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by René Dreyfus with Beverly Rae Kimes

The average modern driver, who must keep his nose to the grindstone from an early age, has no time to learn about life so that he tends to be something less than a brilliant intellect.

Denis Jenkinson

As an anecdote to the cookie cutter books that seem to come out the day after a driver turns his first wheel in a Grand Prix car. I purchased "My Two Lives" by René Dreyfus. During the 20's and 30's he drove Maseratis, Ferraris and especially Bugattis on the Grand Prix circuits of the world. In 1938 he won his greatest victory in a Delahaye at Pau where he beat the best that Mercedes had to offer. When World War II started he joined the French Army but while on leave to compete in the Indianapolis 500 he found himself stranded when Paris was overrun. Without visible means of support he opened a French restaurant and began his second career. Upon the United States entering the war, Dreyfus joined the American Army. In 1980 he returned to Europe to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his victory in the Grand Prix of Monaco.

The story begins in 1914 when René was nine years old. The middle of three children he speaks of his early life with fondness, growing up in Nice. He later joined the Moto Club de Nice, which was sort of a junior league Automobile Club de Nice. Forging his mother's signature René entered his first race and won, due to him being the only car in his class. During this time he and his brother Maurice owned a paper company with René the salesman. He somehow convinced his mother that if he had a Bugatti he would be able to get around faster and see more customers. His mother was duped and soon the boys had their first race car. In the coming years René finds himself at the center of the greatest period in the history of Grand Prix racing. His contemporaries included Chiron, Caracciola, Varzi and Nuvolari. It his observations of this period that makes this book special. As a French patriot driving against the German cars we learn how it felt for himself and his friend Louis Chiron.

His second life as a restaurateur is also covered in detail both during and after the war. While this might not be of direct interest to my motorsport readers it actually covers a longer period of his life. We learn of the reunion with his brother and sister and of course his famous restaurant - Le Chanteclair which over its 25-year history was the gathering place for motosport iluminaries from around the world. In closing there is a touching chapter of René and Maurice returning to Europe and the celebration of René's victory at Manaco 50 years previous.

The following are some quotes from his book.

... Meantime, there was a new presence on the Grand Prix scene. At the Swiss GP at Bern on August 26th, I took a good long look at the Auto Union and Mercedes for the first time. There were swastikas all around, but all of us were looking at the cars. They were most unusual and enormously powerful. Four hundred fifty horsepower already, with the promise for much more. There were as many engineers in the pits as drivers. It was a gargantuan operation.

The political significance of all this eluded us. All we realized was that Germany's new chancellor was an automobile enthusiast and wanted the country's cars to be supreme, the most powerful, the fastest, the most everything.

René Dreyfus - 1934

The "racing enthusiast" was of course Adolf Hitler.

...Stuck's Auto Union was leading, but Tazio was giving him fits, until suddenly Nuvolari lost a piston just past the grandstand. He got out of his car and started walking slowly back to the pits. I was now in second place. My car was performing beautifully. Stuck's brakes, I could sense were fading.

This was Italy, and this was Tazio - and the crowd, seeing him walking, started a vigorous chant: "Nuvolari in macchina, Nuvolari in macchina!" When I pulled into the pits to refuel, Enzo and Gobbato asked me if I'd mind giving my car to Nuvolari. Of course, I wouldn't; Tazio was the team captain. Tazio beamed, and said grazie, and I shouted a few things about how the car was behaving and he took off. He drove like only Nuvolari could, and was challenging Stuck fantastically, but he was also wearing down the Alfa's brakes, had to pit to have them adjusted, and finished second.

To show you the man Tazio was, I was entitled to my percentage of the prize money only on the laps I had run, Tazio was to get his percentage on the laps he had accomplished with my car - but he refused any money at all. He told the Scuderia people that I should receive the entire prize because had I remained in the car I might have won the race. He recognized, he told me afterwards, that instead of trying frantically to catch up, he might better have played it cooler and waited to see if the other man would falter.

René Dreyfus at Monza - 1935

For Nuvolari to play it cool and wait for something to happen to the car of Hans Stuck would be like a cat barking! It would not have been Nuvolari who only knows how to drive - flat out.

While in the American Army Dreyfus had many humorous encounters especially when it related to the English language. While attending an interrogation class he was called upon to name the various battalions in a regiment. ...I stood up, and rattled off the list in my best English - and when I finished, the teaching lieutenant said, fine, you missed just one. I remembered it immediately, and remembered how my English teacher in Spartenburg had told me to always aspirate an "h" sound, difficult for a Frenchman, and so I aspirated with a vengeance and :assault" came out "asshole" battalion. The room fell apart in laughter."

