Sunday, March 01, 2009

Motor Sport History

MotorSport magazine have finally got around to publishing a CD covering all the issues of the magazine from 1924 to 1949. At £39.99 that's got to be a bargain, since the original magazines would cost a small fortune to purchase second hand.

It's hardly surprising that much of motor sport history is concerned with rivet-counting, after all the cars are where the money is. Prove that a certain machine, or at least part of it, won Le Mans and you are on to a nice little earner. Given that, I was somewhat taken aback to read the opinion of one well-respected author that time could profitably be spent discovering "did he beat his wife?" or "was he a drunkard?. Now I don't disagree with this, as I think the human aspects of racing are too easily overlooked. Of course my anonymous expert was actually saying that this was more profitable than spending time finding out dates of birth and death etc. Here I disagree because these basic details provide the framework on which the story needs to be built.

Take Jarrott, the first British motor racing star. Everyone assumes that he was a toff, after all he married the wife of an earl. How much more interesting he becomes when you discover that he was born the son of a blacksmith's labourer. I've harped on too much of late about Miss Levitt, but the truth is that no-one knows where she appeared from or what became of her. She might just as well be a Martian. Motoring racing historians assume too much, that 50s car owner the Vicomtesse de Walckiers for instance, you'll find plenty of references to her on google but only on motor-sport sites. Who was she? I'm sure there's an interesting story to tell. No those boring dates of birth and death do matter.

Now I'm going to be first in line to pick up the 1924-1949 CD, but really a digital archive of the News of the World would probably be just as valuable in getting to grips with the lives of many of the motor racing crowd.

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