The history of motorsport. Pretty daunting, right? Where do you begin, where do you end, what do you include in between such wide bookends? Jörg Walz, the author of this infinitely flip-through-able saga of the last 120 years of auto racing, took a simple but wise approach to the towering subject: start at the beginning, in 1894, at the Paris-Rouen, and work up through the years one by one in chronological order with a focus on a unique or otherwise important car built for competition in the year or period.
This inevitably means that some cars will be left out, but for the reader’s sake, would a multi-thousand page count and microscopic type be all that interesting? More than likely not, for the simple fact that nobody could do adequate justice to the comprehensive century-plus of motorsport history that’s occurred across our continents. In this one-year, one-car format however, the major machine is introduced, given context, and often couched in commentary of what the racing zeitgeist was like at the time, and how it would evolve.
The book does an excellent job of making this progression through time a fluid one, and rather than just choosing the winningest or the fastest subject matter, Walz has carefully selected his material to ensure the scope in these pages is not only a matter of years. From obscure ice racers to icons like the Group B Audis, ’80s touring cars to ’50s prototypes, you can certainly find more exhaustive and penetrative material on each subject printed in The History of Motorsport, but it’s doubtful you’ll find such a balanced and thoughtful collection as this.
Also, it would be wrong to occupy an air of snobbery and think that the book was written for people who don’t know squat about racing and want things spelled out and explained as such. Decidedly not true here. It’s not that the tone is dull and dry and filled with numbers and codes – the language is actually pretty lively and very easy to comprehend – but beyond the meat of the pages that is the year-to-year ordering, there are also plenty of statistics, race results, and other datasets that are only fun if you truly love what you’re looking at here. In summary, Walz’s book is a terrific summary, but don’t think of it as a half-assed one.