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#1 Dennis Hockenbury

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 02:02

Having just finished "The Grand Prix Saboteurs", I highly recommend this title to all. As David Tremayne has provided a eloquent overview of this book (here) that is far superior to my writing skills, I can only endorse Tremayne's review.

Joe, your research and writing provided me with insights and knowledge into Willy Grover and Robert Benoist that has illuminated their lives and their contributions that extend far beyond the racing world.

This book provides a fitting epitaph for the many other men and women who unselfishly gave of themselves in WWII as SOE operatives. I will forever remain in awe of their sacrifice and dedication to freedom.

A superb book. Well done Joe, and my thanks for writing this book.

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#2 Joe Saward

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 13:43

Dennis,

Many thanks for your comments. I cannot tell you how glad I am that the book is finally out there and being read. It is such a great story that there were times when I was researching it (18 years!!) when I was left almost speechless (totally speechless is rare, as my friends will tell you) at the things I was discovering. I don't want to be accused of plugging the book - I got banned by some idiotic forum the other day for daring to suggest that people might like to read it - so I am not going to go into much detail about the story itself, suffice to say that I think it plugs a gap in racing history. I just wish more people were researching the 1920s. There is a fascination with the 1930s and the big German teams that I have always found rather annoying and very little has been written about European racing in the 1920s - beyond stuff on Bugatti and no-one ever rates any of the 1920s drivers in these "All time greats" features you see from time to time. I accept that there were times when the opposition was not up to much but you could say that about parts of the Schumacher era as well!
Anyway, I was lucky because I started the Saboteurs project back in the 1980s and met several folk from that racing generation - now all dead - including Rene Dreyfus, who was a lovely man. I once even met Elizabeth Junek on a trip to Brno in the early 1980s but at that point I was not sufficiently educated about the era to take advantage of the opportunity.
Interestingly, however, in the course of my research I found that people were the least reliable sources of information and that official documents, written at the time, gave a much clearer picture so perhaps we can find a few more stashes of stuff like Miranda Seymour did when she wrote The Bugatti Queen.
Anyway, I guess I am looking for a new challenge now. To be published at some time in 2024!
Anyone got any ideas...

#3 bradbury west

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 15:35

Originally posted by Joe Saward
. I just wish more people were researching the 1920s. There is a fascination with the 1930s and the big German teams that I have always found rather annoying and very little has been written about European racing in the 1920s - beyond stuff on Bugatti and no-one ever rates any of the 1920s drivers in these "All time greats" features you see from time to time. I accept that there were times when the opposition was not up to much

I found that people were the least reliable sources of information and that official documents, written at the time, gave a much clearer picture so perhaps we can find a few more stashes of stuff like Miranda Seymour did when she wrote The Bugatti Queen.
Anyway, I guess I am looking for a new challenge now. To be published at some time in 2024!
Anyone got any ideas...



I always think it was unfortunate that the likes of W F Bradley never wrote down some sort of history or outobiog, although from a couple of articles which I have read about him or involving him, he was apparently the master of self-serving accounts of events, and his stories were not to be relied upon. However, something would have been useful as a link to names and events etc.

Perhaps Motor Sport could start a 20s section; they could even expand it and have one called Vintage, Edwardian and Veteran, ring a bell??



For a short term challenge Joe, why not go over and see Hans Ruesch in Paris (BB his name on TNF for info) and tell his story. No one else seems either willing to do it or perhaps interested, if the absence of a decent article about him since the revelation of his whereabouts emerged last year is anything to go by. He is virtually the last of the line of pre war racers I suspect, and seems to have a vast amount of other things at which he was highly successful

Perhaps one of our French TNF writers could oblige. It is an opportunity not to miss, provided HR is willing

BTW, Miranda Seymour has a new biog of her father out at present with interesting reviews of an interesting story in the papers


Roger Lund.

#4 ensign14

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 15:55

Originally posted by Joe Saward
Anyway, I guess I am looking for a new challenge now. To be published at some time in 2024!
Anyone got any ideas...

