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Essential but incomplete
on 19 September 2012
As an early employee who went on to manage several departments at Lotus and had two successful spells in charge of Team Lotus, Peter Warr would have been the ideal author of the definitive story of Colin Chapman's empire. He had been working for several years on his memoir when he suddenly died in 2010, leaving a seriously incomplete manuscript.
By chance, businessman/historian Simon Taylor had recently interviewed Warr at great length for Motor Sport magazine. Taylor's tapes helped fill some, but by no means all, of the gaps, and the result is a very useful stitched-together account of a fascinating period of motor racing history.
Warr offers some splendidly nonconformist cameos of leading figures (mostly drivers) in the sport, and makes a good fist of justifying his consistently negative judgment of Nigel Mansell, of whom he once said that he would not win a Grand Prix "as long as my arse is pointing at the ground." The 31 GP wins that Mansell scored after leaving Lotus indicate that Warr's judgment was not exactly infallible.
The book contains some priceless insights into the character of Lotus founder Colin Chapman, whom Warr knew better than almost anybody. It is unfortunate that Warr held his old boss in such esteem that he was evidently unable to bring the same incisive judgment to Chapman that he had lavished on Mansell. He offers not one word on the scandal which implicated the Lotus boss in the DeLorean scandal and resulted in a prison term for Chapman's closest business associate.
Incomplete though it is, this book offers priceless insights into the most turbulent era of motorsporting history. It is essential reading for anyone who lived through the era of giants like Clark, Graham Hill, Rindt, Fittipaldi, Peterson and on to Senna. Unsatisfying, yes, but Warr was closer to these people than any arms-length biographer could ever be.