Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book #5

The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit, by Michael Cannell. Hardcover.

I was a fan of open-wheel racing when I was younger, following the Indy series and Formula 1. My fifteen years living in Richmond, Virginia turned me into a NASCAR fan, but I still have pleasant memories of following the older series.

This book covers the glory days of Formula 1, the postwar years of European economic boom, culminating in the dramatic 1961 Grand Prix season. The main characters are the drivers chasing the championship, American Phil Hill, German Wolfgand von Trips, and Englishman Stirling Moss. The great European car makers make appearances in the book, expecially members of the Ferrari clan. Cannell's use of diaries, contemporaneous reporting, and memoir enabled him to draw these individual portraits well.

The race culture of the time was vastly different from the safety-conscious attitudes of today, and injury was a constant threat to these drivers, as was death. It is this manly quest for speed at all costs, for victory at all costs, that set the stage for the drama that was the 1961 season.

Cannell sets the stage of the drama very well, and tells the story in an exceddingly dramatic way. A very enthralling read.

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