Eoin Young's Collector's
Column no. 5
"Chasing the Title" by
recommended -"must read" book!
Every year or so there is a motor
racing book that appears on the scene and completely eclipses anything that
has been in print for the previous several years. My problem is that
it took me several years to realise that this book existed! Nigel Roebuck
had told me about his luxury in being offered the chance to write a book with
the only constraints being that his stories had to happen during the life of
formula 1 from 1950 forwards. Such an offer to a motor racing writer
so steeped in the history and the meaning of formula 1 was pretty much like
winning the lottery. A wonderful indulgence. Alan Henry, Maurice
Hamilton, Roebuck, Jenks and I used to travel together to all the formula 1
races in the Good Old Days and now Nigel was given rein to write about all
the races and people we used to talk about after endless dinners. If
someone recounted a tale that drew applause over the cognacs and coffees -
well, maybe not all of us drank coffee - we would joke that wasn't it a pity
that whomever had told the tale, couldn't write as well as he spoke. Roebuck
can! and does.
Innes Ireland at
Judenberg, more than sufficiently refreshed, 25 years after he
had won the very first non-title Austrian Grand Prix on the Zeltweg
airfield circuit in 1961. On that original hectic Sunday
evening, Innes had scaled the clock tower in the village square. Now
he wanted to do it again. Roebuck recalls:
'It was around two in the
morning, and not another soul was to be seen.
"Same sort of night as 1961,
lad! Moonlight and schnapps"
"Yes, Innes, but you're pissed"-
"Was then, too, but I managed
"Yes, Innes, but you were
30 then, and...
" And what, lad?"
"Well, you know, you're
a bit older now, and..."
It wasn't working. Resolutely,
Innes set about finding footholds and began to climb. What to do? I
invented a policeman, said he was coming this way. The mountaineer growled
a very rude word, and continued to ascend"
That was motor racing when
drivers were characters rather than precious millionaire sportsmen. Roebuck
captured the scene perfectly. Then there
was the V16 BRM, a Grand Prix project beloved in memory, but devoid
of substance in reality.
Roebuck: 'As a child
I was given an EP record of the V16 on full noise, and once mentioned it to
Stirling Moss. "I'm surprised," he said, "that it ran long enough to
fill an EP." It was a fair point. 'The
reverence in which this first BRM is held by some has always been a source
of mystery to me, for it was surely one of the silliest racing cars ever conceived. It
may have had huge power -ultimately perhaps as much as 600 bhp at 12,000 rpm
- but it never gave it for very long, and when it did, delivered it in such
a way as to make the car virtually undriveable."
Stirling Moss said "The
V16 was a thoroughly nasty car. The brakes were OK and the acceleration
was incredible - until you broke traction - but everything else I hated, particularly
the steering and the driving position. Handling? I don't remember
it having any. Some, though, were always dewy-eyed about it, and none
more than (Raymond) Mays: 'The V16 was an awe-inspiring car to
drive. You could re-spin the wheels at 9,800 rpm in fourth gear,
you know ' It never seemed to cross his mind that a driver didn't actually
want a car which could do that."
Roebuck captured the moment
when the V16 BRM failed on the line with none other than the French champion,
Raymond Sommer at the wheel. 'There it sat, transmission broken, bellowing
in impotent rage as Sommer vainly stirred the gear lever around, hoping that
some drive could be found somewhere'.
Later in this trip down
memory lane, Roebuck visits the H16 BRM, murmuring 'One might have thought
that memories of the V16 would have persuaded BRM that maybe 16 cylinders were
a few too many, but no, here was another doom-laden project along similar lines:
too heavy, too complex, too unreliable.' Tony Brooks is
the driver that Stirling Moss has always said he would sign for
his dream team if ever he had been asked to form one in the late
1950s and Tony has often come over to long reminiscing lunches
at the Barley Mow, my "local" in the Surrey village of West Horsley.
slight, Brooks was always a fingertip driver, appearing merely to suggest to
his car where it might go next, rather than forcing is will upon it, in the
manner of a Hawthorn or a Mansell.' To my mind, this is motor racing journalism
at its best with an elegance that I wish I could capture. Roebuck has
a handsome style to his writing as though his words and his expressions are
carefully selected, hand-picked. It reads as though it has been written
on a manual typewriter which always demanded more care that the effortlessness
of wordsmithery in this modern electronic laptop era. Talking of one
of his heroes, Jimmy Clark, Roebuck writes 'When I think of him
now, and the life which he led, he is always in a (Lotus) 49. It
seems to me quite inappropriate that history tends to shackle his
memory to the 1.5-litre era of 196-65; with around 200 horsepower,
these were hardly Grand Prix cars for the Gods, and the full majesty
of a Clark was always best seen in a car which must be tamed. There
has been none better than Jimmy.'
We move to Monza in 1967
when Jimmy stopped with a puncture, rejoined a lap down, made up all that ground
to lead! and then ran out of fuel. Jackie Stewart
drove a similar catch-up race at Monza in 1973 and spoke of Clark's famous
chase to the front. 'That was the whole thing about Monza - anyone could
go fast there, so if you were making up time on then you were doing something
very special. The secret of that place was not to make the tiniest mistake,
because if you did, you scrubbed off speed and your lap was ruined. Therefore
it was extremely difficult to keep the momentum going.'
