Driving Forces, by Alan Henry. Patrick Stephens Ltd, £14.99.
This book is well written and researched, as one expects from this meticulous author. Having said that, it’s really a pot-boiler, isn’t it Alan? Intended to cover “50 men who shaped the world of motor racing”, one feels that although all those included did so to a greater or lesser degree there are some odd omissions, so that either more should have been included or some omitted. There is no reference to Ernest Henry, for instance, who pioneered the 16-valve overhead-camshaft racing engines, with which Peugeot was so successful before the First World War, nor are Louis Coatalen’s quite considerable and sometimes innovative contributions to racing described.
Henry admits that he had a good-natured tussle with his publisher when excluding some of his nominees, which doesn’t surprise me, and he offers his final list as purely subjective. Anyway, you cannot cover such notable personalities in three pages each. What I can say is that this book, running from J C Agajanian to John Wyer, will provide a good read and some interesting new facts, before it is put on the shelf as a quick-reference volume. Of the people it deals with, of course Sir William Lyons gets a place, but of his devoted engineer William Heynes, who designed those wonderful straight-six twin-cam engines with which so many Jaguar competition successes were gained, not a word, and the book is out of date in saying Jaguar set out 40 years after dropping the SS tag towards building its brave new world as we know it today, with no reference to the Ford takeover.
H F Locke-King might have been included, without whom there would have been no motor racing in this country from 1907 to 1933, and Charlie Cooper could not have “built up a Bugatti T34 for Kaye Don”, because the Type 34 was a 16-cylinder aero-engine. The chapter on Raymond Mays says that Ettore Bugatti gave Mays a Brescia Bugatti “in recognition of his smashing of the outright record for Shelsley Walsh at the wheel of the Hillman” but no Hillman ever held the Shelsley Walsh record. .. A book not up to Henry’s previous high standards.