IAIN ROBERTSON 

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In his irregular style, Iain Robertson turned off the TV and opted for the reading glasses instead, as he reviews three high-end motor racing titles and a superb novel, which is perfect for taking on vacation.

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Formula One – All the Races 1950-2015

ISBN: 978 1 910505 113

£50.00

By Roger Smith

EVRO Publishing

 

Fast becoming recognised as the most important ‘annual’ of the F1 industry, its author, Roger Smith, is also an unashamed evangelist for the sport. His aspirations to inspire and motivate fresh fans are never far from his words, as he highlights consistently the colour, the spectacle and the amazingly stellar history of this pinnacle endeavour.

 

While hardly ‘holiday reading material’, as you would have to pay extra for the not inconsiderable weight of the hardback tome, let alone perhaps even booking an extra seat for it (!), its beautifully illustrated, colour-packed and informative pages detail every single F1 race, from the very first in 1950, to the final Championship battle in Lewis Hamilton’s third victorious title year. The information imparted is exhaustive and sometimes mind-boggling, this year’s edition requiring an additional 48 pages just to summarise 2015 and bring up-to-date the other races from 2013.

 

Packed with anecdotes, folklore, fascinating snippets and intriguing ‘Race Pods’ that appeal to the Internet-generation, Roger manages to capture the zeitgeist, with his historically vital reams of detail, spread over a remarkable 668pp. It is never less than brilliantly explained and explored and the author even offers a special downloadable code, the use of which enables readers to access up-to-the-minute resources to bring the 2016 calendar into focus (thereby saving a few Pounds off buying a copy every year!).

 

It is a great and informative reference book, for which every motorsports fan ought to reserve a space on the coffee table, or in the home library. They truly do not get much better.

 

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Maserati 250F

ISBN: 978 1 907085 383

£60.00 (or less)

By Ian Wagstaff

Porter Press

 

On the subject of tomes, motoring author, Ian Wagstaff’s latest, full-size, gargantuan, journalistic effort deals with an enigmatic and specific model. In fact, just ONE particular car, number 2528, the second of three 1957 Maserati lightweight factory racing cars, is covered in exhaustive detail, as the fifth of a ‘Great Cars’ series of reflective, hardback reference titles.

 

Priced at a whopping $119.95, although sold on-line through Motorbooks for as little as £52.95, you might well question the quirkiness attached to writing and filling 340 glossy pages with every aching detail of just one machine. Yet, that is a great reason for me to contemplate it, because that single 250F, of a total of 28 different variants that were built, would have been driven by the greatest racing driver in the world, Juan Manuel Fangio. Incidentally, he also drove the other pair of lightweights.

 

To define this one classic chassis even further, Sr Fangio only drove it on two occasions, one of which was the remarkable Monaco Grand Prix of 1957, which he won in grand style. The upper echelons of motor racing have thrown up some fantastic machinery in the 66 years of Formula One competition but the 250F has very special memories for many surviving observers but even more fascination for fans of the sport’s history.

 

For more than three-quarters of its existence, this car has been in the ownership of keen British drivers, including Charles Lucas and Neil Corner, whose son, Nigel, still raced a car that is literally priceless. Yet, it is such a seminal piece of engineering and of such high value that it has now been retired from competition, although it will continue to make appearances worldwide for much of the rest of its public existence.

 

Inevitably, as the perfect history book, a lot of the early photographs are in monochrome, although the book is peppered with admirably beautiful colour shots too. Aided by contributions from Adolfo Orsi Jr, whose family used to control the fortunes of Maserati from 1937 to 1968, Mr Wagstaff’s customary first-class and award-winning writing has received a guiding hand from a man in the know.

 

Through several sections and 20 chapters of charming, commemorative text, the full and graphic history of 2528 is explored in finite detail. Beautifully compiled, this book is one of the most appropriate that I have ever read about a car that is still a technological marvel and so tremendously attractive from every angle that it warrants its existence. Yes, it is an expensive book but there is no finer tribute to the Maserati 250F and this car in particular.

