Book reviews, November 1989, November 1989

Conquest of Formula 1 by Christopher Hilton. 154pp. 10″ x 71/2″.  Patrick Stephens Ltd., Denington Estate, Wellingborough, Northants, NN8 2RQ. £16.95

This book, according to its subtitle, is the inside story of the men who took Honda to victory, told by the Daily Express sports feature writer who is Mansell’s biographer. The coverage runs from the appointment of Ronnie Bucknum as test driver of Honda’s racing cars in 1964 to Senna’s almost complete domination of F1 by 1988. Senna himself provides the Foreword. It is a readable book, but one directed at lay-readers and written with the journalistic approach.

For instance, simple explanations are given of items any schoolboy follower of GP racing already knows and “the complete description of Honda’s 1988 turbo F1 engine” on page 252, which the author says was “Inevitably largely unintelligible to any except trained engineers,” might defeat Auntie, but will not worry those schoolboys … This is not to say the book isn’t thoroughly readable, it is and it includes interviews with many Honda-orientated engineers and drivers, the latter including Brabham, Mansell, Prost, Piquet, Senna, Surtees, Ginther, Rosberg, Nakajima and many others. But the book doesn’t give the answers to what has made Honda the dominent force in modern Formula One. But then, you wouldn’t expect it to, would you? WB

The World Atlas of Motor Racing  by Joe Saward. 224pp. 11″ x 9″. Hamlyn, Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, London, SW3 6RD. £14.95.

Although not comprehensive, this atractively produced guide contains descriptions of over 200 racing circuits worldwide and of these approximately 70 are covered extensively. For each of the major circuits, the author has written about a page of text often describing the venue from a driver’s viewpoint as well as providing an historical sketch of the course, epic races, incidents, and, sadly too often, places where drivers lost their lives. The illustrations are of high quality: almost a hundred colour photographs are included in addition to excellent pen-and-ink drawings or outline diagrams depicting various circuits: together, they provide the reader with a Panoramic and vivid picture of racing around the world. Circuits currently in use receive greater emphasis, even if, as with some street courses, their existence appears ephemeral. Regrettably some historically significant circuits, like Brooklands, get only slight coverage (a couple of sentences) whilst newer venues, Birmingham, for example, are allotted two full pages or more. DDH

Jensen  by Keith Anderson. 200pp. 93/4″ x 63/4″. GT Fouls & Co. Ltd., Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ. £15.95

The Jensen stemmed from the Jensen brothers’ special bodied A7, progressing via their coachwork for popular pre-war chassis such as Morris 8, Singer, Standard and Wolseley Hornet, not forgetting Clark Gable’s Jensen-bodied Ford V8s.

Keith Anderson, who is editor of the Jensen Owners Club magazine and has worked on Jensens for the restorers Cropredy Bridge Garage, has put the complete history of this individual make, which became a notable car in luxury circles and also a significant high performance product in later years, pioneering 4WD, into this new book. The commercial vehicles and contract work for other car-makers are not neglected, the 541, C-V8, and Interceptor and FF have chapters to themselves, as has the Jensen-Healey and the illustrations, some in colour, are excellent. Another one-make slot filled! WB

Another booklet in the Shire Publications’ “Shire Album” £1.75 series is The Scottish Motor Industry by Michael Worthington-Williams. In spite of the modest price it contains a comprehensive survey of the subject, with 46 pictures, which is value indeed. Apart from the expected Scottish makes, the author lists another 66 such manufacturers. Recommended! WB

Ian Bamsey has done another very technical book about modern racing cars and their engines. This one, from Foulis/Haynes of Yeovil, and priced at £24.95, is Porsche Turbo Racing Cars. It deals with those Porsches raced in Can-Am events, the Le Mans-dominating Porsches, the F1 engines used successfully by McLaren, and the Indy racing cars, up to the turbo-racers of the 1980’s. There is a chapter by Richard Lloyd about racing a Group C car as a private owner. There are all the expected good pictures in colour and many double page spreads of cars, engines, cockpits and action shots — which means illustrations of 12″ to 16″ — enough to turn on even the least demonstrative of Porsche followers. But it is for its technical data that this 159 page book really excels. WB

The new headmaster of Stowe School has issued a brochure which informs us that among his hobbies is driving his 1924 Red Label Bentley. In this he follows a former Stowe English master and famous author, TH White, who also drove a vintage Bentley. We have commented more than once on the cars which figure in the poems of John Betjeman, but it may be less widely known that cars also feature in the lyrics of playright Noel Coward such as Isotta Fraschini, and the Bugatti, Rolls-Royce, Daimler, Lagonda, Humber Snipe, Austin Healey 3000, Chevrolet and Bentley, seen from a pre-war Seven on the Kingston by-pass. But one wonders why Coward included a Frazer Nash Town Saloon, although to his credit, he omitted the hyphen … ! WB