Faster: How a Jewish Driver, and American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Beat Hitler’s Best

Neal Bascomb. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-1-328-48987-6
Historian Bascomb (The Escape Artists) dramatizes the Golden Era of Grand Prix racing and the showdown between French-Jewish driver René Dreyfus and German champion Rudi Caracciola at the 1938 Pau Grand Prix in this exuberant chronicle. Bascomb sketches the early history of motor racing, including the 1903 Paris to Madrid race that killed more than a dozen people, and charts the precipitous rise of German drivers and their Mercedes-Benz “Silver Arrows” after car enthusiast Adolf Hitler (who kept a life-sized portrait of Henry Ford behind his desk) came to power. As the narrative around Grand Prix racing shifted from driver vs. driver to nation vs. nation, England, France, and Italy fell behind Germany. American heiress and race car driver Lucy Schell helped to change that dynamic, however, by funding French automaker Delahaye’s efforts to build a car fast enough to compete with Hitler’s “mechanized army” of drivers. With Dreyfus—whose Jewish heritage excluded him from the sport’s best teams—behind the wheel, the Delahaye 145 went head-to-head with Mercedes-Benz on a treacherous racetrack in the French village of Pau and won. Bascomb packs the book with colorful details and expertly captures the thrill and terror of early-20th-century auto racing. This rousing popular history fires on all cylinders. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 12/16/2019
Release date: 03/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 978-1-328-48983-8
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