Best motor racing & car books: great reads

Lifestyle

Spend your time at home wisely with a great read from our selection of motor racing and car books

Porsche 356 header

The Ultimate Porsche 356 Catalogue Raisonné

There has rarely been a better time to sit back with a good book, and delve deeper into the career of a racing great; follow a gripping motor sport tale; or brush up on your grand prix history.

Fortunately, nationwide restrictions on leaving the house coincide with a glut of brilliantly-told tales and well-researched tomes.

We’ve selected ten of the best books available now, from autobiographies to in-depth technical studies below.

 

How To Be An F1 Driver: My Guide To Life In The Fast Lane

Jenson Button

Whereas the debut Button book was more a straight-edged autobiography, How To Be An F1 Driver sees Jenson let off the leash. The man himself told Motor Sport: “The first book was purely about my life, but this one is about life in F1, the small details behind the scenes that the fans don’t get to see or hear about because the questions are so rarely asked”.

With no sponsors to please nor contracts to fill, the 2009 F1 champ can pretty much say what he pleases – something modern F1 fans crave in the PR savvy world of elite motorsport. Whilst there are no startling revelations about his rivals, teams or contractual disputes, you do find surprises of a different sort. The tome from Frome is filled with many colourful and often very funny private anecdotes, making it an ideal read for any F1 fan wanting to know what their favourite sport is really like.

Motor Sport Shop £40 (signed)

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Staying On Track – The Autobiography

Nigel Mansell

“Our Nige” has never been known to pull any punches in real life, so expect no less from Mansell in print. The Dudley charger recalls the ups and down from his career with typical melodrama, but then again dramatic embellishment is hardly even needed.

This is coming from a man who, in his pursuit of racing glory, discharged himself from hospital with a broken back (having been told he might not walk again), raced on his F1 debut with burning skin after his team spilt petrol over him and famously collapsed trying to push his grand prix car over the finishing line.

Along with being the world’s fastest moustache, Mansell is the only person to ever hold both the F1 and IndyCar titles simultaneously. As well as being a unique racer, Nige’s individualism always shines through. If you want the story of the all-action racer, this is it.

Motor Sport Shop £39.95

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A Race with Love and Death: The Story of Richard Seaman

Richard Williams

Few know the story of the pioneering British racer who ran under the Nazi banner. Mercedes driver Dick Seaman blazed a trail on the pre-war grand prix scene before meeting a tragic end.

Whilst maybe not a Nuvolari or Carraciola, what Seaman perhaps lacked in charisma he made up for in racing talent. Mercedes-Benz team manager himself said of the Brit “We found one driver of world class: Dick Seaman”.

The Chichester-born driver angered his mother by signing Nazi-affiliated team and then marrying a German heiress, Erica Popp. He became a favourite of Hitler after winning the 1938 German Grand Prix – his rather timid attempt at a Nazi salute on the podium can be seen in our special feature in this month’s magazine.

Seaman was one of the finest racers in Europe before his untimely demise at the 1939 Belgian Grand Prix, wrapping his Silver Arrow around a tree. It’s a fascinating story, one a long way away from today’s highly professional and safety lead era.

Motor Sport Shop £20

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The Ultimate Porsche 356 Catalogue Raisonné

The story of Porsche’s 356 sports car is told here in exhaustive detail, which is no mean feat for a car that was constantly being developed and regularly challenged in competition throughout the world – not least at the 1951 Le Mans 24 Hours, where a customer 356 achieved class victory.

Not only does this book give more technical specifications than you could ever dream of, it also documents the racing and rallying cars that sprang from the original 356. It’s quite simply essential reading for any Porsche fanatic.

With stunning historic photographs, colour and trim options, range details, engine specifications, chassis numbers, and production figures from the Gmünd cars to the very last production models, the book gives plenty to get stuck into during the lockdown period.

Each book is individually numbered, leather-bound and slip-cased, the print running to just 356 copies, of course.

