“Poetry in Motion” – Tony Brooks’ autobiography reviewed

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For a driver who won his first Grand Prix and came close to clinching the 1959 drivers’ championship, not an awful lot gets written about Tony Brooks.

Stirling Moss – whom Brooks gave a run for his money when they were team mates at Vanwall in 1958 – is the subject of a string of titles including Robert Edwards’ excellent biography, a recent title All My Races the earlier My Cars, My Career.

Moss’s credentials can hardly be overstated but Brooks admits his own reticence has much to do with why his name isn’t as well-remembered.

It took 15 years to persuade Brooks, who turned 80 in February, to put pen to paper. The result has certainly been worth the wait. Poetry in Motion, the new hardback from Motor Racing Publications, does superb justice to his racing career.

Aided by his own racing journals and articles, and fact-checked against contemporary sources, Brooks has produced an account of his time in motorsport that professional writers would be proud of.

He recalls his races in fine detail, without lapsing into the dull recitation of grid positions and classifications which some F1 driver biographies suffer from. He has a wry sense of humour, particularly when it come to relating some of the more alarming crashes he was involved in.

Brooks has a realistic view of the dangers of racing in the time which comes from seeing its perils at close quarters. His first race as a factory driver for Aston Martin came at Le Mans in 1955, when Mercedes driver Pierre Levegh crashed and was killed along with more than 80 spectators.

During his time in F1 Peter Collins, Stuart Lewis-Evans, Luigi Musso and Jean Behra were among those who lost their lives. Brooks explains how his early brushes with disaster resolved him to adopt a more cautious approach.

He takes the opportunity to set the record straight on some matters, such as his decision to hand his car over to Moss during the 1957 British Grand Prix, which Moss went on to win. Brooks had been injured in a crash at Le Mans a month earlier and was still suffering the effects.

He offers some informed and considered views on this period’s talking points, notably Moss’s lack of championship success. Brooks attributes this partly to Moss’s fondness for cobbling together ‘specials’ in an attempt to combine the best elements of different cars, which often ended up letting him down – sometimes to Brooks’ advantage.

His recollections also shine a light on the differing attitudes to sportsmanship at the time. He praises Moss for going out of his way to help Mike Hawthorn keep his second place in Portugal in 1958 – actions which ultimately cost Moss the championship.

But 12 months later Brooks was relegated from the front row of the grid for the title-decider due to a piece of chicanery by Harry Schell. While he doesn’t so far as to say it cost him the championship, it’s not hard to see how it could have given he was hit by another driver on the first lap.

Brooks recounts his joy of racing at the grand old circuits of Spa-Francorchamps and the Nurburgring Nordschleife, his pride in scoring his first win in the non-championship race at Syracuse in 1955, and his careful diplomacy while partnering Behra at Ferrari.

It is a rare treat to find such an absorbingly detailed account of racing in the early years of the world championship. Given how few of the drivers from that era have survived, it may be a while before another one appears.

The only criticisms I can offer are minor: the “in the wider world” interjections are unnecessary and the picture captions draw too heavily from the body text at times.

Then there is the small matter of the price. At £50 it’s rather steep – the lowest online prices are over £30 and there isn’t an eBook version available.

But books like this don’t come along that often, and this superb title is worth every penny.

RaceFans rating

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Poetry in Motion: Autobiography of a supreme Grand Prix driver

Author: Tony Brooks
Publisher: Motor Racing Publications
Published: 2012
Price: £49.50
ISBN: 9781899870837


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Author information

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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14 comments on ““Poetry in Motion” – Tony Brooks’ autobiography reviewed”

  1. This book might really be something for the summer shopping list Keith, I guess that writing it himself, he just did not have so much to add to the caption!

  2. Its my birthday soon and im weighing up whether or not to ask for someone to buy this one for me (with Derek Bell’s rereleased book) and its mighty tempting. I have a fondness to read about little-known British Racers and this review just proves that I should give it a go (thanks Keith).

    Staggering to think that someone as talented as Brooks has never been given the recognition he deserved as a racer, and he was the master of (old) Spa before Clark & Ickx came along.

  3. @keithcollantine
    Didn’t Tony Brooks win on his fourth attempt?

    1. @cduk_mugello Which races before Syracuse ’55 are you counting?

      1. @keithcollantine Ah, I see. You mean the non-championship race? It’s always difficult when trying to classify things like this – too many interpretations and grey areas!

  4. Always like an F1 book, but £50, seriously? For that price i would expect Brooks to come round to my house and read it out for me!

    1. @widowfactory Looks like someone else who got a review copy is flogging it on eBay for £3 plus a fiver for postage:


      It’s a steal, get in there!

      1. Good heads up – it’s on my watch list! Think there’s going to be some competition…

    2. Its cheap compared to “Mon ami Mate” on the Mike Hawthorn/Peter Collins. RRP is something north of £100!!!

      1. @sjm I got that a little while ago – haven’t got around to reading it yet, though.

  5. Must admit the old front engined cars of the 50’s still remain aesthetically my favourite cars of all time and Collins was right in there with the best of the drivers of the period. Cheers for the reviewKeith, I’ll add that to my wish list that I’ll hand to the wife come gift buying time…

  6. Try again – it’s 6.30am here and i meant Brooks was right up there!!!

  7. Fifty pounds! I don’t think I’m quite that interested in knowing all there is to know about Mr. Brooks. Sorry, Tony. I’ll wait for the movie.

  8. It must be a good ‘un for 5/5, alas I am too poor at the moment :(

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