With ‘Rush’ set to hit our screens at the beginning of September, interest in this era of Formula One is at an all-time high. To coincide with the release of the film, Richland F1 has been given the opportunity to review two books surrounding the 1976 season.
Whether you’re a technical genius like Scarbs or Somers, or a technical noob like Smith, the M23 owners’ manual is a highly interesting and fascinating book. Designed by Gordon Coppuck, the car has become an icon of Formula One in the 1970s, having raced in grands prix between 1973 and 1978, and it took McLaren to the 1974 and 1976 drivers’ championships, with Emerson Fittipaldi’s marking the team’s first in the sport. This book not only tells the story of the M23 – how it came to be, its success and its impact – but it also takes two very important stances when analysing the car: its technical make-up, and the verdict of those who got behind the wheel. These factors give the book an incredible depth that tick all of the boxes for any F1 fan.
The technical side of the book is highly intricate, and it may require a certain level of understanding to truly appreciate, yet it does do a fantastic job of explaining the anatomy of the car to the technically-challenged. The interview with Gordon Coppuck gives a great insight into not only the design of Formula One cars in an era before excessive computer use and CAD, but also the impact of Bruce McLaren’s death on the team. Coppuck recalls how “when he [Bruce] was killed, about 50% of the workforce didn’t believe that we would be able to continue.” This shows just how fine a balance the future of the team was in, and had a long-term impact on the birth of the M23.
Such access to Coppuck makes the book a true piece of art, as does the verdict of the drivers. NBC Sports’ David Hobbs comments on how “the M23 was an easy car to drive and needed only a small amount of fettling,” a sentiment shared by many of the drivers. Again, this is an insight which makes the book so very good indeed. Ian Wagstaff’s writing is imperious, shining a light on the M23 and giving some fine analysis, which is complemented by a vast collection of pictures and stats which bring the car to life. Furthermore, little-known information such as the car’s non-championship outings and even how to maintain the car add an extra dimension to the book. Once you pick it up, you’ll be hard-pressed to put it down.
Richland F1 rating: 8/10 – a fine book for all F1 fans, but its true worth may only be appreciated by those with a technical nouse.
The idea is simple: get together a group of people who knew James Hunt and ask them “what’s your strongest memory?” What follows is, however, a quite incredible portrait of “the contradictory phenomenon that was James Hunt,” to quote author Christopher Hilton. Very few writers match his ability of portraying a driver both on and off the track, giving this book an incredible level of depth and accuracy. As simple as the idea is, it works perfectly, mixing stories from his rivals such as Lauda and Andretti with more personal anecdotes, ranging from his second wife, Sarah Lomax, to his friend Max Mosley.
Mosley’s story is one which highlights Hunt’s jovial personality. After winning the world championship, they were at a restaurant. “Every few minutes the telephone would ring, whereupon James would pick it up and say ‘Mushi mushi’ (Japanese for ‘hello’). The person on the other end would then say quite a lot in Japanese and when they stopped James would say “Hai hai” (Japanese for ‘yes’). James was completely helpess with laughter and so were the rest of us. We were all rather drunk.”
The book paints the picture of a driver who was revered by his rivals and loved by his fans and friends, which will be a great reminder for the F1 world ahead of Rush’s release at the beginning of September. Hunt died at the age of 45 of a heart attack, and, just as the same question springs up with Senna, the question of ‘how would he interact in F1 today?’ springs up. Books such as this act as a wonderful reminder of the personality, the driver and the legend that was James Hunt, and it is a must for all Formula One fans with an interest in the 1970s.
Richland F1 rating: 10/10 – a simply wonderful tribute to James Hunt, perfectly detailing the legend’s life and career.
Both books are available from Haynes Publishing – for more information, visit www.haynes.co.uk.