Reviews, October 2015

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Ayrton Senna: Racing is in my Blood
Directed by Jean-Claude Guiter

The first thing that strikes you about this 1992 documentary is how far the genre has moved on in the past 20 years. Made-for-cinema films such as Senna have raised the bar of our expectations in terms of production – and in comparison, this hour-long study of the great Brazilian has dated badly.

Firstly, there’s the incessant use of squally music as an audio backdrop, although it’s a cliché that still entraps modern documentary makers (see the recent Lauda release). One question: why?

Then there’s the voiceover. Concessions can be made, given that English wasn’t the first language of the production team, but much of the narrator’s waffle doesn’t even make sense. And “aggressivity”? Really?

But… this is Senna, which means wonderful action footage, particularly the stuff captured by track-level cameras rarely used today. It reminds you once again just how visceral Formula 1 used to be. On-board with Senna through Suzuka’s 130R makes you blink.

Interviews back home in Brazil and on holiday catch him in relaxed mode, a different man to the tense figure of those famous press conferences. He’s still intense, of course, and utterly mesmerising.

His meditations on danger and the fragility of life bring a chill, because we – unlike the film-makers – know how this will end. Senna had yet to be defined by the horror of Imola 1994, which somehow works to this film’s advantage.

Worth viewing, despite its faults. DS
Duke www.dukevideo.com £16.99

Bugatti
Type 57 Grand Prix – A celebration
Neil Max Tomlinson

Don’t be put off by the word ‘celebration’, which sometimes translates as ‘some photos I’ve taken of a car I like’. This is a serious exploration by a member of the Bugatti Trust into the competition variants of Ettore’s, or perhaps more properly Jean’s, great Type 57 sporting machine. Backed as you’d expect by comprehensive photographs and drawings, it goes into the often confusing overlap between the inter-related T57 and T59 while explaining the almost endless differences in specification between the various competition chassis. It also challenges accepted history on these cars. Be prepared to get your hands dirty – we go right into numbers of chassis drillings that might indicate which gearbox may have been fitted to the 1939 Le Mans car, and even into compositions of various alloys.

Alongside the engineer author’s very evident deep research are photos of his own impressive collection of Bugatti models, especially the Tanks, which lightens the tone (even if they’re all black and white).

You need already to have some grip of Molsheim history to appreciate the depth of the information here, and I’m sure I won’t remember it, but that doesn’t matter. If ever I’m writing about Type 57 Bugattis I can dive into this. GC
Published by Veloce ISBN: 6-36847-04789-4, £50

Raymond Mays’ Magnificent Obsession
Bryan Apps

There is some fascinating content herein, not least copies of many letters exchanged between author Apps and key personnel in the dual stories of ERA and BRM, the marques in which Raymond Mays played a founding role.

These paint vivid portraits of refined manners in a different world, but some of the messages might be familiar. Corresponding with Apps, Mays wrote, “I have just come back from Switzerland, from where I went to Milan for the Italian Grand Prix, which I enjoyed, but the present cars and drivers are nothing to the earlier days.”

The date? September 21 1979…

The rest, unfortunately, is less edifying. The marque histories are little more than a series of thumbnails and sketchy race reports that add nothing to previously published works on the core subjects.

The whole is illustrated by Apps’ own paintings. Art is for others to judge, as I am woefully unqualified to pass comment on the technicalities, but some of the cars look a little out of proportion and I wouldn’t have recognised a few Grand Prix winners’ portraits without the aid of a caption. For all that, though, there are some pleasing illustrations, mostly of ERAs and 1950s BRMs, although there’s also a nice study of Jochen Rindt balancing his Lotus 72 on the throttle at Zandvoort in 1970. As the book draws towards its conclusion, other marques pop up with increasing frequency.

Far from perfect, then, but not without its charms and the creator’s passion is as obvious as it is absolute. SA
Published by Veloce ISBN: 978-1-845847-86-9, £40.00