Cars At Speed
At Speed is a very
collectible book that is
widely considered to be
one of the best books ever
written about the golden
era of motor racing...
THE ORIGINAL WAS PUBLISHED IN 1961 but it has now been reissued as a special
edition, with a new introduction by author Robert Daley, special artwork and
commissioned drawings of each featured circuit.
Packed with period information and anecdotes, Cars at Speed looks retro,
feels retro and even smells retro! It's an historical and contemporary look
at Grand Prix and sports car racing at twelve of the world's greatest circuits.
Read about the events surrounding the on- and off-track dramas or the great
races such as the Targa Florio and Mille Miglia.
Car names, familiar and forgotten, have a place in the pages of the book: Alfa
Romeo, Ferrari and Cooper and praise too for the pre-war Mercedes and Auto Union.
You get to slip back in time to an era when danger and passion went hand-in-hand
with racing. There was a mythical quality about Grand Prix in those days, and
an aura of mystique around the great drivers, who included the dashing Marquis
de Portago, Phil Hill, Stirling Moss
and Jean Behra (who was killed at the Avus track in West Berlin the day before
the 1959 German Grand Prix).
The Grand Prix circuits of the era the Nurburgring, Monza, Silver-stone,
Zandvoort, Spa and Monaco, etc are documented with their qualities, history,
great races, controversies, accidents and terrible tragedies: One of the worst
happened on June 11, 1955, at Le Mans, when Lance Macklin's Austin Healey went
into a spin trying to avoid Mike Hawthorn's Jaguar which had swerved to enter
the pits. Horrifyingly, Frenchman Pierre Levegh's Mercedes went up the back
of the Austin Healey, crashed down on the embankment and exploded, spraying
shrapnel into the crowd. Levegh and 83 others were killed. Every year, before
the start of the race, flowers are placed at a commemorative plaque and there
is a respectful minute's silence.
The poignancy of that dreadful accident is captured in Cars at Speed.
Lance Macklin, the man who had watched it all happen and narrowly escaped death
himself, was so affected by the disaster that, regrettably although both
he and Mike Hawthorn were blameless he retired from racing. While out
with his friend Rob Walker, several weeks after announcing his retirement, Mike
Hawthorn was killed in a road accident in Surrey. He was only 29.
Perhaps because racing drivers are 'dancing with death' on the circuit, they
and their families often have some sort of sixth sense. Rudi Caracciola, his
thigh bone crushed in an accident during a practice run with his racing partner
Louis Chiron at Monte Carlo a week before the 1933 Grand Prix, was unable to
join friends skiing while in Switzerland. He encouraged his wife Charly to go
and had a chilling premonition some time later as he watched a ski guide walk
towards his chalet. Tragically, Charly had fallen into an avalanche and her
body was never found.
Names from the past stir the memories: Juan Manuel Fangio; Luigi Musso (who
was killed in 1958 at Reims and has a corner named after him); Masten Gregory
who survived several serious crashes; Count Zborowski, who died at Monza; Carroll
Shelby; Ferrari favourite Peter Collins, killed at the Nurburgring in 1958;
and Sam Collier, killed racing at Watkins Glen in 1950. At the Montlhery circuit
in 1925 the Alfa Romeo team withdrew from the race when Antonio Ascari crashed
to his death in the Grand Prix de l'ACF and in 1955 (his son) Alberto Ascari
was killed at Monza during practice, at the curve that now carries his name.
There are plenty of quotes in Cars at Speed. Stirling Moss said of the
Le Mans 24-Hours, where few drivers can sleep between turns at the wheel: "It
isn't the noise of the cars that keeps me awake, it's that bloody music!"
Enzo Ferrari is known for his passion for his cars: "When a man has taken something;
some material and, with his own two hands, trans-formed it into something else,
he has made not a machine out of it, but a soul, a living breathing soul. Well,
then, he goes to a race and he hears this soul which he has created, hears it
being mistreated, hears that it is not going right, it makes a man suffer"
he places his hand over his heart "here. A man cannot bear
such things. And so I do not go to races because I suffer too much there… The
driver, too, of course."
One of my favourite drawings is of Bentleys at Le Mans in 1930 and I also love
the Indy Cars at Monza, 1957. Both pictures strongly evoke the different ages
Cars at Speed is a wonderful tribute to motor racing and to the great
stars that shone so brightly all those years ago. But it is also a special tribute
to those who are no longer with us many of whom died while taking part
in the motor racing they loved so much.
Robert Daley, bestselling author of works including Prince of the City
and Year of the Dragon, was a European sports correspondent for the New
York Times in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He is the author of The Cruel
Sport, also from Motorbooks.
Cars at Speed: Classic Stories from Grand
Prix's Golden Age by Robert Daley is out now in paperback, available from
all good book-shops at an RRP of £18.99 (ISBN 13: 978-0-7603-3117-0).