Motor Sport Shop £356

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Derek Bell: My Racing Life

Alan Henry

Le Mans icon Derek Bell tells his story to legendary Motor Sport writer Alan Henry. You would expect anyone who has won Le Mans five times (there’s not many of them) to have a fair few. My Racing Life doesn’t disappoint.

With Bell being an active driver from the 60s through to the 90s, the book serves not only as biography but also an account of how the sport changed and evolved in the modern era.

Motor Sport Shop £24.95 (signed)

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Formula 1 All The Races: The First 1000

Roger Smith

Want to know what happened at the 1957 Pescara Grand Prix? Want to know who finished 2nd for Arrows at Imola ’85? It was Thierry Boutsen, but anyway, there’s a way to enjoyably attain this information without resorting to the dreaded wikipedia.

Formula 1 All The Races helps do this by providing high octane reports from every Championship Grand Prix, from the first race in 1950 to the 1000th race in 2019.

The book reveals the Formula 1 World Championship story race-by-race-by-race, focussing in turn on each arena in which this worldwide gladiatorial battle was played out. If ever there was a time to read the story of F1, this is it.

Motor Sport Shop £65

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How Not to Be a Professional Racing Driver

Jason Plato

An effective antidote to the sometimes stuffy world of F1, Jason Plato’s anti-guide makes for a refreshing and entertaining read.

Not many people can claim to have hounded Frank Williams and got a job out of it, nor have been a successful TV presenter whilst simultaneously winning more races in their professional racing series than anyone else (in history).

Being one of the few books that documents good old-fashioned tin-top action, Plato’s guide also doubles up as a clear take on the realities of being a professional (non-Grand Prix) driver.

Amazon £6.99

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My Racing Life

Sir Stirling Moss with Simon Taylor

Stirling Moss defines the much-bandied term “national treasure”. With Stirling, it’s justified. Widely regarded as the greatest grand prix driver never to win the world championship, his is definitely a story worth reading.

Moss raced in an era which was evolving from an aristocrat’s playground into a more serious, elite sport. For a period, he defined what it meant to be a professional racing driver. In addition to this, he raced for some of the iconic early grand prix marques in Maserati, Mercedes and Vanwall.

Here, in a book co-authored with Simon Taylor, Moss tells the compelling story of his career, from his childhood interest in cars, and his rise up the ranks of Formula 3 and F2, to the hectic schedule of his heyday, leaping from sports cars to Formula 1 cars, to saloon cars.

Motor Sport Shop £64.95 (signed)

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High Performance: When Britain Ruled the Roads

Peter Grimsdale

There was a period when Britain ruled the roads supreme. Peter Grimsdale takes us through this glorious motoring era, when the Jaguar E-Type was born, Stirling Moss was racing Aston Martins, and Colin Chapman and Alec Issigonis were creating revolutions from within these shores.

The story of Britain’s automotive glory years is a nostalgic look back to the greatest hits of the era, examining how Britain rose to such levels, and the people that drove the development of iconic and industry-changing cars.

Amazon £5.41

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Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari and their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans

AJ Baime

What more is there to say about Ford and Ferrari’s battle at Le Mans in the 1960s? Not a great deal because this book has already covered the episode in comprehensive detail.

Rather than focusing on the few years of the now-familiar GT40 story, Go Like Hell builds up a picture of both companies and the key figures from the start of the 1960s, providing some considered background to the racing exploits.

There’s plenty of detail on Enzo Ferrari, a fascinating insight into the corporate world of Ford, and a driver’s perspective of the race itself – to say nothing of the never-dull tale of the 1966 race itself.

Amazon £8.19

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For instant gratification…

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Racing: Ten years of top tales from MotoGP and beyond

Mat Oxley

Motor Sport’s motorcycling correspondent has put together this collection of funny, terrifying, inspiring, and always gripping tales from a decade of writing.

Few riders are absent from the digital pages of this Kindle edition, with Valentino Rossi, Guy Martin, Marc Márquez, Marco Simoncelli and Giacomo Agostini a small selection of the great names featured.

But it’s often the whimsical stories that are most thought-provoking – often from an era of simpler but unforgiving racing.

Amazon Kindle £5.01

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