"The French Grand Prix"

by David Hodges. 253 pp. 7 1/2 in. x 6 1/2 in. (Temple Press Books, Bowling Green Lane, London, E.C.1. 35s.)

This is the fourth book in this series covering classic motor races, the previous titles being the Monaco and German G.P.s and Le Mans. Because of its arrangement for easy reference, its small but fascinating pictures, and its authoritative treatment of the subject, this is an extremely welcome addition to motor-racing history.

Having said that, I must qualify these remarks by saying that there are three reasons why another book about the French G.P. needs a good deal of justification. First, the subject has been admirably covered, from 1906-1914, by Kent Karslake’s original work, secondly, it has been expanded quite recently in both Mathieson’s and Court’s great tomes, and, lastly, the race lost the significance it once had after the First World War, when similar races were held in other countries and these sometimes overshadowed the French one. And, of course, the race goes on, so that Hodges, by concluding with 1966, has written an unfinished symphony.

The only way now remaining by which justice could be done to this race would be to live in France for a year, interviewing those who remember all the races, taking pictures of the circuits as they are now, and digging up views of them, and the cars, as they were, delving deep into any archives the French clubs and museums may preserve. I hope perhaps Karslake will do this in his retirement….?

Meanwhile, Hodges gives us a good concise reference work on this classic race. He writes of radiator grilles on the 1914 cars – was this so?– and throws more light on the leading Peugeot’s retirement in that race, quoting a dropped No. 3 exhaust valve, scored cylinders, an engine near to seizure, broken spokes in the steering wheel, and brake drums blued with heat, their drums distorted. He says “there seems to be no evidence to back up cogent arguments blaming a broken back axle” – which may or may not reopen that controversy! He covers briefly how the G.P. came into being, refers to the forerunners of 1895-1903 that launched it, lists starters and finishers for every race of the series up to last year, with enough descriptive matter to hold this together, and provides his usual fascinating appendices about the circuits, drivers and cars. The drivers span Abecassis to Zuccarelli, the cars run from Alcyon to Weigel, and there are tables showing the fate of the leading cars by nationality and make – an enormous task. Good show! – W. B.