Reviews, September 2009

German Racing Silver
Drivers, Cars and Triumphs of German Motor Racing
Karl Ludvigsen

French Racing Blue
Drivers, Cars and Triumphs of French Motor Racing
David Venables

This is the second pair of volumes in this innovatively themed series based on country from publisher Ian Allan, better known for transport works than motor racing. In the blue corner well-known historian Venables takes us smoothly through French achievements, mixing the racing with background on the various makers and the disruptive politics of the time. It’s not just about success – the SEFAC and the F1 Martini get their due mentions along with the Bugattis and the gorgeous Matra sports cars.

Ludvigsen (also the series editor) has written extensively on the Silver Arrows, and naturally Mercedes, Porsche and Auto Union/Audi are a central element of his book, but he avoids making these well-known elements repetitive by use of early drawings, unseen photographs and small diversions on people and cars, while leaving himself room for the less remembered – the EMWs, Fafnirs and DKWs. The book cuts off at 2008, so McLaren-Mercedes is still winning…

He discusses the origins of the ‘silver arrows’ phrase (it pre-dates the apocryphal paint-stripping episode) and the use of silver instead of white as Germany’s racing colour, both of which he has researched deeply.

Squeezing an entire country’s racing into one volume can’t have been easy, yet neither volume feels rushed, and there are nice illustrations in both. GC
Ian Allan Publishing, ISBN 9780711033689 & ISBN 9780711033696, £24.99

Crazy Horses
The history of British drag racing
Brian Taylor

This book covers the beginnings of the British drag racing scene in the late ’50s through to the present day. Author Taylor was involved from the start as a commentator and promoter, and he brings his and many other enthusiasts’ experiences to the pages of this terrific book.

A US invasion of big-name teams and drivers in the early ’60s gave drag racing a boost that saw up to 20,000 fans turning up to events at makeshift drag strips on RAF bases. These spectacular Anglo-American events laid the foundations of today’s nitro-burning sport.

Wonderful period pictures fill the book, all helping to illustrate the basic but action-packed format of quarter-mile racing. Even Dave Lee Travis makes an appearance!

With restoration work on one of the earliest British dragsters, Sydney Allard’s car, in full swing, this is the perfect time to discover how the sport began here in Blighty. DC
Published by Haynes Publishing, ISBN 9781844254255, £25

Motor racing at Brands Hatch in the eighties
Chas Parker

British Touring Car Racing
The crowd’s favourite – late 1960s to 1990
Peter Collins

Two more volumes to add to Veloce’s ‘Those were the days…’ series. Brands Hatch specialist Chas Parker takes up where his book on the ’70s left off with great photos of the Kent track during the next decade – all taken from the spectator banks. Parker focuses on F1, but there’s lots of variety from Thundersports to Formula Ford. The highlight has to be his shot of the Red Arrows display at the 1982 GP…

The second book, by photo journalist Peter Collins, focuses on classic tin-top action from around Britain, and the pictures are mostly of a high standard. These books make no claim to be definitive accounts of eras. They’re personal photo albums – and they’re all the better for it. DS
Both published by Veloce Books, ISBN 9781845842147, £14.99 & ISBN 9781845842475, £14.99

The Treasures of Formula One
F1 History in your Hands
Bruce Jones

This story of Grand Prix racing follows the sport from its origins in the 1890s through to Hamilton winning the 2008 title. After a foreword by Sir Stirling Moss, the book catalogues F1’s evolution decade by decade. Although the book doesn’t contain a deluge of race results, its punchy narrative and fantastic images provide a thorough timeline that combines with unique reproductions of F1 documents. Memorabilia ranging from drivers’ contracts to race programmes are inserted into pockets, inviting us to explore the sport. This is interactive history in book form. TE
Published by Carlton Books, ISBN 9781847323682, £30