 

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27 – Patrick Tambay, The Ferrari Years

ISBN: 978 1 910505 120

£60.00

By Massimo Burbi

EVRO Publishing

 

Hero worship, notably of racing drivers, can be enhanced by tragedy. However, Parisian-born, Patrick Tambay, in his 67th year, is very much alive and is held in high esteem by both race community and Ferrari fans worldwide. His claim to fame is raised somewhat by the Number 27, which was carried by Gilles Villeneuve’s ill-fated Ferrari, when the charismatic French-Canadian crashed in tragic circumstances, at Zolder Circuit, Belgium. Tambay took over that number.

 

Interestingly, there are 27 chapters (no coincidence) in this full-size, 300pp hardback book. While Tambay has been an acknowledged F1 commentator for French TV, he is also Deputy Mayor of Le Cannet, a suburb of Cannes. Yet, this excellent book takes an often emotional roller-coaster of the legendary, living Frenchman’s life, not merely reflecting on his competition career but also his life story.

 

Rest assured, this is not a chest-puffing exercise for the Gallic driver and many of the memories he shares are simply heart-rending, from a period in Formula One history that was marred by a succession of grim crashes that accentuated the value and creation of several legendary racers. Naturally, the Villeneuve experience was a major component of that.

 

The author, Sr Burbi, was a fan, from the outset, a factor that is evident in his writing style, which is colourful and has translated well in cementing the different chapters together. The words are supported by many of Paul-Henri Cahier’s gorgeous photographs. The son of renowned racing ‘snapper’, Bernard, his talent for capturing essential moments is instrumental in gifting this title a very special quality indeed.

 

Once again, £60 is a hefty price to pay for any book but this one is crafted magnificently and heralds many of the soul stirring memories of one driver’s very full life (so far). Reading its contents reveals what we are missing in today’s clinical and often quizzical world of F1 racing, further enhanced by contributions from Ferrari’s Team Director of the period, Tambay’s race engineer and chief mechanic, as well as the recollections of Brenda Vernor, who was Enzo Ferrari’s personal assistant. It represents a superb insight and addition to any F1 fan’s bookshelves.

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Deadly Deceit

ISBN: 9780 992 997 144

£7.99

By Jean Harrod

York Authors Coffee Shop

 

There is nothing like first-hand experience, when it comes to researching a new novel and Jean Harrod is able to captivate the reader, with her insightful and frank reportage in this, her latest oeuvre. Written in an informed and stylishly competent manner, it addresses migrant and other enthralling issues in a colourful, exotic, yet eminently dangerous environment, Turks and Caicos, which qualifies it as perfect holiday reading material, especially if you want to feel engaged with both location and the entirely believable contents.

 

As a former diplomat herself (on the islands between 2006-2008), she gifts her lead character, Jess Turner, a wealth of ‘inside information’. Naturally, having signed the Official Secrets Act, the author is treading a fine line between facts and fiction but Ms Harrod carries it off with aplomb and it is eminently easy to slip into ‘The Night Manager’ role, which I would suggest she ought to employ, as ‘Deadly Deceit’ would make a compelling mini TV-series.

 

The subject matter is varied but does centre on the Haitian tragedy that occurred during her posting on the island cluster. Yet, with a story-line that twists and turns with beguiling vigour, the novel takes in a brutal murder at a high level and, with international affairs at its heart, involves a male lead, who is an Australian police detective who helps her to uncover and focus on the criminal activities also taking place in the region that possess much further-reaching social and political implications.

 

This excellent 378pp novel not only represents exquisite value for money but is the second in Ms Harrod’s current trilogy, after ’Deadly Diplomacy’ (the third, ‘Deadly Secret’, follows next year). Packed with drama and intrigue, there are few books that so comprehensively grip the reader and I cannot wait for the next instalment. I would love to tell you more about the actual plot and sub-plots that permeate every chapter of the 41 contained within its pages but that would be telling you too much and I truly believe that you will find this novel every bit as fascinating and ‘unputdownable’ as I did! This is possibly my favourite and best-written novel of the year so far.

About Iain P W Robertson

Frequently being told to 'go forth and multiply', Iain P W Robertson's automotive wisdom is based on almost forty years in the business, across all aspects from sport to production, at the highest levels. He likes dogs and drives a Suzuki (not related).