By Ian Wagstaff
2022 review by Guy Loveridge
This wonderfully well-presented book is one that has been long awaited. It is, in part, a “second volume” of Ken Gregory’s autobiography, being based heavily upon his own notes for his follow-up to “Behind the Scenes of Motor Racing” (1960), and yet it is so very much more than this. Accomplished and multi-award-winning author Wagstaff admits that this is a self-interested “passion project” as he worked for Gregory in a former, publishing-based existence. That Ken was a beguiling, beneficent and fun boss is both clear from the text and indeed clearly admitted by Wagstaff in his afterword Acknowledgements section, but by taking care to speak to everyone he could and drawing images from everywhere he found them, Wagstaff has skilfully enlarged the story and filled many a gap in motor sporting thought and knowledge.
This book is rooted in “my” era of motor racing – the 1950s – and follows a parallel path to the stories of Connaught, BRM, HWM and others who were, albeit slightly earlier, fighting to establish themselves as a force in motor racing. BRP chose different methods: they used other people’s sports-cars – most successfully Lotus and Ferrari – and concentrated upon their own single-seater Formula efforts, having run BRM and Lotus. Successes were abundant, and the calibre of their drivers was second to none: Moss, Brooks, Hill (both Graham and Phil), Ireland, Gendebien, Hall and many others, notching up forty-four wins at the highest level of the sport and showing that they were able to go toe to toe with the best. But the real fascination here is the telling of how they brought real sponsorship into motor racing in a way we recognise today. Personal endorsement was not uncommon – Hawthorn, Moss and Bueb all smoked this brand, or drank that soft drink or used X tyres or Y brakes, but the BRP went racing with Yeoman Credit Finance and then later carried the United Dominions Trust in partnership with Laystall Engineering in the famed “hare” logo; the cars were mobile billboards.
Any book that entertains and educates is surely hitting the target fully. During my initial read for this review I reached into my own library to check on a few “Hang on, I thought that….?!” moments. Each time I was either reminded or taught something new. Ian Wagstaff’s level of research is astonishing, and the results are so pleasingly presented that this is one of those titles that I shall be returning to repeatedly. This is a book that ought to be read alongside Gregory’s own 1960 classic and also Robert Edwards’s “Managing a Legend”, but it is far more than simply an adjunct to those titles. This tells the story of an often overlooked and side-tracked team who, but for the Goodwood accident that befell Stirling Moss, could have challenged for the World Championship. Already a front runner for “Book of the Year.”
Publisher: EVRO Publishing https://www.evropublishing.com/
Description: Hardback in landscape presentation (290 x 280mm) with dust jacket, 304 pages. Illustrated profusely with 325 photographs.
Published with the aid of the Michael Sedgwick Memorial Trust.