“Niki Lauda For the Record My years with Ferrari” by Herbert Volker, translated into English by Diana Mosley. 222 pp. 8 1/4″ X 5 1/4 ” Kimber & Co. Ltd., Godolphin House, 225 Queen Anne’s Gate, London, SW1H 9AF £4.95)
The German title of this book is much simpler, it is Protokoll and is strictly more accurate as only the first part of the book is truly about Lauda’s life and times with Ferrari. The book is in three parts, the first being about the years with Ferrari, the second being a general chat on the life of a racing driver and a World Champion and the third part being historical “how I grew up and became a racing driver” stuff.
Much of the book was done on a tape recorder and journalist Herbert Volker put it all into words for Lauda. Diana Mosley has translated it almost literally into English sti) that many of the Passages sound like broken English and much of it is rather odd to present day reading eyes. The translation is faithfid enough, even to translating the mistakes; for instance, Volker talks of Lauda’s left car being damaged in the famous Nutburgring crash, and of opening the throttle Wide with the left foot, and practising down a Mountain pass for a hill-climb. Apart from jarring notes such as these the book does not flow, and is heavy going.
In part one -Lauda makes it quite clear that he has finished with the Ferrari team forever, and has no wish to return, and after some of the scathing things he says, they are not likely to have him back. It is all rather “sour grapes”, true enough and accurate, but a rather one-sided view. What he tells is all right, but he doesn’t tell the whole story. However, he does admit to striking a marshal with his helmet in Canada a few years ago. (We thought James Hum was the only driver who did that!). He has the Italian temperament well weighed up and his observations on what makes Italians “tick” are very shrewd, but it is clear that his Austrian upbringing could never let him lit into the Italian way of life. The best hit in part one is his description of being flown vertically upwards in a Northrop F5 supersonic fighter until it lost all speed and stopped, whereupon the pilot nonchalantly turns the plane over on its back and zooms downwards!
Part two is very interesting, for it is Lauda explaining why he lives the hermit-like existence that he does, in his Austrian mountain home with his wife and his dog, and very few friends. He analyses the life of a World Champion and tells about the things he doesn’t like. If he is paid to attend a publicity stunt and sign autographs he calls it “pain money”. On one occasion he was suffering from too much PR work and was becoming nauseated, so he asked to see the cheque he was to get when it was all over, in order to revive his flagging spirits. His explanations for not hoarding all the trophies he wins, or keeping vast Press cutting and photograph albums are very honest and very reasonable, but through it all you get the impression that Lauda is a lonely man and not very happy, even though he appears to have all he wants. He does not appear to enjoy life.
Part three is his brief racing life before joining Ferrari, his short stay with March and BRM, but it’s not very exciting stuff.
For the price it is a good read, but it is not likely to make you a Lauda fan, though it may make you admire and appreciate him a little more. It is more likely to make you feel sorry for him. (Don’t fret about the mistakes, like a Ferrari 31ST, or spelling Italian names wrongly, these things happen in the best circles). I) – D.S.J.