Bit later, but Farina...a World Champion implicated in the deaths of 2 drivers. A highly educated man whose on track ethics seemed to be from the same gutter from which Schumacher trawled his. Survived a murderous age to die in a road accident. A bundle of contradictions.

#5 philippe charuest

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 17:36

Originally posted by Joe Saward
Dennis,

.... I just wish more people were researching the 1920s. There is a fascination with the 1930s and the big German teams that I have always found rather annoying and very little has been written about European racing in the 1920s - beyond stuff on Bugatti and no-one ever rates any of the 1920s drivers in these "All time greats" features you see from time to time. ...

totally agree with you .its a big hole in the motorsport historiography. i bought "Power and glory by W.Court" in the hope to fill that gap . i already had the precious history of racing car by Lurani . i heard about "the roaring twenties by cyril posthumus" but i dont know how good it is.

#6 petefenelon

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 17:41

Originally posted by Joe Saward
Dennis,

Anyone got any ideas...


The re-emergence of British motorsport after WW2, and some of the privateers who sprung up in the immediate aftermath. Particularly thinking of privateers who history's forgotten, people like Alan Brown, Horace Gould, Bruce Halford etc. who were good enough to compete at the top level and had interesting stories. Sadly that generation have mostly passed away now, but there must be enough people who knew them to get some good anecdotes...

Something I've felt has needed writing for a long time is a book that takes up where Karslake on early voiturettes, Venables in The Racing Fifteen Hundreds and Gregor Grant on early 50s F2 left off - a history of Formula Two... again a formula more full of character and incident than Grand Prix racing. I suggested this to another notably pessimistic writer but he said "no market!"...

#7 FLB

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 18:22

I know it's already been done, but I think that the Jimmy Murphy / Tommy Milton stories deserve revisiting. There was once upon a time when American racing technology was the best and most advanced on the planet...

#8 philippe charuest

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 18:54

kindred spirit ! the twenties in europe and in america and the f2-f3 of the sixties and seventies all my favorite subjects . maybe we could start a public subscription and ask to one the famous motorsport writers to do those books ;)

#9 RA Historian

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 19:45

Originally posted by ensign14

Bit later, but Farina...a World Champion implicated in the deaths of 2 drivers. A highly educated man whose on track ethics seemed to be from the same gutter from which Schumacher trawled his.

I strongly disagree. There is no comparison between the two. I do not understand why there is such a culture of bashing Michael Schumacher, the greatest driver of the past two decades. While Farina was known to be a ruthless individual on the track, all you Schuey bashers have to go on is two questionable instances. There is no comparison. Get off his back.
I hold Schumacher far above the sainted Senna, who is treated as a god, but whose on track actions were far more questionable than Schumacher's.
Tom

#10 Graham Gauld

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 21:47

I was interested in the comments by FLB which have confirmed a plan I have to produce a book of conversations over the years with such people as Bruce Halford, Henry Taylor, Mike McKee, Giancarlo Baghetti, etc. As FLB said, they all have stories to tell and many of them have stories which clarify some of the misconceptions and misrepresentations of them.
I bought one of the first-ever small portable tape recorders made by Sanyo back in 1962 and have recordings, some short and some long, of conversations covering various drivers lives as well as engineers and mechanics like Tony Robinson. Also there are all the tapes I made over twenty years ago when I was preparing a book on Chevron. Some of the people on the tapes are now dead so there is plenty from which to choose. As my friends know, my ethos is that in order for one person to win a race twenty seven need to lose it and I am interested in the 27 as everyone talks about the winner and tends to forget the rest.

#11 Joe Saward

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 22:11

Some interesting ideas...

I am just shooting the breeze but it might be fun to try to analyse the effect of Cameron Earl's "An Investigation into the Development of German Grand Prix Cars 1932-1939" on the later development of British racing.

