ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 24 Email to Friend   Printable Version


The Bookworm Critique
By Martin Beck-Burridge
& Jeremy Walton
Published by Macmillan Business.
by Mark Glendenning,

Click here to buy this bookBeing neither British nor remotely interested in anything to do with economics, I probably have little in common with this book's target audience. 'Britain's Winning Formula' features a comprehensive account of the supremely dominant racing industry in the United Kingdom from a business perspective. It is easy to forget that the present set of circumstances is a relatively recent one when viewed in context of motorsport's century-long history - virtually the first six decades of racing saw the majority of technical innovations and manufacturing come out of Europe; particularly France, Italy, and Germany.

The situation started to turn around in the 1950s; partly due to economic influences such as Italy's shattered post-war economy. Certain racing incidents had wider repercussions that also took their toll; the disaster at Le Mans in 1955 that saw Mercedes withdraw from motorsport is one significant example. At the same time, certain technical developments in Britain, such as the debut of the Coventry Climax engine, established an environment that allowed the United Kingdom to dominate the industry to the massive extent that it does today.

Authors Beck-Burridge and Walton are business writers, not racing ones. This is very apparent throughout the book, occasionally painfully so. In fairness though, passion for racing itself is of secondary importance to them when ranked against enthusiasm for the remarkable industry that has sprung up around it. It's an important distinction to make though, because it illustrates the point that a book about motor sport is not necessarily a book about racing; thus, it may be of limited appeal to the general population of Formula One fans. I admit that I found this book a tremendous struggle to get through, purely because it approaches the sport from an angle so far removed from my personal interests.

That is certainly not to say that it's a bad book though. 'Britain's Winning Formula' covers a huge amount of ground; encompassing such elements of motorsport as the development of the safety regulations, the evolution of technology and hardware, business and sponsorship, and technical flow-on from racing cars to production models.

The scope of the book is not restricted to Formula One - literally every aspect of the sport, from the World Rally Championship to Formula Palmer Audi to Indycars is featured. If a racing formula can boast any degree of connection to the UK in any form, it is included in the book. This is sometimes pushed to unnecessary extremes, for there is the occasional example given that made me feel that simply meeting somebody of British extraction in a pub is sufficient grounds for claiming a British heritage for whatever aspect of racing you happen to be involved with.

I was very pleasantly surprised by this book's potential as a reference source though. Several months ago I remember scratching around trying to find some information I needed about the BRDC; if I had this book back then I could have saved myself a lot of time. If you ever need general background material about any aspect of British motor racing, you may want to grab a pen and paper and note down the title of this book, because there really is a lot of useful stuff here.

All the major British circuits are described, as are all the different formulae of racing, the major companies involved (including race teams), and there is also some excellent historical and contextual information. Most Formula One encyclopedias only deal with drivers, teams, and circuits; 'Britain's Winning Formula' seems to have inadvertently stepped in and filled a lot of holes. The second appendix also has goldmine potential, for it features a comprehensive list of virtually every motorsport company in the UK. Those Brits out there who want to get a job in racing and don't know where to send their CVs should buy this book for that purpose alone.

'Britain's Winning Formula' is not flawless though. The most irritating problem was the incorrect representation of Formula One identities' names - one example sees Ralf Schumacher renamed Ralph, while on another occasion the authors try to refer to Senna by his full name but get things the wrong way around; i.e., what should read Ayrton Senna da Silva is instead shown as Ayrton da Silva Senna. Although it's a relatively minor problem, the presence of such mistakes always tends to make me question the integrity of the rest of the information in the book.

On a personal note, I sometimes found the writing style a little hard to stomach - some passages read like a speech at an awards ceremony, and there is a mildly irritating tone of smugness present throughout the text - but this is not a major drama, and doesn't detract too much from the overall quality of 'Britain's Winning Formula'. Probably the only other criticism that I'd make regards the photos, which are, for the most part, poorly captioned, uninformative, and largely superfluous to the book as a whole.

If your interest in motorsport is limited to racing and racing alone, there is probably not too much in this book that will appeal to you. That's not a huge drama; most motorsport books are racing books, so you're still not going to be spoiled for choice if you're in a book-buying mood. Good books about the industrial, economic and financial element of motor racing are a little thinner on the ground - the last one to pass though my hands was met with a fairly ambivalent reaction. Yet there is at least some degree of demand for this kind of material, and if you are among the number that harbours an enthusiasm for the aspects of motorsport that take place in boardroom as opposed to racetracks then you'll undoubtedly find this to be a worthy acquisition.

Mark Glendenning© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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