Book reviews, May 2016, May 2016
Daring Drivers, Deadly Tracks
Brian Redman with Jim Mullen
Brian Redman’s long awaited racing biography is a cracker. Frank, outspoken, amusing and often sad, it’s not only a colourful picture of one of our finest drivers, but a damn good read. Avoiding a year-by-year progression, Redman weaves biography with chapters on his highlight tracks, for example Spa, where he won four times and almost lost his life. He lucidly explains both the lure and the fear.
It’s a double shock that among this consistently entertaining work, full of tales such as Clay Reggazoni and the burning newspaper, the reader is regularly pulled up short by chilling punctuations: “Lodovico Scarfiotti was 35 years old.” “Stefan Bellof was 28.” “My friend Jo Siffert was 35.”
But the most insightful part is the chapter ‘The mind of a driver’. Talking of how racers handled the then terrible toll of their sport, Redman says, “We all shared the same bias towards a single preposterous conceit – him, maybe, but not me.” And analysing why drivers blinded themselves to the risk, he continues “winning was the narcotic I craved”. It’s a rare and clear view into the driver’s mentality and skills by a man with unusual perspicacity, able to place himself without false modesty among the supremely skilled but equally aware of the ethereal gifts of those on that last step above – for example “the otherworldly Mr Ickx…”
Unusually, an epilogue by Redman’s wife Marion makes thoughtful points about her husband’s book – not least her summary: “The only way you could know more about… the racing life in this era was to have been there.” She may well be right. GC
Published by Evro
ISBN: 978-1-9120505-10-6, £50
Porsche 917 Workshop Manual
Another month, another manual from the firm that renounced motor sport publishing… yet still filters related titles onto the market at regular intervals. This is by no means as comprehensive as author Wagstaff’s sumptuous history of the 1970 Le Mans-winning 917, but is stamped with his trademark authority and features the usual Haynes blend of prose, photos, technical details and cutaway drawings embracing the original sports-racer and later Can-Am 917/10s and 30s.
There is plenty in here to like, but rather less to draw you into picking up a copy because the layout is such a mess – a point about this series that might have been raised once or twice before.
Good in its own way, though. SA
Published by Haynes
ISBN: 978-0-85733-765-8, £22.99
The 1968 London to Sydney Marathon
Clearly a labour of love, this details the impressive 10,000-mile endurance event contested by 255 men and women in 98 vehicles almost 50 years ago. Starting from its origins during an alcohol-fuelled lunch shared by Tommy Sopwith and Jocelyn Stevens, it traces the planning and promotion before delving into competitors’ personal stories, giving the book an important human touch.
The style of interjecting a chronological overview with chapters dedicated to different teams is a touch jarring, but many of the recollections are too good to pass up.
If the thought of reading about a half-century old endurance rally doesn’t appeal, think again. This is a fine, enjoyable book. JH
Published by McFarland
ISBN: 978-0-78649-586-3, £32
Personal Images and Insights from the Stars of F1
In essence the idea is good: Formula 1 paddock insiders are invited to submit a favourite photograph from the season just past and the results are collated in a book, all proceeds from sales being donated to the Great Ormond Street Hospital charity for children.
The content is also quite revealing. Fernando Alonso admits to a keen interest in photography and has taken professional lessons, but then submitted a shot from his iPhone. Lewis Hamilton took a tourist snap of bulldog Roscoe in Rome… but has a sound grasp of composition. Pretty landscapes reveal the inner sensitivity of such as Valtteri Bottas, Christian Horner and, particularly, Marcus Ericsson, but other submissions are simply snapshots of a year on the road. Some of these work well – Damon Hill’s abstract capture of the Abu Dhabi pit surface, for instance – while others don’t. Will Stevens describes a static shot of his Manor as “very cool”, which in this case is a euphemism for “bewilderingly dull”. Even if all shots were that bland, mind, there would still be a very sound reason to purchase. SA
Published by ZEM
ISBN: 978-0-9932229-1-7, £15 + £3.20 p&p from www.zoom-auction.com/book.html
Thomas Gruber & Georg Konradsheim
This heavyweight volume, which comes with slipcase, is based on an original work produced 23 years ago. Now, after three years of research, Viennese publisher TAG (not that one) presents a work almost double the size.
Completist? Oh yes. One of the key signatures is a comprehensive list of every RS produced, and this has been embellished with an array of period documentation that has surfaced in the past two decades. Chassis, engine and even transmission numbers for each are listed, plus spec details such as which radio was fitted to the car. A mind-boggling amount of work has gone into this chapter alone, while appendices include reproductions of the owners’ manual and even the original service information booklet.
Ahead of all this are reams of detail and hundreds of fine photos. Given the subject, the colour palette is predictably rich and myriad technical drawings give it added authority. DS
Published by TAG
ISBN: 978-3-9504911-1-1, €438
The Art of Race Car Design
Bob Riley with Jonathan Ingram
You may not be familiar with the subject, but you almost certainly know a lot about the cars for which he has been responsible over a long career. Bob Riley worked on the Ford GT40, designed Indycars for AJ Foyt and has produced a line of successful sports-prototypes bearing both his own name and those of others. Just as remarkable is the fact that he is still hard at it well into his 80s at the family Riley Technologies organisation.
Co-authored with US sports car expert Jonathan Ingram, this work takes a chronological look at Riley’s 60-year career and is packed full of nuggets. You probably didn’t know that Riley experimented with ground-effect aerodynamics at Indy as early as 1974. Or that he had two different designs on the front row at Indy in 1975: the Coyote he’d drawn for Foyt back in 1973 and the latest Wildcat built by Pat Patrick’s team.
It’s definitely a decent read that doesn’t get overly technical and Riley is happy to admit his mistakes. There’s also something in here for everyone courtesy of his varied career – he even designed a land speed record car. GW
Published by Icon
ISBN 978-1910584-10-1, £24.95