As you may know Earl was a British intelligence officer who went to Germany in 1945 with the mission to raid the archives of the racing departments of Mercedes-Benz and AutoUnion. His report was published by His Majesty's Stationery Office and all 750 copies were sold within days. This included all the technical specifications of the 1930s Grand Prix cars, the budgets and all the technologies which were being considered but not used. Let us not forget that the "rear-engine" concept which took Britain to the top of the F1 ladder in the late 1950s was first used in the 1930s by Ferdinand Porsche's AutoUnions, although they are always decribed as mid-engined...

The other great story is the effect of Chaparral technology on F1 design in the 1980s.

#12 Joe Saward

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 22:15

By the way, do you have any more details on where one can find Hans Ruesch?

JS

#13 Joe Saward

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 22:28

And, I completely disagree with RA Historian about Schumacher. A great driver does not need to have subordinate team mates. That is like American football where there are guys taking out the defence to protect the man with the ball. It is one way of doing things but not what I think makes a great driver. This is a criticism that I have often levelled at Ferrari. It may be commercially efficient to make sure that one driver wins - but it is not sport.

Senna fought (and beat) all his team mates - even Alain Prost. Michael had it much easier... and while you may say there are only a few unsporting incidents in his career, it was a pattern that never went away. He never did change and those incidents continued right up to Monaco last year.

Fangio once told Senna that he was a great driver and must strive to be a great champion and I remember very well the effect that had on Ayrton. It mattered to him... I am not sure that Michael ever listened to anyone...

#14 FLB

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 23:37

Originally posted by Graham Gauld
I was interested in the comments by FLB which have confirmed a plan I have to produce a book of conversations over the years with such people as Bruce Halford, Henry Taylor, Mike McKee, Giancarlo Baghetti, etc. As FLB said, they all have stories to tell and many of them have stories which clarify some of the misconceptions and misrepresentations of them.
I bought one of the first-ever small portable tape recorders made by Sanyo back in 1962 and have recordings, some short and some long, of conversations covering various drivers lives as well as engineers and mechanics like Tony Robinson. Also there are all the tapes I made over twenty years ago when I was preparing a book on Chevron. Some of the people on the tapes are now dead so there is plenty from which to choose. As my friends know, my ethos is that in order for one person to win a race twenty seven need to lose it and I am interested in the 27 as everyone talks about the winner and tends to forget the rest.

:blush: It wasn't me who made those suggestions, it was Pete Fenelon...

#15 bradbury west

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 00:12

Originally posted by Joe Saward
By the way, do you have any more details on where one can find Hans Ruesch?

JS


e mail sent with link

RL

#16 Dennis Hockenbury

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 01:18

Originally posted by Joe Saward
I am just shooting the breeze but it might be fun to try to analyse the effect of Cameron Earl's "An Investigation into the Development of German Grand Prix Cars 1932-1939" on the later development of British racing.

I believe that there is little question that Earl's report had a profound influence upon a certain Peter Berthon!

#17 RA Historian

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 02:44

Originally posted by Joe Saward
. A great driver does not need to have subordinate team mates....... It may be commercially efficient to make sure that one driver wins - but it is not sport.

Oh, I forgot. No team other than Ferrari ever had team orders. How silly of me to think that this has been a way of life in the sport since the first team to run two cars.

The most egregious piece of blatantly bad driving on a race track has to be Senna deliberately ramming Prost off the course in Japan in 1990. And then boasting about it a year later. Don't tell me about two debatable instances of Schuey running into Hill and Villeneuve and say that he is worse than Senna. Senna may have been a great driver, but I can never give him much respect because of that monumental piece of on track thuggery.

Did you ever hear about Senna vetoing Warwick at Lotus for 1986?

#18 Joe Saward

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 05:47

You seem quite excited by the subject, but I am happy to explain my opinions about your points. And let us remember that in these matters there can only be opinions - and we can not all agree on everything.

