The Limit: Life and Death On The 1961 Grand Prix Circuit
The Grand Prix Circuit also known as Forumla One racing was a deadly, almost suicidal sport in the 1950s and early 1960s. Carnell’s book covers the rivalry between two Ferrari teammates to win the 1961 championship. The American, Phil Hill, and the German, Von Trips. Carnell does a good job showing what drove Hill, Von Trips, and the other drivers to race in such a dangerous sport, and why it was so dangerous. No seat belts, no roll bar, explosive fires, bad brakes, all combined with high speeds on bad courses. No driver protections in the car or on the course. Drivers prayed they were ejected from the cockpit so they wouldn’t burn alive, and that they wouldn’t hit anything hard as they flew head first. Racing deaths occur in almost every race, drivers, and even famous drivers crash routinely during the racing season; often killing spectators too. The danger was the draw, for the the drivers and spectators.
Phil Hill struggles with the danger. He sees Formula One clearly and has to fight his nerves to even get in the car. Hill is more methodical and takes a clear eyed, engineering approach to racing. His boss Enzo Ferrari plays mind games with his drivers- even more than the competing drivers and teams. Enzo sets up Von Trips as his teammate to push Hill harder. Von Trips is a dashing German with noble blood who drives recklessly.
There is plenty of drama both on and off the race track, and Carnell’s writing puts you right in the middle of it. He also does a good job of explaining the ins and outs of F-1 racing so even a novice like me could follow along.
Excerpts From My Kindle
Of the two men, von Trips may have left the more enduring legacy. Two years before he died he bought a pair of go-karts in Florida and shipped them to Burg Hemmersbach. He had planned to build a kart track where young Germans could learn to race. In 1965 his mother fulfilled his wish by opening a track less than a mile from the family home. It was leased to Rolf Schumacher, whose son Michael took his first laps there in 1973. Michael Schumacher would become the greatest Grand Prix driver of all time. H won five of his seven championships with Ferrari, returning the marque to dominance after a fallow stretch following Enzo Ferrari’s death in 1988. – location 3492