Reviews, September 2005

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Speed Addicts: Grand Prix Racing  by Mark Hughes. ISBN 0007212798, Published by CollinsWillow, £35.00

Who needs yet another offering purporting to be “the complete and definitive illustrated book of grand prix motor racing”? But from a wasteland of grubby, badly written, poorly subbed potboilers emerges this magnificent book, its stunning images accompanying the works of the incomparable Hughes.

He is, without question, the best English-language journalist ever to grace Formula One. It’s easy to look back with rose-tinted spectacles at some of the fêted names of the past, but none of them have so effectively combined a passion for and understanding of the human and  technical sides of the sport, viewed the political machinations with such wry, subversive humour and informed us so well as to how this affects what happens on the track. And all done with such creativity. He’s our own beatnik Kerouac taking the best bits from the F1 journalistic greats and raising the bar for everyone.

Hughes does that ever week in Autosport, filling in the colour between the black-and-white of what you saw on TV on a Sunday afternoon, helping you understand why it happened. In this book he’s broken up 55 years of the World Championship, but within those eras there is no turgid chronology. Read each era précis (and its detailed captions) as a whole and, for those new to such ancient history, a good working knowledge can be built up. For those familiar with the great names, cars and races, there is new material and insight to illuminate our understanding of what made these men tick and perform in the ways they did.

The photography comes from the archives of Keith Sutton, much of which he’s bought in. There’s some gorgeous stuff – and there’s also some shocking stuff. The full page shot of Lorenzo Bandini’s fatal accident at Monaco in 1967 makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. But worry not: there are no images where you unmistakably see a man dying – there is nothing in this book that could truly be considered in bad taste.

The use of the ‘Speed Addicts’ title is quite clearly a cheeky druggy double entendre, one entirely in keeping with the book and the people Hughes empathises with. As with the great drivers, team owners, engineers, tyre men, mechanics and fans who’ve spent a month’s wages on attending a grand prix, he is an adrenalin junkie who is always on the look-out for his next hit. This publication should keep you on a high for a while. — MS

***

Powered by Jaguar: the Cooper, HWM, Lister and Tojeiro sports-racing cars  by Doug Nye.  ISBN 1899870776, Published by MRP, £29.99

Reissued and expanded, this effective history of Jaguar XK-powered sports-racers is written in a typically studious manner by historian Nye, so you get detailed back stories behind each marque and a thorough overview of their accomplishments. And it is very detailed. Inclusive, too, kicking off with Frank Le Gallais’ LGS hillclimber. What really impresses here is the chassis register which deciphers individual histories, and the author isn’t afraid to describe ‘moody’ cars as being ‘entities’ or ‘lookalikes’. A useful reference work. —  RH

***

Rubens Barrichello: In the Spirit of Senna and the Shadow of Schumacher  by David Tremayne.   ISBN 1844252000, Published by Haynes, £18.99

Aside from a shabby outburst against Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the wake of the 2000 Italian GP shunt that killed a marshal, Rubens Barrichello has long been one of the most dignified drivers in the F1 paddock. This author, who always wears his heart on his sleeve, clearly likes him too, but he’s at his poignant best when he’s writing about the real heroes of the sport. ‘Rubinho’ is an excellent driver, but not truly inspirational, and even Tremayne’s fine crafting can’t do much about that. From a well-heeled background, nice guy Rubens turns in two or three exquisite performances a year just to remind you he’s there. In other words, if Tremayne was a music writer this would be his book about Keane to while away the time before his fantastic offering on real gods like Led Zeppelin. — MS

***

Morgan at Le Mans  by David Dowse.  ISBN 0752434888, Published by Tempus, £17.99

This isn’t a blow-by-blow history of the Malvern marque at Le Mans, so don’t expect much on Chris Lawrence’s class win in 1962 or any gen on the pre-war years. Instead, Morgan’s former press officer and team manager Dowse relates how and why this idiosyncratic make returned to international competition with the boss-eyed Aero 8 in 2002 and relates the relief as it made the flag at Le Mans in 2004.

Despite expectations – repro is poor and the layout is dull – this is actually a very engaging read, the sort of plucky ‘against all odds’ story that British minnows are so good at. Dowse relates how the unfancied BMW-powered racers struggled for credibility with many, and states his belief that the manufacturer did little to capitalise on the Aero 8’s relative success. —  RH

***

Motor Racing: reflections of a lost era  by Anthony Carter.  ISBN 1904788106, Published by Veloce, £35.99

Yet another album of classic racing images, but this one is better than most. With informative overviews ushering in each chapter, Carter has an engaging style of writing, very much from an enthusiast’s point of view rather than a journalistic one.

But it’s the images that are the major draw in this work and there’s a wonderful array from the mid 1950s through to the late ‘70s. We particularly like the pit photographs: Phil Hill, fag in hand, in discussion with his credulous looking mechanics alongside the Aston Martin Project 215 prior to the 1963 Le Mans 24 Hours; a smiling John Surtees giving a spanner man a lift in his Lola T70 after the 1966 International Guards Trophy; and Ronnie Peterson apparently wearing his Lotus 72.  Pricey, but fun to dip into nevertheless.  —  RH

***

Ferrari by Mailander by Karl Ludvigsen.  ISBN 1854432133, Published by Dalton Watson Fine Books, £65

These days it’s hard to imagine a reviews page that doesn’t feature a book about Ferrari. Seemingly designed to damage coffee tables, this thumping 386-page heavyweight, completed with slipcase (naturally), could so easily have been another soulless cash-in. That it isn’t is down to Rodolfo Mailander’s wonderful images and Ludvigsen’s insightful captions.

In 1950 Mailander gained Enzo’s trust (eventually) and was allowed pretty much free rein to photograph what he liked in the factory and at the races, and you do get a real sense of what the nascent scuderia was like during its early years. The photos are uniformly beautiful and, for once, they’re not cropped in.  A pity, then, that it’s over-designed in places. Don’t let that put you off, though. — RH

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