editorial, September 1997

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Two books have caught my eye in the last month. First is Eric Dymock’s biography of Jim Clark. Great though the man was, I thought I’d reached the stage when I’d read about as many words about him as my lifetime would likely stand. Not so. Dymock’s book is compelling, not least because its story is told with clear affection that stops short of the fawning adulation with which so many seem obliged to equip themselves before penning a word about a dead racing driver. Those in search of an engrossing read or an easy present could do a lot worse.

The second book has, on the face of it, nothing at all to do with dead racing drivers yet still manages to publish photographs of the wrecks in which Antonio Ascari, Campari and Sivocci lost their lives. Worse, this book about a man not best known for his driving, still finds an excuse to publish photographs of Von Trips’ Ferrari an instant before it tore into the crowd at Monza, killing its driver and 13 others, Peterson in hospital just before his death, Ayrton on the ground at Imola beside his stricken Williams and a particularly ghoulish shot of Jochen Rindt’s body, still in the Lotus after his fatal accident. I find such images revolting. I’m not saying we should pretend that racing drivers don’t get killed and I have agreed with the decisions of many editors to publish photographs of accident scenes either because they constitute professional reporting of a current news story or because, as in the case of Senna’s accident, they shed further light on an on-going investigation. But to pepper a book with such tragic images by way of casual illustration is, at best, thoughtless, crass and insensitive. At worst it is the cynical exploitation of other people’s misery. The drivers may not be around any more but their families are. The name of this book? I wouldn’t give its publishers the pleasure.

Now you know what the various drivers, constructors, owners and hacks we polled consider to be the greatest car in the world, we’d like to know what your choice would be. Simply turn to page 52, fill in the form and send it to us. If you don’t wish to carve up your magazine, a photocopy will do just as well. All suggestions must reach us by August 29th. We’ll publish the results in the next issue and I’ll send a bottle of decent Scotch to the most thought-provoking entrant.

On a not unrelated subject, we had an enjoyable time compiling the information for our cover story, but we had to think hard about how to handle those who were less than specific with their choice of greatest cars. Did we, for instance, reject the entries of those who had nominated marques instead of individual cars or chuck their suggestions back asking them to try again? In the end we published the lists in the form received. If John Cooper decides to nominate Ferrari as his greatest of all, I do not feel in the least bit inclined to suggest otherwise either to him or, for that matter, to you. So, if that means our survey lacks the merit of total scientific control it also means that what you read comes truly from the hearts and heads of our contributors, which I feel is rather more important. To them all, I extend the heart-felt thanks of us all for taking part in such good spirit.

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