Grand Prix The Killer Years

Book Review

Author: John Matthews
Published by Bigger Picture Projects Ltd
Available before Christmas 2014

For a limited time the book is available with the DVD for the package price of £25.99 + shipping saving £14.
I imagine that most of us have seen the fascinating documentary
Grand prix the Killer Years. It is a
vivid film that brutally portrays the inherent danger of the Formula One racing
landscape 40-plus years ago. It doesn’t attempt to sugar coat the dichotomy of a
fast-paced glamour-filled racing lifestyle against the almost tortuous mindset
that came along with it. Particularly for the families of the drivers.

As Jackie Stewart – one of the sport’s most vociferous and
vehement proponents for car, driver and track safety – rated his chances of a
race weekend’s survival as one in three, you can’t possibly imagine the sheer
terror put upon the wives, girlfriends, families and maybe even the young kids
of the time when they retired to the pit wall or hotel room to sit tensely, fingers
crossed, maybe clicking the stop watch as they seemingly held their breath
until the race was over.
The feeling one gleaned from the film was somewhat like
this, but as the writer/producer and director of the film, John Matthews told
me, the essence of the story – the survivors’ stories – was, out of necessity,
left on the cutting room floor. After going through all the collected footage and
the many interviews of the key personalities he had done for the film, “…you
end up only using about 3% of all the material you spend several months trying
to find.”
It was his realization that these absolute pearls; these interviews
– which may never have been seen – should be shared with the rest of us, that
led to the book – John’s first – of the same name. It is meant as an accompaniment
to the film and assumes that you have seen it and can therefore relate the two.
Having read a portion of the book I did not come away feeling that this was in
any way detrimental and to have not seen
it will in no way have any impact on the enjoyment of the book.
Because The Killer
is actually in production as I write (it will I’m told be ready for
Christmas delivery) there was no hard copy available to thumb through, so the
author sent a few of the interviews to me via email. By reading the transcripts
of Jacqueline Beltoise (sister of one of those unlucky heroes and likely
future-F1 champion Francois Cevert), her husband Jean-Pierre and also Nina Rindt,
the anguish and life changing events of that perilous and tumultuous time comes
through the pages and slaps you in the face.
John had to be very conscious of the sensitive nature of
these interviews and is careful to point out that rather than prod with questions
and steer the interviews, he let them tell their own stories with minimal
interruption. This method may be uncomfortable for both interviewer and interviewee
as it leads to long silences where sometimes neither one wants to be the one to
break it. The upshot for the reader though, is an honest and heartfelt account
where the delicate and fragile emotions – particularly those of the women –
really tug at your heart strings. Rare in a racing book where the norm is to
read about the adulation and the accolades that go along with the playboy
Nina Rindt, widow of Jochen talks about how he would make
the pilot of their chartered plane sit in the back while he himself took over
flying duties, sometimes in dangerous situations which would infuriate her. The
more danger the better was the attitude of the drivers back then who cared less
about how fast they were driving, but more -according to Jean-Pierre Beltoise –
about how precise their driving was.
With a foreword by renown racing journalist and author David
Tremayne and chapters including interviews with David ‘Beaky’ Sims (the last
person to speak to Jim Clark and his race mechanic), Sir Jackie Stewart, John
Surtees, Jacky Ickx, Emerson Fittipaldi and more, the book will make riveting
reading for racing fans with even a passing interest in the roots of modern F1.
Unusually though it will transcend motor sport fans and carry over to readers
of human interest stories as the transcripts make heart wrenching reading from
those who lived with death or stared it down and survived to share it with us.


Don’t miss the chance to obtain a copy of this one. You will
want to read it over and over. Get the DVD too if you haven’t already.