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The Limit By Michael Cannell

Release date: 14th November, 2011
Publisher: Atlantic Books

List Price: £17.99
Our Price: £8.46
You Save: £9.53 (52%)
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For readers who hanker over a time when racing car drivers and their sport had a modicum of character, The Limit offers a wonderful trip down memory lane, as well as a reminder that in times before strict F1 rules were introduced, death was a constant companion inside the driver's cockpit.

Cannell's protagonists are American Phil Hill and his Ferrari teammate, Count Wolfgang von Trips, a German nobleman with a name and a manner plucked directly from central casting. The pair go head-to-head in a duel to decide who will emerge victorious in the 1961 F1 drivers' championship. By the time the race, held at the super-fast racetrack at Monza, has finished, one man will be world champion, the other will perish on the boomerang-shaped track.

The contrast between each man's background and upbringing could not have been starker. Not surprisingly, the Count was the one who embarked upon a life of debauchery and drove his 'sharknose' Ferrari with aplomb. Hill, a lover of Bartok and Shostakovich, was a nervous character who invariably vomited before a race.

Despite their differing routes to motor racing's pinnacle, both men sought to achieve the sport's most coveted balance - that between speed and control, known by drivers as 'the limit'. To move beyond this position was to invite catastrophe.

Set against this background, Cannell provides us with a thought-provoking examination of the emotional and psychological matters with which drivers had to contend before leaping effortlessly into the cockpit - bear in mind it was not unusual for a driver to be killed during a race.

If the book has a fault it is a sloppy approach to checking facts. Some are glaringly obvious: the Carrera Panamericana is the route across Mexico's Sierra Madre, not the Sierra Nevada, which is in California. Jaguar's XK120 set world production-car speed records in Belgium in May 1949, not 1950, and at 132.6 mph, not 136.

However, these mistakes, while irritating, do not detract from a thrilling tale set in an era when drivers were glamorous, heroic and appeared to revel in dicing with death each time they took the wheel.


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