“Nuvolari” reviewed

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Christopher Hilton’s biography of Nuvolari was published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of his death.

Unlike many of his contemporaries Nuvolari did not die at the wheel of a racing car, but he succumbed three years after ending his career from medical complications arising from his time behind the wheel.

He was one of the first ‘greats’ of the sport, and that alone is more than enough reason to justify an interest in his contribution to pre-F1 Grand Prix racing.

If you’ve read little of the wizardry of Nuvolari and his many exceptional performances as Grand Prix racing matured in the thirties and forties to what would become the World Championship we recognise today, then this is a good place to start.

Perhaps constrained by the limitations of the first-hand material available on Tazio Nuvolari, prolific F1 writer Christopher Hilton has chosen to limit this biography largely to ten of Nuvolari’s greatest races. Among which rank the legendary defeat of his German rivals at the Nurburgring in 1935 and his thwarted masterpiece of a drive in the 1948 Mille Miglia.

But the consequence of this limitation is that reading the books gives you knowledge about the man without acquiring a great understanding of him.

Hilton leans very heavily on the few sources there are, to the point that in places the narrative seems only to serve as filler material to join each quote together.

The structure of the book leans very heavily towards Hilton’s preferred manner of describing races – with lap-by-lap charts and chronologies.

It’s a very rigid style, often lacking in the vital context that tells you why the author thinks what he does.

For example, Hilton claims the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup race was one of Nuvolari’s best. But to an otherwise unenlightened reader it may seem that Nuvolari merely went to America and thrashed a bunch of driver who seldom raced on road courses and didn’t have suitable machinery for them.

?????ǣNuvolari?????? felt to me like an extended magazine feature, ?????ǣNuvolari’s top ten races,?????? which gives you the headline stories from his life but not how they came about and – crucially – who Nuvolari was.

Yes, the distance of time between the present day and the era of Nuvolari is an enormous obstacle to writing a book like this. But I hoped for more from ?????ǣNuvolari??????

Breedon Books

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Tags: f1 / formula one / grand prix / motor sport

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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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