Bookshelf Round Up: Challenges, a Classic Lotus, Minis and Group C!

Summer is traditionally the time of year where happy holidaymakers stretch out by the pool and catch up with their reading and at, we have at least been doing the ‘catching up on our reading’ part.

First up we have Will Buxton’s My Greatest Defeat an interesting concept although the title doesn’t do justice to the book itself, because in many cases these are not defeats but challenges.

The format is question-and-answer, which adds to the book’s conversational style. The stories are chapter by chapter conversations with some of the greatest names in our sport. Alex Zanardi, for example, talks extensively, not about his life-changing accident at the Lausitzring in 2001, but about his disastrous season in Formula One for Williams in 1999. Ari Vatanen is candid and frank about the mental state he experienced for months after his 1985 crash on Rally Argentina, convinced he had AIDS from dodgy blood transfusions and cancer from all the X rays he underwent.

The book engages with twenty of the sport’s top personalities, with Niki Lauda’s piece having added poignancy after his death earlier this year. For anyone who enjoys knowing about the real people who are the heroes of motor sport, and their personalities, hopes and fears, this book gives a first rate insight into those behind-the-scenes challenges they have faced. 
•    UK price: £19.99
•    ISBN: 978-1-910505-40-3
•    Format: 234x156mm
•    Hardback
•    Page extent: 320pp
•    Illustration: 20 portraits

We looked forward to the publication of Lotus 72 by Pete Lyons and were not disappointed. Lyons' Grand Prix reports in Autosport set a standard which is still rarely achieved today andthis book is clearly a labour of love. The book charts the less-than-successful launch of the car and its difficult early life and is lavishly illustrated with period photographs. It is wonderful to see images not only of Fittipaldi, Rindt and Peterson but also Reine Wisell, Dave Walker and particularly the dark blue Rob Walker car with Graham Hill at the wheel.

The pictures are the stars in this book, though and Lyons’, sometimes lengthy, captions tell the story admirably. It would have been nice to have a bit more information, and particularly images, of what became of the cars after they stopped being John Player Specials, but this is a small criticism of an excellent book.
•    UK price: £50.00
•    ISBN: 978-1-910505-33-5
•    Format: 280x235mm
•    Hardback
•    Page extent: 304
•    Illustration: 364 photos, mainly colour

Porter Press have come up with a timely softback to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Mini. Entitled Mini Scrapbook – Sixty Years of a British Icon it is a simple easy read.  Martin Port is an expert on all things classic and he has compiled a book which harks back to the very earliest days of the car that changed the world. Early launch photographs and the de rigeur cutaway drawing from 1959 are then supported by doorhandling racing cars (it’s a shame they don’t handle like that anymore!) and variants as different as motorhomes and ice cream vans to promotional vehicle including a Mini made to look like a giant orange. Inevitably, and rightly, the Italian Job takes its place in the story. 

The Mini spawned a whole breed of specials. The simple front and rear subframes lending themselves to being easily bolted into various, often wacky, designs.  Who remembers the three-wheeled Stimson Scorcher? Or the TiCi (which I now know was pronounced Tichy). The Midas, the Marcos and the Mule are all explained.

The foreword is by Paddy Hopkirk (why on earth isn’t he Sir Paddy?) and the famous rally exploits are covered in detail as is the ambitious Mini Marcos attack on Le Mans!

The Mini is famous for crossing social divides, and no Mini book would be complete without photos of sixties celebrities from the Beatles to Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton, all of whom owned cars with varous degrees of customisation.

•    UK price: £20.00
•    ISBN: 978-1-907085-94-9
•    Format: 280x235mm
•    Softback
•    Page extent: 176
•    over 400 colour & black and white photos

Finally in our summer review we have the most heavyweight (in every sense!) publication, the magnificent John Fitzpatrick Group C Porsches - The Definitive History. Mark Cole has filled this book with facts, figures and anecdotes from the brief life of the John Fit zpatrick Racing Group C era. If anyone had set out to write a very substantial book on the four years from 1983 to 1986 that the team operated, you would imagine an uphill task.  Not a bit of it, Cole covers every aspect of the team’s rise and eventual closure.  

Fitzpatrick’s 22 years behind the wheel provide a useful backdrop as does the story of the evolution of the Porsche 956 and then the 962. The dubious business dealings that sponsor JDavid used to be able to fund the teams Porsche 935s and the Group C cars, are dealt with frankly and honestly. Whilst much of the book is made up of race reports, it does not become simply a reference document, this is a story of the people who made up the team and their highs and lows throughout those four tumultuous years. For those of us who were around Group C at the time, it is a reminder of one of the greatest times in sports car racing and nostalgia plays a strong part in the attraction of this book.

Numerous interviews with drivers and other team personnel bring colour and anecdotes to the story, with significant names including John Fitzpatrick himself and Porsche's Jürgen Barth, plus star drivers such as Derek Warwick, David Hobbs and Thierry Boutsen.

The story is brought up to date with the final section covering what became of the cars, including a superb look around Henry Pearman’s collection of cars, including JFR’s finest.
This is a book you will go back to again and again, and not just for reference purposes, but also for the sheer joy of re-living those heady days. The price will not deter the true fan of those great times.
•    UK price: £225.00
•    ISBN: 978-1-907085-88-8
•    Hardback
•    Page extent: 319
•    over 500 colour & black and white photos

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