The lieutenant was very kind, and when everyone had quieted down, told me that I was right but my pronunciation was wrong. He wrote the word "assault" on the blackboard, and I pronounced it once more, exactly the same way I had the first time. The room broke up again. Finally, the lieutenant said that actually, on reflection, I was probably right. And we got on to other things."

 

Dreyfus, René and Beverly Rae Kimes. "My Two Lives". Aztex Corporation, 1995, 1983 pp., ISBN 0-89404-080-4.





 
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by  Jabby Crombac (Reviewed by Robert W. Butsch)

Authored by experienced motor racing journalist and long-time Chapman friend and confidant Jabby Crombac (he's the little guy with the big glasses you see in the background of old Lotus photos and film clips, the one who looks like he belongs in Marx Brothers movie), this authorized biography is, as might be expected, wide in scope and rich in detail. What it may lack in objectivity is more than made up for by the sheer volume of information it provides. As a matter of fact, as can be deduced from the sub-title, it is as much a collection of biographies of the numerous Lotus cars as it is the story of their creator. It represents an excellent reference book on the marvelous machines from Hethel.

The book is not a translation, but rather was written in English by Frenchman Crombac. This fact is nowhere evident in the very lucid text. Crombac pays homage to his editors in the preface, but it is plain that he is skillful in the use of the English language. He is very straight forward in presentation and engaging in style, so that the reader is in no danger of becoming bored wading through the vast amount of information. And, as a result of his experience, he seems to know
everything worth knowing about Lotus.

If the book goes into depth on the technical and business side of Chapman's life, it plays down some of its less flattering aspects, including the infamous DeLorean scandal. Lotus driver deaths and their effects on Chapman also tend to be passed over lightly, with the exception of Clark's and Rindt's. Here the book lapses back into intricate detail with the inclusion in the former case of an aeronautical engineer's report of his investigation into the cause of the Scotsman's accident, and in the latter case of a lengthy discussion covering the mechanical details of the Austrian's crash.

Although there is no color except on the dust jackets, the book is richly illustrated. There are pictures of Lotuses of course, the early Lotus "factories" and "assembly lines", Chapman in his driving days, wedding pictures, various Chapman homes, snaps of chez Chapman, his ideas for boats and airplanes, a photo of Jackie Stewart driving a 78 F1 car and plenty of pictures of Chapman thumbs up or cap in the air as another Lotus crosses the line first. There is one fabulous image of a helmetless Chapman flying by the camera at the wheel one of his immortal Lotus 49's.

There is only one set of statistics, but it is gold mine as well. Every Lotus Type manufactured during Chapman's life, complete with short descriptions, is included. The Lotus 49 was famous but what the heck was the Lotus 50? It turns out that 5,228 of them were built. It is characteristic of the pains the book goes to in providing information that a careful explanation is supplied for why the "Lotus Mark X", the "Lotus Eleven" and the "Lotus Type 12" each make use of a different naming convention.

Although readers wishing deep insight into Chapman's personality will have to supplement the present volume with other sources (Eric Dymock's recent biography of Jim Clark being a good one), it nevertheless is a must-have for all students of Lotus cars both racing and road. Grand Prix fans everywhere are indebted to Crombac for his efforts in providing so extensive a chronicle of the life and creations of one of the sport's most important figures.

Crombac, Gerard. "Colin Chapman: The Man and His Cars". Patrick Stephens, Limited, 1986, 1996, 378 pp., ISBN 0-85059-733-1.




 
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by Eric Dymock (Reviewed by  Robert W. Butsch)

Eric Dymock, in this eclectic biography of the legendary Lotus pilot, cites Samuel Johnson to the effect that a lot can be made of a Scotsman if he's got hold of early enough. Apparently someone latched on to Clark at a very tender age. It can be argued, and this is one of the many themes of Dymock's book, that he possessed the greatest amount of sheer, native racing talent that has yet been seen. Certainly, at least, he has had the company only of Nuvolari, Caracciola, Fangio and Senna.

