Reviews, November 2010

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PORSCHE 956
SKETCHES OF PERFORMANCES – Reynald Hézard and David Legangneux

Completists, form an orderly queue. Yes, plenty has been written about the sports car that defined 1980s endurance racing, but if you love Group C you’ll want this book.

The format is the same as the authors’ previous work dedicated to the Porsche 917: a pleasing mix of photography and sumptuous illustrations of every livery that adorned every chassis, accompanied by French and English details of each car’s life history. The 956 was the perfect canvas for colourful and very cool liveries. You’ve probably got your favourites, whether it be Jägermeister orange, Skoal Bandit green, BOSS pinstripes and so on. Illustrator Reynald Hézard has captured all of them beautifully.

It’s the detail that’s truly mind-boggling. He can’t be content with a single illustration of each chassis, from 956001 to 956118. That would not do because customer cars tended to feature various colour schemes during their racing lives. So Hézard has drawn an illustration to capture every time each car appeared on track, for test and race. The difference from one race to the next might be nothing more than a small sponsor’s logo appearing on the rear wing, but that’s enough to warrant a fresh drawing. Heaven for obsessive sports car fanatics!

The translated words rarely deviate from dry fact, but the thorough approach complements the illustrations very well. You’ll find the pages draw you in as you flick through, spotting the liveries you remember and the obscurities you don’t.

So what’s next for this pair? Surely, it has to be a third volume dedicated to the Porsche 962. DS Published by Le Mans Racing, ISBN 978 2 9518737 7 3, £49.99 (available from Chaters: www.chaters.co.uk)

INSIDE THE ARCHIVES
– Jesse Alexander

That most esteemed of motor sport photographers, Jesse Alexander, has trawled his archive in an effort to bring to light images hitherto unseen or which, despite initial rejection, the passage of time has revealed to be of notable aesthetic merit or historical significance. The resultant volume, is both fascinating and something of a ne plus ultra of the motor racing photographer’s art.

In his 50-year career Alexander has created some of the enduring images of the sport, from revealing driver portraits to moments of action which encapsulate a particular circuit or classic events such as Le Mans or the Targa Florio. Yet for every picture published dozens lie unused, and it is to this hoard that the photographer has returned. Every one of these 78 images is resplendent, and, accompanied by captions rich in apposite detail, collectively amount to an elegy for a vanished past, when racing was simpler and a more fraternal spirit suffused the air. Published by David Bull, ISBN 978 1 935007 10 6, £55

PASSION FOR SPEED
TWENTY-FOUR CLASSIC CARS THAT SHAPED A CENTURY OF MOTOR SPORT – Nick Mason and Mark Hales

This second edition of Into the Red provides another interesting insight to some of the greatest cars in existence, all from Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason’s collection. Sorry, not collection – he doesn’t like that word as it sounds “too deliberate, too passionless”.

Collection or not, his and Mark Hales’ enthusiasm for the machinery shines through as they recollect how these cars perform on track and what they are like to own. Once you’ve accepted what a different life Mason leads to many – “I am lucky enough to have a friend with both an Enzo and access to a current Grand Prix track…” – his experiences of owning and running these cars makes for a welcome addition. “I think I had too much fun with the launch control,” he says at one point. “We had to fit a new clutch within the first 1000 miles.”

Beautifully photographed, the book also comes with a CD of some of the cars’ engine noises. The BRM V16 has been on repeat on my iPod for a while now… EF Published by Carlton Books, ISBN 978 1 84732 639 3, £25

CAN-AM CARS IN DETAIL
MACHINES AND MINDS RACING UNRESTRAINED – Pete Lyons and Peter Harholdt

Unlike previous Can-Am histories this is devoted purely to the cars, not the racing. In one chapter per design it describes what was unique about everything from the conventional (but dominant) McLarens right out to the borders of sanity with the roller-skate Shadow and the glassfibre coffin of the Chaparral 2H.

Pete Lyons, an acknowledged expert who saw this stuff first-hand, has room here to get deep into the metalwork, and it makes fascinating reading – just how the seals on Jim Hall’s sucker car worked, why the Shadow had a hand clutch, how Hall was first with semi-active suspension. The photos are all studio shots and match the book for good quality. Interesting, though not cheap. GC Published by David Bull Publishing, ISBN 978 1 935007 11 1, £74.99

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