Continuing my journey through some half-forgotten items in my motorsport-related library, I recently re-read Racers Apart, by David Tremayne, a little gem of a book which was first published back in 1991.
Essentially, Racers Apart is a series of portraits of, or articles about, selected motorsport figures. The author includes some figures from the world of land and water speed records, an area of special interest for him. As well as Tremayne's own thoughts, there are observations by colleagues and friends of the subjects.
The choice of people portrayed might seem almost random, but in fact it is just diverse, and the competitors examined are chosen mostly for their human qualities or their influence on the direction of the sport. Some of those featured are personal favourites of the author, such as Pedro Rodriguez, Tom Pryce,Roger Williamson and Gilles Villeneuve. This latter factor I feel induces a greater conviction, passion and authority in the writing.
It is by and large quite balanced and honest stuff, not ignoring the negatives and the frailties. The interviews with subjects are quite penetrating, managing to extract some candid recollections and analysis. These are not bland portraits.
One thing which also stood out for me during this recent reading was the author's vehemence in lamenting some aspects of modern motor sport. It is sobering to think how, even twenty five years ago, contemporary journalists perceived the sport to be so shallow and soulless at the top level. The book's general tenor is to celebrate those who, in their approach and temperament, bucked those ever-encroaching trends.
Overall, this book seems to come more from the enthusiast than the scholar, and in places seems genuinely heartfelt. Like with much of the best motor sport writing, the human dimension transcends the nuts and bolts and the technology. Those who left a scant impression in the record books are placed alongside the legends and superstars - David Purley sits very comfortably in company with Ayrton Senna and Jackie Stewart.