“The Last Road Race”?? (Richard Williams, 2004)

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The Last Road Race?? (Richard Williams, 2004)I’ve always been fascinated by the Pescara track. It is an anomaly in Formula One history, used only once for a World Championship race.

And, at 25.5 kilometres (15.8 miles) in length, the longest circuit ever used for F1 – though many might automatically assume that record belongs to the Nurburgring.

So I was delighted to come across this short work by Richard Williams on the 1957 Italian Grand Prix.

Although he freely admits that it was not, strictly speaking, the last road race, he presents it as a turning point in the evolution of Formula One. If any single Grand Prix requires an entire book to do it justice, this is an ideal candidate.

Williams writes with considerable authority on the subject, as readers of his magnificent biography on Enzo Ferrari will know.

The race itself merits just a single chapter in this slender volume. For the main part, Williams builds an evocative history of road racing and the leading drivers of the late fifties.

In the opening chapters the reader gets a strong sense of the mentality of post-war racing: the cavalier (or indifferent) attitudes to safety, and the chivalry and camaraderie of the competitors. Anecdotes reveal them sharing cars to and from the race and socialising with one another – unheard of today, but the author doesn’t labour the point.

After 1957 Grand Prix racing changed. Already reeling from the horror of the 1955 Le Mans crash when 85 people lost their lives, road racing became rarer and each Grand Prix were cut to a maximum two hours’ duration, bringing the sport a significant step closer to what we recognise today.

Pescara makes for a fascinating topic and a welcome diversion from the usual mountains of biographies. It’s not hard to recommend a book when its only shortcoming it’s that it feels a little on the light side.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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