Reviews, September 2010

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MARK DONOHUE

HIS LIFE IN PHOTOGRAPHS – MICHAEL ARGETSINGER

Argetsinger’s follow-up to Technical Excellence at Speed, his acclaimed biography of Mark Donohue, is a richly illustrated celebration of the revered American’s life, and a colourful evocation of racing’s nascent commercialism during the 1960s and ’70s.

The plenteous photography is accompanied by illuminating captions, and interspersed with the occasional reminiscence from friends, rivals and allies. Donohue was liked and admired by all who met him, but the easy smile and comfortable charm were only half the story. ‘Captain Nice’ was a clever and driven perfectionist, acutely conscious of what made his cars work, right down to the tiniest nut, bolt and spring. The paradigmatic example of the racing driver cum engineer, he virtually created the blueprint for today’s professional cockpit technocrat, ensconced in a machine tailored to their requirements.

Paradoxically perhaps, In Deo Speramus [In God We Hope] is the motto at Brown University, Donohue’s Ivy League alma mater. No one was more meticulous in their preparation. Always aware of what his cars were doing or were about to do, he needed to take few risks en route to success in Can-Am, Trans-Am, Indycars and NASCAR. It all appeared so effortless and controlled.

Consider, however, the photograph on page 156 of Mark intently directing a set-up change to his March during practice for the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix. In God We Hope. Faber est suae quisque fortunae [Each man is the architect of his own fortune] seems nearer the truth, but offers little solace all the same. IM Published by David Bull, ISBN 978 1 935007 09 8, £25.99

ALEX YOONG

THE DRIVER’S LINE – STEVE DAWSON

Under the guise of Lotus Racing, Malaysia has a presence on the Formula 1 grid in 2010. And heading up the team’s young driver development programme is Alex Yoong, the only Malaysian to start a Grand Prix to date, and the only man to be team-mate to both Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso.

The main focus of this biography is Yoong’s GP career with Minardi, which consisted of 14 starts from his debut in 2001. As such, even F1 devotees may struggle with it.

Yet candid photos introduce the work nicely, which is both well researched and well written. There are quotes from Yoong and other contributors, who offer an entertaining insight to F1’s inner circle, plus life both before and after a GP career. JG Published by Marshall Cavendish Editions, ISBN 978 981 4276 20 7, £11.99

KRIS MEEKE

INTERCONTINENTAL RALLY CHALLENGE CHAMPION – SIMON McBRIDE

Kudos must go to McBride for producing a book on Britain’s greatest rallying success since Richard Burns won his 2001 WRC title, even if it is a little late – nine months after his win Meeke is enduring a difficult IRC championship defence.

But for all McBride’s enthusiasm, the book is flawed. The chapters on each IRC round form a stage-by-stage account that fails to convey the enormity of Meeke’s achievement. One on Meeke’s early career includes only the author’s own photographs dating back to 2008 – Meeke started rallying in 2000. And a chapter on an RX150 buggy race at Croft is pretty random.

A more thorough editing job by Veloce would have helped to justify the cover price. As it is, this valiant effort fails to reach its potential. GB Published by Veloce, ISBN 978 1 845840 71 6, £19.99

COLIN CHAPMAN

INSIDE THE INNOVATOR – KARL LUDVIGSEN

Not a biography, this analyses Chapman’s engineering talents by looking at separate areas of his cars and at wider subjects such as man-management and driver dealings. Stories of his scary factory tours scribbling on people’s drawings and how he could switch from alarming to charming in seconds show how urgently his brain worked. Ludvigsen is good on engineering background – discussing the notorious ‘queerbox’ he points out designs which tried to tackle the same problem. Similarly the downforce section mentions BRM’s early work and the inspired madness of Luigi Colani, while illustrations include not only technical diagrams but also Chapman’s own hastily scribbled drawings. Quoting extensively from those who worked with Chapman, this portrait of one of our greatest engineers is fascinating. GC Published by Haynes Publishing, ISBN 978 1 84425 413 2, £35

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