Absolutely fantastic book. Historical non-fiction, but reads like a novel. Would recommend this even if you are not a fan of motor racing. Brilliant.

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Dates 21 January 2013 – 24 January 2013
Time spent reading 6 hours, 5 minutes
Highlights 26
Comments 17
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Between 1957 and 1961 twenty Grand Prix drivers died. Many more suffered terrible injuries.

Hill might have followed that path, but he found oval racing a deadening merry-go-round.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

I second that. Compared to a proper Grand Prix circuit, ovals are tedious.

michaelcannell michaelcannell

Funny that American racing is, almost without exception, oval racing.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

I think it's less tedious when you’re there in the grandstands. I don’t see the attraction as a TV sport.

michaelcannell michaelcannell

It may also have something to do with the lack of roads in the American West in the 1940s. There just wasn't that much road to race on!

Ginther held up a sign saying “Long Lead.” He was trying to tell Hill that he could afford to slow down and spare his engine, but the protocol of road racing was so new to Hill that he misunderstood. He thought that somebody named Long was leading.

Enzo Ferrari in front of his Maranello factory: “I don’t care if the door gaps are straight. When the driver steps on the gas I want him to shit his pants.”

With the manner of an imperious maître d’, Chinetti acted as if he were doing customers a favor by allowing them in for a look. “He used his position as purveyor of new Ferraris much as ancient popes once granted indulgences for rich noblemen,”

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

As this is in Manhattan it reminds me of that lovely scene with the Ferrari salesman in ‘Scent of a Woman’ – “I'm known from coast to coast like butter and toast!”

Ferrari sold only to pay for the racing.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

I’ve heard this before. Totally different business model to the road car firms that got involved in F1. Guess it’s not the same now the company is owned by Fiat?

Over the five-day race Kling averaged more than 100 mph.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

This Mexican road race seems so eventful it should be made into a movie.

At the 1955 running of Le Mans, Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes spun into the grandstand, killing eighty-three spectators.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

There is an excellent BBC documentary about this appalling event. It resulted in Mercedes withdrawing their teams from motorsport and motor racing being banned it Switzerland for decades.

Ambitious young drivers hoping to advance up the amateur ranks had one thing working in their favor: attrition by death.

The moment before hitting Macklin, Levegh had raised his arm in warning to his teammate Fangio, who was a hundred yards behind him. It was the last gesture Levegh would ever make, and it likely saved Fangio’s life.

scuderia is an Italian term for horse stable

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

I did not know this!

Modena was a city divided. An ancient Roman road, the Via Emilia, ran down its center. Ferrari and Maserati were encamped on opposing sides, less than a mile apart, like an automotive version of the Montagues and Capulets.

They don’t want to die. They just want the possibility of death. It is their way of reaffirming their life. Without racing they don’t feel they are really alive. Of course this is not rational.

The drivers called him “Fon,” but his full name was Alfonso Antonio Vicente Eduardo Angel Blas Francisco de Borja Cabeza de Vaca y Leighton, Grandee of Spain, 17th Marquis de Portago.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

I have name envy.

It is better to be wholly alive for thirty years than half-dead for sixty.

It was named Testa Rossa, or redhead, for the red valve covers on the 3-liter V12 engine

He jumped from his car moments before it hit a retaining wall at more than 100 mph and exploded. Kessler landed at the top of a low roadside hill with a collapsed lung, a pair of ugly hematomas, and a severed nerve at the base of his back. With the ambulances already in use, spectators carried him away on an old door and drove him to a hospital in the back of a pickup truck.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Wow. Another world.

“Only those who do not move do not die,” he said. “But are they not already dead?”

Most team owners would have named Hill the lead driver for 1961 and ordered von Trips to stand back, or vice versa. But Ferrari refused to designate either one. He had a long history of extracting the utmost by pitting his people against one another, whether it was in the machine shop or on the racetrack.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Ferrari are known for the opposite today, having had a succession of number one and number two drivers.

Racing a Ferrari against Moss in Monaco, Hill said, was “similar to seeing which is quickest round a living room, a race horse or a dog.”

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Great quote!

By now Moss was lapping the slower cars, weaving among them for protection from his pursuer. “It was rather like a fighter plane being chased by a superior enemy and being saved by dodging into the clouds,” he said.

A tiny pebble had lodged in Hill’s eye on the twentieth lap. He drove the last third of the race half blind.

Phil Hill after clinching the world championship at the Italian Grand Prix. (Getty Images)

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

It’s a shame these images appear before the chapters to which they relate – this one gives away the ending.

Clark jumped from his Lotus and helped a race marshal drag von Trips’ car to the shoulder. He glanced at von Trips, but could not bring himself to check on him. “I didn’t really want to go over to where he lay,” Clark said.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran


With the title wrapped up, Ferrari saw no reason to send his team to the final Grand Prix in Watkins Glen, New York.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Completely unthinkable today.

Shortly before retiring, Hill assisted in the production of Grand Prix, a 1966 John Frankenheimer movie based partially on his own experiences.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

I have never seen this. Is it any good?