DETOURS March 2021:   Motorsport Essentials

story and photos by Rob Alen

Five Essential Motorsports Books

There are many books on motorsports and motoring, for me there are five essential ones. The Racing Driver by Denis Jenkinson
Published in 1958, Jenkinson was a respected motorsports journalist who became famous as Stirling Moss' co-driver in the 1955 Mille Miglia. He fashioned up the idea of pace notes. He wrote of what it takes to be a racing driver and popularized many ideas like "tenths." At 10/tenths, you are in the weeds and an accident is coming, at 8/tenths you are still in control finding the limit instead of a tree.

With glasses and flowing beard, Denis Jenkinson was Stirling Moss' co-driver for the 1955 Mille Miglia. (photo from the internet)

The Technique of Motor Racing by Piero Taruffi
Taruffi won the Carrera Pan Americana, partnering with Luigi Chinetti; the Targa Florio and the 1957 Mille Miglia. His book can be technical, with diagrams and photographs illustrating how to approach and exit a corner with ideas like slip angles and clipping points. While cars have changed, the physics may not be so different today. Perhaps helpful for the young esports, Gran Turismo or FORZA, enthusiast.

Taruffi's book can be technical on approaching and exiting a corner.

More from Taruffi

Cars at Speed by Robert Daley
At the core of our list are the books by Robert Daley. Daley came to Europe in the 50s and 60s and wrote race reports for The New York Times. He talks of the cars, places and people in a personable style of what is considered the Golden Age.

Jo Bonnier, profiled in The Cruel Sport.

Robert Daley's portrait of Phil Hill

The Cruel Sport by Robert Daley
The Cruel Sport was his second book, he wrote and did the photography. He profiles the drivers, and the sequence and drama of a typical Grand Prix race weekend. Conjecture has it The Cruel Sport was optioned by both Steve McQueen (Le Mans) and John Frankenheimer (Grand Prix) for their motorsports movie epics. The expression "the cruel sport" has been attributed to Dan Gurney, who reportedly regretted it becoming a common description of the times. Daley would become a successful and prolific writer and novelist with a number of his stories produced for the movies, for example "A Prince in the City" and "Year of the Dragon."

Stirling Moss at the start line. (from The New Matadors)

The New Matadors by Ken Purdy and Horst Baumann
Written in 1965 by Ken Purdy who wrote about motorsports for magazines in the 50s/60s, Horst Baumann was the photographer. His color photographs are cinematic in composition and detail; using Leicas with wide-angle and telephoto lenses. Frankenheimer surely was influenced by them. Kings of the Road by Ken Purdy: We are sneaking in a sixth book, which predates all of the others. Purdy writes of Deusenberg, Bugatti, and Tazio Nuvolari who was still alive at the time, a contemporary report of what would become history...much like the other five books.


Rob Alen's website features a great video on this topic  

From The New Matadors.

motor>spirit - Rob Alen