Motor Racing Heroes: The Stories of 100 Greats, by Robert Newman
© 2014 Veloce Books, ISBN 9781845847487 (Hardcover)

“There are so many heroes and heroines in this sport. This book is about 100 of them.”

So says the back jacket of this 400-page hardcover, one of the latest titles from the Veloce Books group.

Australian journalist Robert Newman has chosen to profile a collection of 100 of the men and women whom he believes have contributed most significantly to the rich tapestry of motor racing folklore in pre- and post-War Formula 1.

The book is structured from a series of his columns in Vintage Racecar Journal, and as you’d expect, it’s heavy with Formula 1 World Champions – although notably and inexplicably, 1979 World Champion Jody Scheckter is the sole omission…

Guessing many of the identities shortlisted is pretty easy, but there are a number of surprising and unusual inclusions, and many have interesting stories. The back stories of pioneering women racers Maria Theresa de Filippis, Hellé Nice and Elisabeth Junek (Eliška Junková) were particularly fascinating. Who’d have thought Nice was a stripper before she became a pre-War Grand Prix driver?

There’s no right or wrong in Newman’s selection of his 100 great drivers, but the rather breathless profiles of a number of modern-day racers means these chapters fall short of his stated aim to “explain why these 100 men and women are my motor racing heroes”.

By contrast, the chapters on the pre-War and early era Formula 1 drivers are the big winners. Perhaps it’s a reflection of Newman’s strengths in writing, as well as the column’s original audience: vintage car fans.

For these chapters, the text is richly yet crisply written, and all the while exceptionally researched. The inclusion of some in-book photos would have enhanced the book further, particularly for some of the more obscure entries about whom even an anorak like me didn’t know thing!

Arranged alphabetically by the drivers’ surnames means that the book won’t have any chronological flow, but it does mean that the book’s final chapter focuses on the man who is perhaps the defining example of a motor racing hero: Alex Zanardi.

Motor Racing Heroes: The Stories of 100 Greats is currently available at all specialty book resellers. We recommend our friends at Automoto Bookshop, who can dispatch and ship worldwide – click here to order your copy.

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.