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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's not Formula One, but it's well worth reading., 26 Sept. 2006
A. Ball - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rapid Response: My Inside Story as a Motor Racing Life Saver (Hardcover)
It is not unfair to describe this book as an American version of Professor Sid Watkins 1995 book 'Life at the Limit'. Both are entertaining tales by the Chief Doctor of a major open-wheeled racing series. Both tell stories of triumph, tragedy and comedy, and both detail the improvements made to motorsport safety since the 1960s. However, I fear that this book will not receive much attention outside of racing fans because it's not about Formula One. And if it's not about Formula One, nobody wants to know. If this happens it will be unfortunate, especially as anyone wearing F1-only blinkers will be missing out on stories of Emerson Fittipaldi, Nigel Mansell, Mario Andretti and Alessandro Zanardi. All of whom raced in CART as well as F1. Of course there's also stories of Greg Moore, Rick Mears and A.J. Foyt, but if you're one of the 0.00001% of people in Britain who know those names, you've probably already got this book.

The book covers forty years of racing and a whole range of experiences. Dr Olvey's career wasn't just confined to working in racing so he can tell stories of both superstar drivers and regular doctors and nurses. The book opens with the story that demonstrates just how much can be done even in the most desperate circumstances; that of Alex Zanardi's crash in Germany in 2001. Both of Zanardi's legs were severed above the knee in a high speed collision, yet he survived thanks to the skill and speed of the medical team. Compare this with the norm in the 1960s and '70s. The author recalls a time when safety precautions were so haphazard that an Indy 500 winner could roll out of the back of an ambulance strapped to a gurney! On a creepier level, the author remembers his time stationed on the Indianapolis Speedway track ambulance - which was the local mortuary's hearse, such was the expectation of fatalities. Understandably, fatal crashes do feature and are described in quite graphic detail. There are also some shocking photos included, but only of drivers who survived their crashes.

It's no coincidence that this, Professor Watkins' book and Martin Brundle's 'Working the Wheel' are some of the best motorsport books I've read. Unlike most racing journalists, all of these authors were in the thick of the action, sometimes putting their lives on the line. Frankly, it also must be said, even without the help of their gripping anecdotes their books are more entertaining than most racing titles. All too many motorsport books either the product of hacks who couldn't spell 'Ayrton Senna' or deathly dull essays by know-it-all fanboys. This isn't one of those, it's better than that.
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Rapid Response: My Inside Story as a Motor Racing Life Saver
Rapid Response: My Inside Story as a Motor Racing Life Saver by Stephen Olvey (Hardcover - 1 Aug. 2006)
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