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Ten great books about motorsport

One of the best ways of getting insight into the world of racing is to read accounts by those who have been there and done it. Below is a list of books written either by drivers, respected motorsport journalists or some combination of the above which give a first-hand glimpse into the sport we all spend so much time and energy trying to follow and appreciate.

Whether you’re looking to increase your own understanding, find a gift or present for a keen racing or Formula One fan, or just want something good to take on holiday, have a look at the books below. As a general rule, the closer to the top of the list each book is, the more recently-published it is.

The Lost Generation – David Tremayne
This book recounts a generation of British champions that never was. Roger Williamson, Tony Brise and Tom Pryce were all killed in tragic accidents and never lived to realise their potential. In this book Tremayne tells their stories through insights from their families, friends and racing colleagues. All three came from different backgrounds and took different routes to F1, ensuring this book gives a powerful insight into the British racing world of the 70s, now seeming like a far-off era. Buy it here
All My Races – Sir Stirling Moss
The greatest driver never to become Formula One World Champion celebrated his 80th birthday with the release of this book, co-written with motorsport journalist Alan Henry. It relates the story of each of the 529 races in which he competed, from his debut in 1947 to his career-ending crash at Goodwood in 1962, and all told in his own words with the help of many previously unpublished photographs. Buy it here
Senna versus Prost – Malcolm Folley
This is more than just a book on F1 – but rather an account of one of the world’s great sporting rivalries. It also affords a glimpse into a time when the sport was in one of its most gripping and exciting periods. Edge-of-the-seat racing, big personalities and two drivers each of whom was determined to win at the expense of the other. Senna and Prost both drove for McLaren for two seasons – and they never forgave each other. As their racing careers continued their relationship deteriorated badly, devolving into a series of public slanging matches on subjects as widespread as safety, character and integrity. And then it all ended in the worst possible way at Imola in May 1994, when Senna was killed. Malcolm Folley provides a riveting account of one of the all-time classic sporting rivalries. Buy it here
Williams – Maurice Hamilton
This labour of love by motorsport journalist Hamilton relates the story of a great privateer team from its founding in 1977 through its first race win in 1979 and on to 116 grand prix victories, seven drivers’ championships and nine constructors’ championships. The story is told by the team members themselves, with founder and guiding light Sir Frank Williams contributing as well as drivers including Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill. But it’s not just the big names – to really get inside the organisation, Hamilton has spoken to staff at all levels, from mechanics and machinists to senior managers. The result is a striking and highly readable book that uncovers the soul of the team. Buy it here
Crashed and Byrned – Tommy Byrne
Never heard of Tommy Byrne? That would have come as a surprise to those who, early in his career, tipped him to be as ruthless on the track as Ayrton Senna. But it was never to be. From a difficult childhood in Ireland at the height of the Troubles, he arrived on the F1 stage in the early eighties in a blaze of raw talent – but was simply too unpredictable for establishment figures like Ron Dennis and even Senna himself to take. His fall was almost as spectacular as his rise – but for the details you’ll have to read this unforgettable autobiography, completely devoid of gloss or self-deception, expertly co-written by Mark Hughes. An instant classic among racing narratives and, after reading, you won’t forget who Tommy Byrne is. Buy it here
Chequered Conflict – Maurice Hamilton
Formula One is a continual soap opera – so what made the twists and turns of 2007 particularly worth writing about? Well, as Hamilton discusses, it was the first since 1986 in which three drivers went into the final race with the hope of becoming the world champion. It was also Fernando Alonso’s debut season at McLaren, one that didn’t go according to plan in any way whatsoever for the double title-winner. As McLaren’s rookie driver, the unknown youngster Lewis Hamilton, stunned and captivated the world with his brilliant performances, accusations of spying grew in momentum until they appeared to threaten the existence of the sport. Hamilton revisits the 1986 season to contrast it with the current F1 world including analysing individual races in detail and profiling drivers. His major conclusion: how radically the sport has changed in 20 years. Buy it here
Lewis Hamilton: The full story – Mark Hughes
Hughes’ book about the youngster who burst onto the F1 stage aged just 22, and proceeded to miss the drivers’ championship by just one point before winning it a year later, is generally agreed to be the definitive account of the early years of Hamilton’s life and career. That’s a judgement that’s persisted, despite the fact that it’s no longer the most up-to-date. As well as giving a detailed account of Hamilton’s route from radio-controlled cars and karts to a drive with McLaren, the original edition covered the period up until the end of 2007 with extra material added to the paperback linked to here. It includes interviews with former F1 drivers about their views of Hamilton’s abilities including where he needs to make improvements, how he compares to the sport’s greats and how far he will manage to go. There is also an insider view of testing during the off-season. Buy it here
It Is What It Is – David Coulthard
Coulthard’s autobiography, released on his retirement from the front line of Formula One, was famously far more honest than most tomes of its ilk. The boy from rural Scotland who, instead of going into the family haulage business, became a multi-millionaire with a property empire and the highest-scoring British driver of all time, does not hesitate to ask himself difficult questions, including what drove him to succeed at the highest levels of the sport. Buy it here
Working the Wheel – Martin Brundle
This is the Formula One driver turned journalist and commentator’s 2005 account of driving each of the world’s classic motor racing circuits, co-authored with Maurice Hamilton. It’s also an honestly autobiographical account of his own adventures at these venues, including the pain of blowing an engine on the grid at Silverstone in 1994, the shock of losing colleagues Roland Ratzenburger and Ayrton Senna and the aftermath of many, many crashes of his own. It has a weath of technical detail designed to take the fan beyond the pitlane and into the very cockpit of the modern-era Formula One car. Buy it here
Flat Out, Flat Broke – Perry McCarthy
This is the book that famously ended McCarthy’s career as Top Gear’s original black-clad Stig – after he was that little bit too candid for the producers’ liking. But, moving beyond that, it’s a highly readable account that wears its heart shamelessly on its sleeve. It details McCarthy’s burning ambition to get to Formula One at all costs – an ambition that was not ultimately realised, not least because he did not come from a wealthy background and often had to work to support himself while racing against opponents who could treat motorsport as a full-time occupation. Originally released in 2003, this edition is a 2008 reissue. Buy it here


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