Yes, teams often had team orders in the old days but to a large extent that went out in the 1980s so the concept used by Ferrari in the modern era has been out-of-synch with the modern thinking - as we saw in Austria when the crowd made its feelings known - much to Ferrari's surprise.

Yes, Senna did veto Warwick at Team Lotus. He was younger then and was still growing up and argued (quite rightly as it turned out) that Team Lotus was not really capable of running two cars properly at that time. That was the thought-process - which is rather different to what you are suggesting was the cause.

The Senna and Prost in Japan business was a very interesting case and, of course, the one that people always talk about when Senna-bashing. But remember this, the previous year Prost had taken Senna off at Suzuka and guaranteed himself the World Championship. He had done this in a most unsubtle fashion and had not been punished by the FIA. Senna spoke out and was punished, which was scandalous (and the reason that Max Mosley later gave for standing for the role of FISA President).

Senna felt victimised. Remember too that before the 1990 race in Japan there was a political battle going on over pole position. McLaren wanted it to be changed so that Senna would be on the clean side of the track (the normal practice) but the request was blocked. Senna saw it as collusion between Prost and the officials and said very clearly before the race that if his position proved to be a disadvantage he was not going to back off in the first corner. Prost made the better start and Senna did what he said he was going to do.

Senna felt that justice had been done - but was still not very proud of his action. It was not in keeping with his character at all.

You are right that it was not a high point in his career but there are clear reasons why it happened

I hope that this helps to explain my views - which I should perhaps add are not uncommon in the F1 world - although we do still argue about it from time to time...

#19 pilota

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 09:10

Originally posted by Joe Saward
Senna did what he said he was going to do.

Well that's alright then! As long as Prost was warned - the fact that he could have been killed isn't really important?
IMHO at times the actions of both of them were unethical and unacceptable. And because of this they are both tainted as Champions.
Nathan
PS But I think this is a discussion for another thread?

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#20 ensign14

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 09:33

Originally posted by RA Historian
The most egregious piece of blatantly bad driving on a race track has to be Senna deliberately ramming Prost off the course in Japan in 1990. And then boasting about it a year later. Don't tell me about two debatable instances of Schuey running into Hill and Villeneuve and say that he is worse than Senna. Senna may have been a great driver, but I can never give him much respect because of that monumental piece of on track thuggery.

I'm not disagreeing about Senna.

But there were a LOT more than 2 incidents involving Schumacher. I can think of those involving his brother, Frentzen, Hakkinen (repeatedly), Alonso, the Monaco farce, Coulthard just OTTOMH...

Someone does need to write the definitive book about Schumacher. And go into proper detail about the Benetton shenanigans in 1994-5.

#21 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 16:20

For Joe & some of the others, here is something I stuck elsewhere on the forum, but where the period up to the early 1930s comes into play:

"Real history is the slow-crawl study of small changes, from clan loyalties to price ratios—gradually shifting tectonic plates that suddenly erupt into visible mountains. We see the peaks, but the movement, not the mountain, is the story."


This is the sort of history that all too often gets short shrift in the motor racing world. It seems that few have the patience or desire to read such works and even fewer the inclination to write them. However, this is the sort of history that is generally missing from motor racing.

The 1920s and early 1930s is a period of motor racing history that when one takes a step back and simply looks at it from a distance makes you realize just how much is really missing -- on either side of the Atlantic, the Channel or elsewhere in the world. It is the period that saw the establishment of the CSI and precious little seems to get into print concerning that minor happening. I could go on, but while we have seen the peaks, what is down in the valleys or beneath the mountains with the movement of those plates....?

