2006 Book Reviews

Alpine Trials & Rallies - 1910 to 1073, by Martin Pfundner.
ISBN: 1-904788-95-5, 12.99.
Published by Veloce Publishing Ltd, 33 Trinity Street, Dorchester, Dorset, England, DT1 1TT.
Tel: +(0)1305 260068. Fax +(0)1305 268864.
E-mail: sales@veloce.co.uk. www.veloce.co.uk.

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The Alpine Rally, the scene of some of Stirling Moss's earliest achievements, taking in breathtaking scenery and bringing to the world's attention places such as the Stelvio Pass, places now so famous for their sinuosity that people travel from all over Europe just to drive up them. It's a name which still lives on in the modern Rally Alpi Orientali of Italy, a link to a classic past. However, there was more than one Alpine Rally, and they were often run concurrently. This book sets out to explain this.

The book is a history book - it describes the history of the event, no more, and no less. Therefore I find the review of the book in the January 2006 issue of MotorSport to be slightly unfair. MotorSport says that "the author is clearly well-placed to write the Alpine story, having competed in seven of them in the 1950s; it's disappointing therefore that he doesn't bring his personal insights to the book". But that would have made it a very different book with a different aim, and it would have to be a far larger one too. It would be no good simply having the author's insights into the rallies in which he competed, as this would have stuck out like a sore thumb - you would need insights into many of the other 100 or so rallies as well, plus some alternative insights from other competitors to balance it out. This book sets out the structure from which others can hang the narratives of the events themselves - perhaps it could even form the start of a sequence of books on the subject by the author?

The book is nicely laid out, with many period pictures to flesh out the facts. If I have one criticism, it is that one of the diagrams is so small that you need a magnifying glass to view it and read the text in it. But this is a minor niggle - I just happen to like what the diagram was trying to show, as it detailed the peaks and heights of the route to be taken, rather like the route maps shown on the television coverage of the Tour de France with the gradient classifications. The picture reproductions are crisp and clear, and the text, although small, is nicely laid out and readable. What is also nice to see is that all of the names used are written with the appropriate accents, umlauts etc, unlike the usual English practice of ignoring them and thus in the end mis-spelling the names.

The book is full of facts and numerous pieces of side information, and covers a series events which are rarely covered elsewhere. It is not a book though to sit and read from cover to cover in one sitting - there is too much information for that. Recommended.

RAC Rally Action! by Tony Gardiner.
ISBN: 1-903706-97-1, 35.99.
Published by Veloce Publishing Ltd, 33 Trinity Street, Dorchester, Dorset, England, DT1 1TT.
Tel: +(0)1305 260068. Fax +(0)1305 268864.
E-mail: sales@veloce.co.uk. www.veloce.co.uk.
The RAC Rally - when mentioned in the same breath as "Lombard", it conjures up images of rallying when Rally Great Britain meant Great Britain, and the rally was five days long, taking in the likes of Kielder and Dyfi. It was a time when navigators were navigators - rather than reading from pacenotes, they had to read from OS maps like everyone else. It is a time that is often only written about by the likes of John Davenport in MotorSport.

What RAC Rally Action! does is to provide a picture backdrop to this era, covering a whole variety of cars along the way, from a Matra Murena to a Lancia Stratos, taking in some of British Leyland's best along the way (Austin 1800 anyone?). It starts in 1960, and through a series of wonderful pictures takes you into the 1970s, which is where the book really gets going with a series of evocative images which demonstrate the varied conditions which the competitors faced. Cutaway drawings of the Mini and TR7 add an extra touch, as do photographs of various memorabilia. Author Tony Gardiner has done a good job in creating a photo record of this era. It also features a text which takes you through the story of each rally, recalling the main points, what happened to the main entrants, and other useful snippets of information to convey the glue that binds the pictures together.

The book does have its quirks - it stops at the end of 1983, and the start of the Group B era, but then mentions the Lombard RAC Revival of 2004. This would have made sense to me if the book had continued through to the end of the Lombard era, rather than stopping early, but as the foreword and the blurb make clear, this is an enthusiasts book, and thus it reflects this enthusiasts likes and dislikes. Another minor niggle is that although all of the pictures say where they were taken, they don't always say when, so as the images progress through the years you don't always know the cross-over point and in which year a particular picture was taken.

It is also not a book for statisticians, as it won't give you the full results for each rally. But that is not its raison d'etre. It's a book to demonstrate all that attracts about rallying and the efforts needed to overcome the elements. It's a book which could be left out on the table and interest people who normally have no interest in rallying. It's a book that you could keep coming back to.

Please note that all of the opinions stated here are mine.....