Roebuck as always enjoyed
a special relationship with Rob Walker despite the difference in their ages. Both
live for their involvement in racing. Roebuck: 'Easily forgotten
is that the first Grand Prix victory for both Cooper and Lotus was scored not
by the works cars, but by the private entry of the RRC Walker Racing Team. And
each time the driver was Stirling Moss.' I cannot recommend
this book too highly. The thing that totally amazes me is that
it was published in 1999 and I have only just discovered it!
The book is out of print now but
I can offer a copy in excellent dustwrapper signed by Nigel Roebuck for £35
plus p&p. A Word About Signed
Books and Memorabilia.
book that is signed by the author or someone significant to the
content, immediately becomes unique and therefore more valuable
than if the title page remained unsigned and unsullied. I
rate good signatures highly and I stand by all the signed items
I offer on this website catalogue, but in the big world outside
it is very much a matter of caveat
emptor - let the buyer beware. Be
extra wary of recent driver autographs unless you are certain of
the provenance. The only
way you can really guarantee that a modern driver's signature is authentic
is to have him perform the act in front of you. This will confirm that
it was indeed his signature, but you will almost certainly be disappointed
at the wiggly line that purports to be an autograph. If you do not see
him sign, the chances are that the signature (sorry, the squiggle) could have
been performed by a secretary in the confines of the team motorhome. In
what I consider to be the "Good Old Days" of the 1960s, a driver's signature
was a work of art, something instantly recognisable and a mirror of the man. Thus
Graham Hill's signature was done with a swashbuckling flourish (see Catalogue
#449) and Jim Clark's signature was almost that of a shy schoolboy, both of
which fitted the men with the pen. Jackie Stewart's original signature
was probably much like Jim's, but he felt that if someone granted him the honour
of asking for his autograph, it should be worthwhile, and he practised his
copperplate autograph. No disinterested squiggle, looking away, talking
to someone else, here. You could glance
at an item with a number of signatures of drivers in the 1950s
or 1960s and immediately identify most, if not all. Try doing
that today. Probably easier to identify the modern grid-full
by their fingerprints.
Autographs tend to depend
on the fame of the person concerned. Nigel Mansell was undoubtedly famous,
but it was only a year or two ago that Chaters were offering signed copies
of his autobiography at remainder prices!
When Enzo Ferrari died, Mario
Acquati, who runs the wonderful bookshop at Monza (Is it still standing? Rumour
had it that my favourite bookshop was being demolished to make way for more
motorhomes in the paddock.) told me that there were books and items signed
by Enzo coming out of the woodwork, offered for sale. I told them all
that I couldn't buy them because there were so many fake signatures about. So
what happened? They dropped the ridiculous prices they were asking, and
I bought a lot of them.
classic signature is a case in point. He always signed in
a distinctive violet ink, said to have originated from his early
days when he wrote with an Italian lead pencil that, when licked,
became violet in colour and indelible. Italian journalist,
Pino Allievi, can still do a perfect Enzo Ferrari signature, which
is both amusing and a vague worry in case his artform gets into
the wrong hands. You can date Ferrari signatures because
as he got older, his hand became less firm and the signature in
recent years was very shaky.
I have a favourite photograph,
framed in my collection. It was taken after a Ferrari press conference
when I had asked Enzo to sign a mint copy of his autobiography in English,
'My Terrible Joys'. Someone took a photograph of me standing behind him,
watching over his shoulder as he signed the book - so I sent the photograph
to his personal assistant, Franco Gozzi, who arranged for Mr Ferrari to sign
the photograph of him signing my book. And it's certainly not for sale!
To read previous
click on the links below:
SCRAPBOOKS and THE EDDIE HALL PHOTO ALBUM MYSTERY
GOODWOOD CIRCUIT REVIVAL 2001
SPRING RACING IN NEW ZEALAND
5. "CHASING THE TITLE"- A 'must-read' book...
HERMANN BEATS THE TRAIN
OLD CAR IMAGININGS
NEW BOOKS, PRESCOTT AND GOODWOOD 2002
FIXING FORMULA ONE
CLASSIC RACERS, FORZA AMON! and COLIN CHAPMAN
MY NEW BOOK... & BERNIE'S NEW BOOK
SELLING AT GOODWOOD AND BUYING AT BEAULIEU
TARGA NEW ZEALAND, BRABHAM ON SCHUMACHER, AMON ON CLARK
IT STILL BEATS WORKING!
PUSHING BUTTONS; F1 DRIVER SHUFFLES
STILL OPEN FOR BUSINESS
COLLECTION OF PHOTOGRAPHS IN WARSAW
Eoin Young is a
who left a bank job to join Bruce McLaren and help set up his racing
More or less. He arrived in the UK in 1961 as a freelance journalist,
the Formula Junior season with Denny Hulme, joined McLaren in 1962.
director of team. Established Motormedia 1966. Started weekly "Autocar" diary
page in 1967 -- it ran until 1998. Covered CanAm, Indy and GP series.
In 1979 established as a dealer in rare motoring and motor racing books
and ephemera. Still trading with regular lists. Autobiography "It
Beats Working" published in 1996. with its sequel "It Still beats Working"
in 2003. He lives in tiny low-beam period
cottage in Bookham, Surrey. Drives VW Golf VR6.
The stock of
books and ephemera is constantly changing.
here to view the current catalogue.