“To Hell and Back” (Niki Lauda with Herbert Volker, 1985)

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Last week we took a look at Alez Zanardi’s gripping autobiography “My Story”.

I thought an interesting book to compare that with would be Niki Lauda’s 1986 book “To Hell and Back” – the self-penned story of another driver whose career was defined by a life-threatening accident.

Niki Lauda’s intense, uncompromising personality leaps from every page of this book. Right from the start he is direct to the point of abrupt, but also disarmingly honest and even funny when the mood takes him.

What this book benefits from most is its sense of immediacy. First published 21 years ago, he must have begun writing it more or less as he his final season’s racing was drawing to a close in 1985.

Though he did have the advantage of having written an early book, “For The Record”.

Lauda is a fighter – he begins the book fighting the wealthy Lauda family’s patriach and he ends it seething at McLaren boss Ron Dennis (in decidedly more uncompromising terms than Jo Ramirez in his autobiography).

This is, after all, the man who screwed a multi-million dollar deal out of Bernie Ecclestone – and then turned it down. To say nothing of his scraps with Enzo Ferrari.

But of course he is also a fighter in quite a different way – from which he still bears the scars across his face.

The chapter covering his N??rburgring accident and recovery are grisly and gripping – and filled with disdain for the sensationalist coverage it was given by German newspaper Bild.

The later chapters slip out of the standard autobiography chronology and Lauda covers various topics of interest including technological development in F1. He also reproduces an interview with co-author Herbert Volker in which Lauda describes his unorthodox and committed work regime, “The Lauda System.”

“To Hell and Back” is a more intensely personal work than Zanardi’s autobiography; that it is not to say it is better, just different and quite unmistakeably the work of Niki Lauda. A fascinating, if brief read.

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Century Hutchinson

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Tags: f1 / formula one / formula 1 / 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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One comment on ““To Hell and Back” (Niki Lauda with Herbert Volker, 1985)”

  1. great book. Well worth reading. It appears he was one of the few who went toe to toe with Ferrari. The contract negotiations for 1977 were interesting

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