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Book about Grand Prix racing in the 1920s?


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#1 paulhooft

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 09:19

I have been wondering for some time now why no one ever wrote a good work about the history of Grand Prix Racing in the Twenties.
It was a great time when some classic races were held and very classic racingcars were build.
Big classic marques raced then:
Ballot, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Delage, Bugatti, Voisin, Sunbeam, Talbot, Maserati, Miller and Duesenberg to name some.
I think so a good book about the years between the Great war and the end of the Roaring twenties is long over due..

Paul

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#2 ensign14

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 09:35

Cyril Postumus did one, IIRC...mainly a large format picture book with limited text, published by Blandford, but fills a nice gap.

And of course the peerless "Power and Glory" has lots about it.

#3 Vitesse2

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 09:46

Yes, the Posthumus book "Roaring Twenties" and Court are about the only sources in English.

It's easy to see where to start the story (Posthumus even mentions some Spanish races in 1916 though), but where to finish? 1928 when the Formula collapsed? 1929? 1930 - probably the low point. But from 1931 it's all on the upswing again .... I don't think you can draw a line and say "It stopped here".

It's a complicated story and you need to tie in the US influences and the birth of more organised racing in places like Australia ...... the growth of sports car racing .... rallying ..... Brooklands ..... Montlhery ..... Monza ..... record breaking .....

Hmmm ..... I think I see why no-one's tackled it!! :lol:

#4 ensign14

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 09:52

Originally posted by Vitesse2
But from 1931 it's all on the upswing again ....

From a Euro perspective, maybe...although I'd put the low point in those ghastly mid-20s seasons post-Alfa Romeo. Plus Le Mans gave us legends in the late 20s that reverberate today.

But surely it's the opposite in the States? Reversion to junk formula and a 2 race "championship"?

#5 Vitesse2

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 10:12

Like I said - complicated! :lol:

#6 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 11:14

Originally posted by Vitesse2
Yes, the Posthumus book "Roaring Twenties" and Court are about the only sources in English.

It's easy to see where to start the story (Posthumus even mentions some Spanish races in 1916 though), but where to finish? 1928 when the Formula collapsed? 1929? 1930 - probably the low point. But from 1931 it's all on the upswing again


You want RECORD OF GRAND PRIX AND VOITURETTE RACING volumes 1 (1900-25) and 2 (1926-31) by Sheldon and Rabagliati.

Hundreds of pages of wonderfully researched race reports as well as amzingly complete results lists ,starting grids, entry lists, non starters and other detail for any and every known race that could roughly equate to F1 or F2 of the era.

Not cheap books to obtain - the ones I have in stock are well over £100 each - but they were privately printed in small numbers back in the early 90s and about £40 each when new.

They are a fantastic read and the most amazing resource for further research - if you fancy writing a book on the decade yourself.

Interestingly the collapse of the headline GP formula, as such, at the end of 1927 is really the START of better things (way before 1931) due to the sudden proliferaton of smaller regional GP type races full of privateers now able to run ex works or over-the-counter Bugatti, Maserati, Alfa Romeo etc. This was the era that spawned Nuvolari, Varzi, Chiron, Caracciola etc. and probably the first time driving talent was at least as important as he car itself in top line events...

#7 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 11:46

It is always quite interesting to realize that despite the vast amount of effort and work that went into the "Black Books" by Sheldon, et al., that not much has followed, certainly nothing quite as iconic as the Borgeson book on the American side of the period.

However, as is correctly pointed out, this era seems to not readily lend itself easily to letting someone say, "Let me tell you a story..." Then again, when you look at both sides of the Atlantic, the story becomes even more interesting and complex. I have often thought that this era is a great tale waiting to be told, especially with the parties on either side of the Atlantic trying to find a midle ground for much of this period.

A disappointment of the "Black Books" is the failure to include those event that the Americans ran under the CSI "formula" even though they would certainly qualify as "grand prix" events more readily than many of the events included in the volumes. A nitpick, but scarcely one that diminshes from the staggering amount of work found in the "Black Books."

Over the years, as I have delved more and more deeply into this period, I have found myself revising my views and asking new questions to pursue -- not that I have been all that successful in coming up with answers to those questions, I must admit.

