PJ Stephens - Building and Racing my ‘750’ (Pan)
I bought this when I bought an Austin 7 Special. Part diary, part technical build handbook, Building and Racing my ‘750’ is the story of an ordinary bloke with no experience and no power in his garage turning an Austin 7 into a 750 Motor Club racer, which he goes on to race against the likes of Colin Chapman, and race well. More ‘how I did it’ than ‘how you should’, it’s written with great generosity and warmth and is surprisingly comprehensively photographed. “It is quite an extensive treatise, and no enthusiast can fail to be interested in it as a story as well as a handbook,” said The Autocar in 1955. I think the same today.
Damon Hill - Watching the Wheels (Macmillan)
Even though Damon Hill was the son of a two-time Formula 1 champion, his rise to the top of motor racing was by no means charmed or straightforward. Hill’s autobiography details his journey from childhood, through adolescence and into his adult years with such honesty that you come away feeling as though you know him personally.
It says a lot about the man that, having started out racing motorcycles, he didn’t actually compete on four wheels until he was 23 years old, by which age Lewis Hamilton was already an F1 world champion. Hill’s story truly is a remarkable one.
Damon Hill’s autobiography, Watching the Wheels, is one of the best racing driver biographies that I’ve read and I’ve read a lot. I own a decent collection, too.
Hill’s book is fantastic for several reasons. Firstly, in a very modest way, it shows just how good a driver he was. Secondly, it is a brutally honest self-analysis; the difficulties he faced after his father’s death and of what motivated him to race. Thirdly, it’s really well written and I have it on good authority that he had only a small amount of help with it. Finally, Damon and I worked at the same motorcycle courier company in London and his tales of those days stir up a bit of nostalgia.