Book reviews, September 2004, September 2004

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Fangio: the life behind the Legend, by Gerald Donaldson ISBN I 85227 083 7 Published by Virgin Books, £9.99

Juan Manuel Fangio remains one of the most charismatic names in Formula One. He may have been eclipsed when Michael Schumacher outstripped his record of five world titles, but the story of his career is many times more exciting. There is simply no comparison between starting your career in karts and cutting one’s teeth in wild road races across the Pampas. Gerald Donaldson — one of the true gentlemen of the press room — made his name with his biography of fellow Canadian and friend Gilles Villeneuve. James Hunt was so impressed that he insisted that they work together on his biography, although their collaboration was cut short by James’s untimely death. This time, Gerald has had to work his magic on a driver whom he never had a chance to meet, but he’s not short on detail and anecdote — such as the intriguing chart-topping Fangio song of 1949, the mystery of the falling chandelier in London in 1952 and why he was on the verge of quitting the sport in 1955. The book starts with Juan Manuel’s childhood in upcountry Balcarce and works through until his death in 1995. What makes it work so well is the intense research that Gerald has undertaken. No stone has been left unturned.

The words are supported by a list and results of every race that Fangio entered from 1938 to when he hung up his helmet 20 years later. Launched in hardback form last year, this paperback has an even wider appeal as its cover price is less than a tenner — great value. The only downside is that there are but 16 photos in the book, all in black and white. BSJ

******

Scarlet Passion: Ferrari’s Famed Sports Prototype and Competition Sports Cars, by Anthony Pritchard: ISBN 1 85960 872 8, Published by Haynes, £35

It’s said that any book covering Ferrari will sell. This latest edition from Anthony Pritchard will certainly sell well and deservedly so, as it covers the most evocative period for sportscars bearing the Prancing Horse, especially sports-racers: the 1960s.

To be specific, it covers the period from 1962 to 1973 — in other words, from the 250GTO to the 312PB.

Pritchard, present at many of the races, covers how Ford and Porsche, then later Matra, tried to stop the red cars from winning and how Ferrari held its own. If you love the 250LM, desire the 330P4 or drool over the 512S, then this extremely well-illustrated book is a must, especially as the year-by-year analysis of each model is augmented by interviews with master engineer Mauro Forghieri and top drivers such as John Surtees and Brian Redman. It also includes the full story of the esteemed semi-works team entrant Colonel Ronnie Hoare of Maranello Concessionaires. BSJ

******

The return of the Silver Arrows: Mercedes-Benz 1954-1955: DVD produced by Terrific Stuff Ltd. Available atwww.temficstuico.uk or phone 020 8891 1872, £17.99

Mercedes-Benz made its return to motor racing, conquered it once again and then quit — all in a year and a half. Fifty years later, those two landmark seasons have been revived by this very special DVD.

Compiled in close association with DaimlerChrysler Classic Archive, it features wonderful footage of every Mercedes grand prix and sportscar appearance, from the dominant French GP return in 1954 to the ’55 Targa Florio when Stirling Moss in his 300SLR clinched the world sportscar crown.

There are too many highlights to list here, but the Dundrod TT of ’55 and the colour footage of the Monaco and British GPs from the same year do stand out. It should also be noted that the Le Mans tragedy of ’55 is handled tastefully with stills rather than the horror film of Pierre Levegh crashing into the crowd. In all, the best 72 minutes you can buy this year. DS

******

Coventry Climax Racing Engines, by Des Hammill, ISBN 1 903706 83 I Published by Veloce Publishing, £16.99

Coventry Climax was an engine builder that altered the face of F1 in the 1950s, but its impact seems to be ever more disregarded with the passing of years. This book by Kiwi engineer Des Hammill aims to put the record straight.

Think of Jack Brabham racing to his first world title in his Cooper in 1959 or Stirling Moss at Monaco in 1960 winning in Rob Walker’s Lotus and you’ll understand why grandees like Ferrari could only admire the genius of Wally Hassan, the man who adapted an engine meant for a portable fire pump into a unit that was small yet gutsy enough to take on the big boys.

Hammill was given full access to Hassan’s papers and has produced a book that is fact-filled, covering every engine from the FWP to the unraced FWMW flat-16. The book’s images are restricted to shots of engines, power curve graphs and engine cutaways, but it’s undoubtedly a definitive work. BSJ

******

Formula A and Formula 5000 in America: Race by Race by Wolfgang Klopfer, ISBN 3 8334 0566X Published by Books on Demand, 25 Euros

Follwing his book about Formula 5000 in Europe (Motor Sport, July 2004), Wolfgang Klopfer has updated his 2003 book on its North American cousin.

This follows the same format as the European book, with poor black and white photos. Look beyond this, though, and you’ll add meat to the bones of your knowledge of Formula A and, from 1971, F5000 which offered an alternative to Indycars on ovals for those drivers who wished to turn right as well as left.

There’s a full one-page report and top-10 results to every round from 1968 until the last race of 1976. It’s not glossy, but where else can you marvel at Graham McRae’s GM3 with its clear cockpit sides or revel at the sheer magnificence of Lothar Motschenbacher’s name? To order, e-mail [email protected] BSJ