#22 Graham Gauld

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 17:18

Donald has a good point here and in addition there were very few books that we would term "in depth" books published in the 1920s and 1930s because this enormous explosion of "in depth" writing did not really begin until after the War led, I suppose, by Pomeroy. I still think 10 Years Motors and Motor Racing by Jarrot is still one of the great classics for getting over the true gritty taste of motor racing from the late 1890's to the early 1900's. I think the idea of one of our modern writers who has the will and enthusiasm to really dig deep and move about a bit for research, rather than using the internet as a major source, could probably come up with a wonderful "1930's Motor Racing Companion" book which covered the whole spectrum of motor racing, its organisation ,its drivers and cars.
I remember a book published about forty years ago by a University in America that made a whole history of the American motor industry and trade using just two or three line facts. e.g. 1930 In april that year Joe Blogs produced the first car with disc brakes, the Crapmobile. etc. It is absolutely fascinating the amount of detail it contains and gives a very general picture of the development of the US Automobile industry. It was done as a University project using a bunch of students. So, a chance here for three or four members of this forum to get together and do something like that.
The other point is that much of the popularly published motor sport books from England in the 1950's was pretty watery material with not much focus or depth.

#23 Twin Window

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 01:09

Originally posted by pilota

PS But I think this is a discussion for another thread?

Yes it is!

I'll fix something on the morrow, as it'll take a wee while to do...

:up:

#24 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 04:23

The other point is that much of the popularly published motor sport books from England in the 1950's was pretty watery material with not much focus or depth.


Graham, I admire the restrained way you phrase this comment....

#25 Joe Saward

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 07:48

Further to HDonaldCapps's posting 2279 about the underwritten 1920s in motor racing, I think he is absolutely right!

There were some people writing bits and bobs on the European scene but, without mentioning names, they were in my experience pretty unreliable. The French publications were much better - because the sport was fairly Franco-centric - but it is still amazing how little was written about the men. There were reports of races but little else. In part that was a style thing as most of the racers were wealthy gentlemen and they did not nasty things such as interviews. Thus one cannot necessarily blame the media of the era and not try to impose modern judgement on their activities. The best thing is to do what Miranda Seymour did with Helle Nice and, hopefully, what I have tried to do with Willy Williams and Robert Benoist in The Grand Prix Saboteurs and do the best job we can possibly do. It is not easy to tell the whole story but we can at least start to put some flesh on the bones of the era.

There must be much more information/documentation and things like diaries out there in private hands. We need to find ways to get hold of this...

#26 Twin Window

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 10:15

(These posts were formally part of the 'Books' sticky)

#27 Vitesse2

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 10:31

I think the late Cyril Posthumus had a good stab at the 1920s with "Roaring Twenties". Although billed primarily as a picture book, the text is actually very informative and you get the feeling there's a much bigger and better book in there trying to get out, but constrained by space.

The 20s laid the framework for all the racing which came later. The problem is trying to explain it to today's audience: I defy anyone to simplify the rules of the Rudge-Whitworth Triennial for example! And you can't just ignore - as so many have done - all handicap racing simply because of things like Brooklands Lightning Long Handicaps. Handicap racing, especially on the road, formed an important part of the sport. I've been looking at some of the 30s races in Ireland, South Africa and elsewhere: there are some great stories in there, like the Bugatti which almost made it into Bray Town Hall!

#28 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 12:35

But, V2, I think you illustrate a part of the issue -- that so much written in ENGLISH is focused on the British scene which, let us not mince words, was scarcely the center of racing during this period. Racing in Europe was conducted on The Continent, in France and Italy and to a lesser extent elsewhere about the continent. The whole business (I could say "nonsense") regarding handicapping and mind-boggling complex rules for trophies were more akin to the racing done in the backwaters rather than at forefront of the sport. However, having said that -- and getting no end of hard glares from many, there were British successes on The Continent that were quite a contrast to the literally insular world that generally typified the British racing scene.

The poles of the racing world for much of the period from the immediate postwar world, say 1920, until the end of the decade, 1929/1930, were France and America with Italy moving into position to replace America by the end of the era.

The movement of the plates, to use our metaphor, is not where the attention has been directed with sufficient interest or effort to analyze the slow-crawl of small things as the peaks rose above them.

I just feel that there is a level of complexity and interaction that could shift how we view this period once we connect the dots of that movement.

There is much to mull over on this.