The book's beginning is not promising. The forward by Ford CEO Sir Alex Trotman is a blurb for the Dearborn auto maker whose name was so often associated with Clark's. The book at times seems to be repetitive. Early on, in fact, it looks as if the author may be padding. However, as pointed out below, it is a book meant to be appreciated in its entirety, not in parts. The author approaches his subject from various angles, never settling in on one. The resulting complexity imbues the story with a richness that any biography of an important figure should possess. No such person is simple and predictable and neither should be his story.

Part of the time the book reads like an authorized biography. The author knew Clark from before he was famous, and obviously admired him greatly. The book does point out a few less than flattering aspects of Clark's personality, and would cause completely uncritical worshipers, perhaps, to reconsider their deification of him. But it by no means lowers the pedestal upon which history has placed him. Actually, the knowledgeable fan comes away from the book with, if it is possible, an increased respect for his racing skill.

At other places the book appears to want to be a psychological biography. Like many very gifted people Clark was a bundle of contradictions. The book explores the remarkable contrasts between Clark's tenseness out of the cockpit and his relaxed confidence in it; between the lure of the familiar (not necessarily simple) border farmer's life and the stronger lure of the international celebrity's life; between his distaste for Spa and his incredible success there; between family and racing; between Jim Clark and Colin Chapman. It dips into Clark's ambivalent approaches to women and money. Psychological biography can be exceptionally boring if not done very well. Dymock is skillful enough to employ it only to the extent that it contributes something to his story.

There is a quaintness to much of the book's makeup. Each page is headed by a little icon of Clark's trademark Buco helmet. The page numbers are spelled out rather than being printed as digits, although the index does employ digits. It is as if the author were saying, "Don't use this book piecemeal as a reference; it's meant to be taken as a whole." And indeed even the reader who is an avid Clark fan, though he may feel a little lost along the way, will probably  wind up with a better overall understanding of The Master when he is finished.

The illustrations, many in color, are as curious and diverse as the book itself. The dust jacket sports a pretty strange portrait of the author's subject. There is one charming photo, captioned "Three world champions", of Jim Clark, G. Hill, D. Hill and a toy tractor. Excerpts from a 1965 French comic on Clark by Boiven Duffar with dialog by Clark friend and Chapman biographer Jabby Crombac turn up at random locations. An equestrian statue in Hawick of the type that inspired the crest of the Border Reivers is pictured, as are vintage race program covers and the Team Lotus entry form for the historic 1967 Zandvoort race. There is a variety of artwork ranging from mediocre to truly outstanding sprinkled throughout.

Although there are no collected stats (the book is about the man, not the numbers he put up), the book does contain some perhaps unsuspected trivia from Clark's career. It seems, for instance, that no one did a lap at a British track at an average above 100 mph in a sports car before Clark.

Dymock perceptively singles out for special note Clark racing adversary and sometime teammate Dan Gurney. The fast, savvy American was the competitor Clark felt represented his greatest challenge on the track. In one Gurney comment on Clark Dymock ultimately finds the goal of his literary wanderings: "You know, Eric, he was a very special guy."

Dymock, Eric. "Jim Clark: Tribute to a Champion". Haynes, 1997, 252 pp., ISBN 0-85429-982-3.




Other Book Reviews

The British Racing Hero
Colin Chapman: The Man and his Cars
The Chequered Flag
Jim Clark: Tribute to a Champion
My Father Mr. Mercedes
The Grand Prix Champions
Grand Prix People
The Legendary Years
Conte Maggi's Mille Miglia
Stirling Moss's Motor Racing Masterpieces
Motor Racing Through the Fifties
My Two Lives - Rene Dreyfus




