Tuesday, 6 March 2007

The Lost Generation

I’m reading The Lost Generation by David Tremayne at the moment. It was bought for me by a good friend in an attempt to cheer me up after a run of bad luck.

I greatly appreciated the thought, but the subject is not really very cheery!

The quality of writing in books on motor racing is very variable, but in this case that is not the issue. Tremayne has done his work well; there’s a wealth of original material, he’s interviewed lots of people who know this trio; other driver, managers, designers & mechanics, as well as friends and family, and his writing has engagingly brought alive their life and times.

No, there’s just a horrible sense of foreboding about the book, probably more so than any other biography of a racing driver I have ever read. I think it’s because you know the drivers all died in such pointless, unreasonable, wasteful, tragic and even bizarre ways, just as each was on the cusp of fulfilling enormous talent.

The F1 cars of the mid-70’s were fast, even by our standards, with fat slicks and bog wings. But they were built around flimsy aluminium monocoques, not incredibly strong modern carbon composite tubs, and they were racing at racetracks that were literally death traps.

And yet not one of them died as the result of making a fatal driving error.

Roger Williamson, crashed when a front tyre failed. The car burned, but none of the poorly equipped and trained marshals attempted a rescue, leaving only the heartbreakingly futile efforts of another driver; David Purley, to try and right the car. Meanwhile poor Roger was burning alive, trapped under the car. Tony Brise died in a light aircraft crash, with Graham Hill and the rest of his team. And most tragically of all, Tom Pryce was practically decapitated by the fire extinguisher of a marshall crossing the track in front of, just over a blind brow.

That were all of James Hunt’s generation, probably even more talented that Hunt, and all sounded like the type of chap you’d like to share pub-time with.

It’s a moving and gripping read, in spite of the sadness. Go buy it.

No comments: