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Motor racing circuits in England

Price: £8.99

by Peter Swinger

If your idea of fun is reminiscing about the time you stood on the edge of an old airfield on a Sunday in the pouring rain, watching cars whizz by at high speed, then you’ve come to the right place! Author Peter Swinger has done plenty of reminiscing himself, putting together a superb collection for any motorsport enthusiast in the shape of ‘Motor Racing Circuits In England, Then & Now.’

Why just England I hear your cry? Well, the author unearthed so many circuits (some had almost faded into myth and folklore), that a book covering the British Isles (ideally what many want) would have been a massive undertaking. A second volume covering Wales, Scotland, Ireland etc is in the pipeline and eagerly anticipated. What we do get are stories that led to the construction of a mighty tally of 38 car racing circuits. Predominantly bike racing circuits, hill-climbs and sprint venues are left out I’m afraid.

All the well known circuits – Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Goodwood and Donington get the most pages with indepth reports. Relatively unheard of circuits with fabulously unglamourous names like Boreham, Blandford and Gamston are not forgotten. The book covers the first purpose built venue -Brooklands, up to the latest -Rockingham, - both high speed ovals as it happens. While many circuits written about are converted old World War II RAF airfields, Birmingham hold’s its head high as England’s only ever street racing circuit, and pulled big crowds in its five year existence. Not quite Monaco, but a great spectacle nonetheless! There’s also stunning picturesque driving challenges like Oulton Park and Cadwell Park included, that add to the diverse range of circuits found in England.

What every circuit guide includes is an entertaining summary of who’s idea it was to start racing in this particular field in the middle of nowhere, to notable race meetings with famous drivers of the day, and how the circuit survived, or came into disuse for one reason or another. There’s a multitude of track diagrams showing how layouts evolved over the years, with marvelous corner names like ‘Devil’s Elbow,’ ‘Shrubbery Bend’ or ‘Cuckoo Corner.’ Plenty of colour and black and white photos are slipped in showing how times have certainly changed regarding cars, safety, and hairstyles of course, but the racing spirit never fades. Forget for a moment the modern Tilkedromes of Sakhir, Sepang and Shanghai, because this book here features legendary drivers Moss, Hunt, Hill, Lauda, and Senna, all captured getting to grips with the likes of Crystal Palace, Mallory Park or Thruxton! If that’s not enough for you, then there’s a fine selection of event programmes and posters, some that are painted in a fine art style, or as a witty cartoon.

Motor Racing Circuits In England, Then And Now’ was first published in 2001, and a paperback edition came into being in 2006. Peter Swinger dedicates his book to Wales’ late ace Tom Pryce, who had his only F1 victory at the 1976 Race Of Champions at Brands Hatch incidentally. A brief but enthusiastic Foreword by ex-Lotus F1 driver Martin Donnelly gets us of the grid at the beginning. The 160 pages really do delve into the richness of England’s motor racing heritage, and are a fine read during the winter months. But be warned, this may inspire more treks out to rainy old airfields in the future!                                                  Riccardo Monza