Books from the Grand Prix History Library

100 Years of the Automobile by Marco Ruis and others
Alfa Romeo la Monaposto Tipo A del 1931 by Luigi Fusi
Alf Francis - Racing Mechanic 1948-58 as told to Peter Lewis
American Grand Prix Racing by Tim Considine
Anatomy of Speed
by Terry Jackson
A Racing Car Driver's World
by Rudolf Caracciola
Automobile Quarterly - (Various volumes)
Auto Union Racing Cars 1934-1939
VHS
Ayrton Senna
by Ivan Rendall
Ayrton Senna's Principles of Race Driving
by Ayrton Senna
Berlin Diary
by William Shirer
Book of Chronologies
by Bruce Wetterau
British Grand Prix
by Richard Hough
Bruce McLaren
by Eoin Young
Case History
by Smith
Champion Year
by Mike Hawthorn
Colin Chapman - The Man And His Cars
by Jabby Crombac
Dick Seaman - A racing Champion
by H.R.H. Prince Chula Chakrabongse
Enzo Ferrari - 50 Years of Motoring
by Piero Casucci
Famous Motor Races
by Rodney Walkerley
Ferrari … a dream born in snow
by Roberto Boccafogli
Fifty Year of Ferrari
by Alan Henry
Francorchamps 1948-1960
by Jean-Paul Delsaux
Frank Williams
by Maurice Hamilton
Gentlemen, Start Your Engines
by Wilbur Shaw
Grand Prix Circuits
by Alan Henry
Grand Prix People
by Gerald Donaldson
Grand Prix - The Complete Guide by Trevor R. Griffiths
Grand Prix Tripoli 1925-1940
by Valerio Moretti
Great Auto Races
by Richard Hough
Gurney's Eagles
by Karl Ludvigsen
History of the Grand Prix 1945-65
by Doug Nye
History of the Grand Prix 1966-91
by Doug Nye
How to Watch Motor Racing
by Stirling Moss
Italo Balbo - A Fascist Life by Claudio G. Segrè
Jenks: A passion for Motor Sport
by Denis Jenkinson
Jim Clark: Tribute to a Champion
by Eric Dymock
Jody (Scheckter) an Autobiography
by Himself
John Surtees - World Champion
by Himself
Life at the Limit
- by Professor Sid Watkins
Life in the Pit Lane
by Steve Matchett
Maserati 250F - A Technical Appraisal by Andy Hall
McLaren - The Epic Years
by Alan Henry
Mercedes Benz - Grand Prix Racing 1934-1955
by George Monkhouse
Mercedes Grand Prix Ace
by Rudolf Caracciola
Michael Schumacher
by Derick Allsop
Moments that made Racing History
by Rodney Walkerley
Monaco Grand Prix - Portrait of a Pageant
by Brown, Newman & Hewitt
Motor Racing Masterpieces
by Stirling Moss
Motor Racing Through the Fifties
by Peter Lewis
Motor Racing with Mercedes Benz
by George Monkhouse
My Cars,My Career
by Stirling Moss
My Father Mr Mercedes by Guy Jellinek Mercedes
My Two Lives
by Rene Dreyfus
Pole Position by the BRDC
Porsche - the Man and his Cars by Richard von Frankenberg
Pole Position by the BRDC
Portrait of the 60's by Rainer W. Schlegelmilch
Pursuit of Victory by Karl Kling
Racing Cars by Piero Casucci
Racing & Sports Car Chassis Design by Michael Costin and David Phipps
Racing Stewart by Maurice Hamilton
Racing the Silver Arrows by Chris Nixon
Rosemeyer! by Elly Beinhorn and Chris Nixon
Schumacher by Timothy Collings
Speed was my Life by Alfred Neubauer
Sports Car and Competition Driving by Paul Frere
Team Lotus - The Indianapolis Years by Andrew Ferguson
Technology of the F1 Car by Nigel MacKnight
The Art and Science of Grand Prix Driving by Niki Lauda
The Automobile - The First Century by Wise, Boddy and Laban
The British Racing Hero by Derick Allsop
The Complete History of Grand Prix Motor Racing by Adriano Cimarosti
The Encyclopedia of Motor Sport by GN Georgano
The Four Wheel Drives by Alan Henry
The German Grand Prix by Cyril Posthumas
The Grand Prix Car 1954 to 1966 by L. J. K. Setright
The Grand Prix Mercedes-Benz Type W125, 1937 by Denis Jenkinson
The History of the Grands Prix of Monaco 1929-1980 (CD) Vol. 1
by IMD
The History of the Racing Car by Giovanni Lurani
The Illustrated Evolution of the Grand Prix & F1 Car by Simon Read
The Legend of Formula 1 (CD) by Cine Television Team (CTT)
The Legendary Years by Louis Stanley
The Man with Two Shadows by Kevin Desmond
The Nightmare Years by Bill Shire
The Power and Glory by Ivan Rendall
The Racing Driver by Denis Jenkinson
The Science of Speed by David Tremayne
The Star and The Laurel by Beverly Rae Kimes
The Technique of Motor Racing by Piero Taruffi
The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Formula One by Bruce Jones
The Viking Drivers by Fredrik Petersens
The World of Racing Cars by Eric Dymock
Vanwall - A Technical Appraisal by Ian Bamsey
When Nuvolari Raced ... by Valerio Moretti
When the Flag Drops by Jack Brabham
Williams - The Business of Grand Prix Racing
by Alan Henry