As Simon correctly points out, long before the early 1930s there was a new dynamics that began to affect Continental racing, the "regional" events that shifted the focus from the set piece major events, the grands prix or "grandes eprevue" as they became known, to a style of racing that in many ways reflected the American style of talented amateurs and professionals barnstorming the circuits.

Racing on both sides of the Atlantic was affected by various forces which were not necessarily entirely of its making, but which influenced the directions taken in the following decade.

I also think that the American influence upon European racing during this period is often downplayed, if not overlooked.

#8 ensign14

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 11:58

Originally posted by simonlewisbooks

Interestingly the collapse of the headline GP formula, as such, at the end of 1927 is really the START of better things (way before 1931) due to the sudden proliferaton of smaller regional GP type races full of privateers now able to run ex works or over-the-counter Bugatti, Maserati, Alfa Romeo etc. This was the era that spawned Nuvolari, Varzi, Chiron, Caracciola etc. and probably the first time driving talent was at least as important as he car itself in top line events...

Yes - and something that has led me to be a bit iconoclastic on Bugatti. I get the feeling that Molsheim was only ever successful when there was literally no-one else around. As soon as there was competition they were blown out of the water.

That's probably an exaggeration, but almost all their Grand Epreuve wins come in the late 20s and early 30s, after Delage and Alfa withdrew having massacred them...even their Le Mans success was in an era when La Ronde was not really at the forefront.

#9 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 12:50

Originally posted by ensign14
Yes - and something that has led me to be a bit iconoclastic on Bugatti. I get the feeling that Molsheim was only ever successful when there was literally no-one else around. As soon as there was competition they were blown out of the water.

That's probably an exaggeration, but almost all their Grand Epreuve wins come in the late 20s and early 30s, after Delage and Alfa withdrew having massacred them...even their Le Mans success was in an era when La Ronde was not really at the forefront.


Generally I agree with you but then a lot of their heyday success was with(and against), privateers rather than running a serious factory team.

Porsche, it has to be said, has often been in the same position and exploited it to their own ends very effectively (think 935 era - ended by Lancia, 956/962 era - ended by Jaguar/Mercedes, 911GT1 great against privateers and small factories like Lister but trounced by a factory Mercedes effort.)

I guess they would both stand by the old adage - to win it you must be in it.

#10 paulhooft

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 15:58

You want RECORD OF GRAND PRIX AND VOITURETTE RACING volumes 1 (1900-25) and 2 (1926-31) by Sheldon and Rabagliati.

Hundreds of pages of wonderfully researched race reports as well as amzingly complete results lists ,starting grids, entry lists, non starters and other detail for any and every known race that could roughly equate to F1 or F2 of the era.

Not cheap books to obtain - the ones I have in stock are well over £100 each -

Simon,
Thank you for your answer
Even if I like to have them,
With those prices I think these are much to expensive for me.

I stay with Power and Glory, until another option comes along..
Paul

#11 ensign14

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 16:04

Originally posted by Vitesse2
But from 1931 it's all on the upswing again .... I don't think you can draw a line and say "It stopped here".

From an information perspective, perhaps with the arrival of the Germans, so that Nixon can take over the baton thematically.

The recent Benoist/Wimille double biog and Rene Dreyfus' charming "My Two Lives" add some flavour to that period (although Dreyfus is of course more on the time a bit later). There's also a Haynes Pub book about Sunbeam that deals with the early part but it's aggravatingly done in sepia.

And "The Man With Two Shadows" by Kevin Desmond, ostensibly about Alberto Ascari, has a good chunk about Antonio for the first few chapters.

#12 paulhooft

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 09:51

I just recieved my own Roaring Twenties by Posthumus.
It is a nice book, has a good story, very good photographs, but:
No tables with results, starting grids, Circuit maps.
But there are other sources for that.

One other book, perhaps underrated, is:
L'Historique de la course Automobile 1894 - 1978 by Edmond Cohin,
Collection Fanauto.
It covers most big races , with starting grids, story of the race, results, track maps.., an much more.
It is very complete, and has a lot of nice Photo's.
But it is in French..
Pity they never translated it...
Paul