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Richie Ginther: Motor Racing’s Free Thinker

by Richard Jenkins

2020 review by Guy Loveridge

Richard Jenkins has been writing magazine stories on motor racing for years. His research has been evidenced on line with oldracingcars.com, especially their “Where are they Now?” and this resource is still worked on and featured today. For this book, his first, Richard went after a driver whose post-front rank career always seemed an enigmatic one and about whom many, many stories had arisen – Richie Ginther.

Ginther was part of the Californian Sports Car Racing scene of the 1950s that brought Ken Miles, Carroll Shelby, Ronnie Bucknum, Phil Hill and Dan Gurney to prominence. Ginther was an engineer and salesman for the official Ferrari dealership, and also riding mechanic and friend of Phil Hill. He and Phil went on the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico together in Ferraris and it was Hill who helped persuade Richie to head to Europe and forge a career as a driver.

This book catalogues Ginther’s activities and weaves a fascinating tale of a man who could, often self destructively, bear and hold a grudge. He felt cheated out of his first GP win by Hill at Monaco and left Ferrari. At BRM his status was one of a popular Number 2 and supremely gifted development driver. It was only with his move to Honda, when he was arguably past his peak as a driver, that Richie found his place among motor racing’s top level and secured a World Championship Win in F1 – Honda’s first. (We learn from Jenkins that Honda never forgot Richie, and supplied him with a new road car every year for the rest of his life). Where this book provides real revelation is in the final 15 years of Richie’s life: his ongoing involvement with sports car racing; his unique talent for Porsche tuning; and his artistic skills and final years in Mexico. His actual death is a sad, poignant and, in a way, beautiful moment, told by Jenkins with sympathy and touching care.

This book is one that delighted and frustrated me in almost equal measure. That I read it during one lock-down afternoon is a fact. That I am delighted and grateful that Richard Jenkins has written it are facts, but it is presented in a small typeface, and in a format which is almost a magazine. Its 130 pages follow the now established Performance Publishing “floppy” pattern. I think this is a real shame. A £27 book in this format could easily be a £30 hardback and achieve the “feel” of the work of gravitas which it truly is. Small inconsistencies in naming and nomenclature could be honest proofing errors but, those two things aside, I loved this read and suspect anyone with a passion for the people of motor sport will do too.

Publisher: Performance Publishing. www.performancepublishing.co.uk

Price: £27.

Description: Softback (270 x 210 mm), 130 pages, illustrated in black and white and colour.

ISBN: 978-0-9576450-5-9


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