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Don't waste your time/money
on 29 November 2011
Perhaps the most annoying thing about this book to anyone remotely knowledgeable about sports car racing in the 1950s is the frequent historical inaccuracy. Sports car engines - any racing engines, in fact - in the `50s wouldn't rev. to anywhere near 18,000 rpm (a 3 litre V8 would only have topped around a third of that), drivers didn't "flip up" their visors when they came into the pits (the full-face helmet didn't come into vogue until the `70s; drivers used goggles in this period) and small-time entrants didn't employ teams of engineers - a manager and a couple of mechanics is about all but the very biggest would run to.
Jack Brabham was a long way from car constructor in 1956; he'd only arrived in England the previous year and was just commencing his tenure as a driver at Cooper. And Lotus was barely out of its infancy, hardly a big enough constructor to be courted by a major Japanese tyre manufacturer. Brands Hatch was hardly new in 1956, was not owned by the BRSCC, and the pits were not yet of the "drive through" type (this being true for almost all circuits at the time).
This seems to have been written by a young author who has scant knowledge of the period in which his book is set and has tried to transpose his experience of the contemporary world into days past. That applies to all aspects of the life described; blokes in pubs in 1956 didn't drink pints of lager, nor was canned lager (the plural of which, by the way, is lagers, not lager's) "newly fashionable" at home yet, and back then a team from Essex testing at Brands would think nothing of driving there and back in a day and certainly would not have gone to the expense of staying locally overnight. Also, it would never have been described as a "Mickey Mouse circuit", a much more recent expression resulting from the FIA's emasculation of motor racing's upper echelons. More evidence of trying to impose the 21st century into the mid-20th century lies in the frequent use of Americanisms which have become commonplace in modern parlance but were certainly not used in the England of this book (e.g. a bloke from Essex in 1956 did not sit on his "butt").
Furthermore, low-volume sport car manufacturers in the mid-`50s did not exist completely detached from the world of racing and then take the plunge with an exclusively redesigned racing version of their road-car using a dedicated chassis, as contemporary firms do; they simply raced the existing car with a tuned engine and perhaps some upgraded components (if that, even) and would almost certainly have been involved in it from the outset (most built racing cars before expanding to road cars).
Some technical awareness wouldn't go amiss here, too. Adding wheel weights will do nothing to cure oversteer; they are there to balance the wheel/tyre combination and eliminate vibration (and would never be added simply by hand without the use of a balancing machine).
Continuity errors abound, as well; on page 11 it is revealed that the central character is engaged to be married but at the end of the book he "pops the question", while on page 155 Ferrari is to enter the a certain driver in the Targa but then he's driving for the Sicilian private team. And on top of all this, the book is littered is the most appalling punctuation (see comment above) that I have ever encountered, to which is added a number of inexcusable typos (what's a star-finish straight?) for good measure. Did anybody actually proof-read it?
But once you get past all of the above there is the plot which is thin and predictable, unsuccessful and distracting attempts at humorous asides, and characters which are clichéd, so at least these are consistent with the rest of the book. To sum up, don't waste your money or, more pertinently, your time; if you want to read a good book about sports car racing in the 1950s, start with Burt Levy's truly excellent The Last Open Road.