amilcars, Alvises and Aston-Martins the state of affairs existing when Jarrott held a wheel is bordering on the legendary and mythical. Nowadays, when motoring has developed into an every day affair, when long journeys can be safely accomplished at high speed and without the slightest suspicion of mechanical failure, we find it hard to realise that, not so many years ago, a motorist needed to be a man of tremendous physical resource and of the greatest stamina. A journey of a hundred miles only thirty years ago took on the atmosphere of a present-day round-the-world tour, and it was not unknown for an automobilist to abandon his machine after ceaseless struggle, and to stagger back to his home by train in a state of collapse.
In his memoirs, Colonel Jarrott mentions quite casually that four hours were spent mending tyres. The idea of a modern youth repairing his tyres on the road side at all has become preposterous. Thus, it will be seen that Ten Years carries us back to a period in motoring history which resounds with titanic struggles against disaster, when every motorist was a hero, and every journey the voyage of a pioneer.
Of all the men qualified to tell us of those days, none is more acceptable than Colonel Charles Jarrott. His whole being was wrapped up in the things of the automobile, and his prowess is not unknown even to the present generation of motorists, even though his name has taken on the aura of fame accorded to the semimythical heroes—the Chevalier de Knyff, Charron, Giradot, the ” eternal Second,” Baron de Caters and the other giants whose names still live despite the passage of the years.
Ten Years is written in a crisp, terse style, which is typical of the writer. Its simple language adds in no small measure to the fascination of this enthralling book, and Colonel Jarrott has cause to be proud of his incursion into letters. His quick forceful sentences create an absorbing atmosphere, and in his pages the past lives again, when the long dusty roads of France were the scenes of Homeric struggles between the immense monsters which were the racing cars of those days. Not for them the banked track, or the closed road circuit, but the highways of Europe were their race courses, and great capitals their destinations. Not for them an entry of a few dozen cars, their numbers were to be counted in hundreds. If you want grim realism, a story reeking with the dust and fumes of the old-time long-distance race, read the chapter on the Paris-Madrid of 1903, the Race of Death.
Indeed, I have never read a book which–was more quotable than this, and an excerpt taken at random must serve to show the quality of this remarkable book. The following is taken from the account of the ParisVienna race of 1902 :—
” The Arlberg at last ; and we were climbing up the first portion of the ascent in magnificent style . . . . Then the summit was reached, and we began to descend. The ‘Seventy’ (70 h.p. Panhard) had been travelling magnificently, and I was straining every nerve to regain some of the lost time which we had expended in repairing our car and returning for the lubricating oil. As we rushed down the mountain, corner after corner presented itself, and with hundreds of twists and turns the road lead down towards the plain.
“The aspect of a number of drivers on the descent was curious. Some were crawling down slowly with the brakes hard on, whilst others had actually stopped to rest. Then, swinging round a corner, I came upon a driver sitting in his car, which was motionless, with his head buried in his hands. A few yards further on I came across a coat and a bag of tools. . . . What had actually happened was that Max, a driver of a Darracq car, had gone clean over the precipice, and the sight had so unnerved the driver of the car following that he was rendered helpless and unable to proceed another yard.”
And if that is not pure, unadulterated drama, I do not know what is.
Ten Years of Motors and Motor Racing runs to 290 pages and an appendix, whilst it is copiously illustrated with photographs and maps, of which there are nearly fifty, all of great historic interest. Truly a magnificent book, and an achievement of which colonel Jarrott may well:feel proud.
R. L. W.
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