Hobbo: David Hobbs autobiography

Hobbo: David Hobbs’ autobiography reviewed

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It is debatable whether or not David Hobbs is better known as one of the most versatile drivers of his generation, or as one of the voices of motor sport in the USA. Hobbo is the self-told story of his remarkable life, and timely in its appearance after the end of F1 coverage on NBC following the 2017 season (and consequently the end of Hobbs’ commentary career).

Sumptuously published by Evro, this coffee table-bothering tome is fabulously illustrated throughout with some brilliant on-track and behind the scenes shots. The sheer quality of the physical product is very impressive.

But it’s what lies within that matters, and here it is a slightly more mixed picture.

The overwhelming majority of this book is about David Hobbs the racing driver and is structured around a broadly chronological account of his career. There could certainly be great book of Hobbs’ best stories and reflections on calling some of the biggest races of the past forty years but this isn’t it. Indeed the chapter given over to his television career focuses more on the behind the scenes discussions that landed him the gigs.

Whilst the pace rattles along there is a notable shift in tone, detail, and candour as the narrative moves on into more recent times. Certainly fewer punches are pulled when discussing various paddock characters from fifty years ago, particularly those no longer with us; John Surtees being a prime example. Likewise this is very much a story of what Hobbs did, rather than what he felt; for example I’d have loved some discussion about the how the cars and overall Le Mans experience evolved from the sixties to the late eighties.

That said, some sections of the book are fantastic, particularly the chapters covering the mid-sixties (Gulf Ford GT40s) to the early seventies (Penske), and the accompanying photographs and captions are superb. And afterwards I had an enormous amount of fun scrolling through google maps looking up some of the obscure Cam-Am and Formula 5000 circuits of the era.

It goes without saying that this book is a must for fans of the driver and the period (and makes a great accompaniment to Brian Redman’s ‘Daring Drivers, Deadly Tracks’) and collectors. But at £50 it is a serious investment for the slightly less committed. This is a pity as Hobbo is a great story, and a great window into professional motorsport outside the F1 limelight.

RaceFans rating

Rating four out of five

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“Hobbo: Motor racer, motor mouth – The autobiography of David Hobbs”

Author: David Hobbs
Publisher: Evro
ISBN: 9781910505311
Pages: 304
Price: £50

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Ben Evans
Motorsport commentator Ben is RaceFans' resident bookworm. Look out for his verdict on the latest motor racing publications on Sundays....

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  • 12 comments on “Hobbo: David Hobbs’ autobiography reviewed”

    1. I always liked him as a commentator, unfortunately I don’t remember seeing him as a driver much…little bit before my time. But we are talking about F5000 Champion, and that says it all.

      http://www.gpfactsandnumbers.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/2015-David-Hobbs.pdf

      1. I agree David Hobbs was a great commentator, I miss not hearing him…

      2. One of the better outcome of ESPN’s broadcasting F1 in the US in not having to listen to Hobb’s inane mumblings. He may have been a pretty good driver 40 years ago but now he’s well past his sell-by date.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          23rd April 2018, 20:19

          @greenflag Just curious, was there anything specific you didn’t like about David Hobbs’ broadcasting or was it a personality mismatch? I completely respect your opinion or the fact that you didn’t like any of the NBC talent but I would like to understand it a little more.

          Obviously, you don’t feel neutral towards him as you’ve characterized his commentary as “inane mumblings”. On the other hand, I still remember a lot of the comments made by David Hobbs and Steve Matchett during races.

    2. So far In North America our new Formula One coverage by Sky Sports pales in comparison to the David Hobbs race day coverage when he teamed with Leigh Diffey, Steve Match and the Future of Formula One coverage the always great Will Buxton last year. I met Hobbs at the Portland IMSA race in 1979. A gentleman then and is certainly now. The sudden departure of Hobbs being replaced by the Sky guys who so far in 2018 have failed to cover a complete Grand Prix without flaws of significance in 2018,is still sort of unbelievable.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        23rd April 2018, 2:45

        I agree – it’s a different sport without the NBC folks. That is about as big a compliment that I think can be paid to anyone.

        For us in the States this is truly a new era of F1. I always loved the commentators but I did not even realize how much I enjoyed the commentary. Bernie left and F1 hasn’t changed as dramatically as switching from NBC to Sky Sports. I’m honestly not sure if the sport would change more if Mercedes or Red Bull decided to leave F1 in-between seasons.

      2. Please.
        When you think about the NBC coverage it was truly pathetic. You have three guys – two has-beens many years removed from racing – sitting around a few TV monitors in some TV studio in the wee-hours who are many many thousands of miles from the actual race chatting about what they see on TV!

        At least with Sky every single person of their large crew that comments about the race is actually at the race. There’s nothing like being there live to capture the mood of a sporting event.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          25th April 2018, 3:39

          I don’t believe that Hobbs and Matchett are completely removed from racing as much as you think. They are obviously interested in the sport and I’m pretty sure they actually followed other motorsports too. I recall Leigh talking about Steve’s old Ferrari stalling as they were coming back from a race.

          The NBC crew were at some races and aside from seeing them commentate from a live location, it really didn’t add much.

          Also, Will Buxton was at the races and did a great job so I never felt that we weren’t at the races and he definitely added a more youthful perspective yet was wise beyond his years which is why he was such a great fit.

          So how do you explain the low quality of Sky’s commentators? They are on location, not in a studio, and they are not has-beens and are younger. So what’s their excuse for their coverage which doesn’t hold a candle to NBC F1, MotoGP (Nick Harris era), Bein Sports (Ray Hudson/Phil Schoen) and tennis (McEnroe)?

          And while the sport has changed a lot, it’s still in many ways the same sport it’s always been. You are essentially saying that McEnroe is irrelevant because tennis is so different today – there’s no logic at all in saying that… Can Zidane talk about football (it’s been a while since he kicked a ball in the Bernabeu)?

          The NBC guys were a hoot though – they were very entertaining when they were together. They had trouble remaining composed sometimes. That enthusiasm and passion just carried across the screen. The Sky Sports coverage is almost like eating an unsalted bowl of stew and seeing the bowl endlessly fill up for 2 hours :-)

      1. Great pic! Hobbs probably should have won the first race that I ever attended. The 1971 6 Hours at Watkins Glen, co-driving Roger Penske’s Ferrari 512 along with Mark Donohue. They went out with a steering issue. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=404PMZtqopA

    3. It brings such fond memories hearing others experience seeing meeting and partaking with Hobbs at such a broad range of race challenges. I realize now why my husband was so fired when we met him at The Portland IMSA event so long ago

      1. I completely agree with most of the American comments. Matchett, Hobbs, and Diffy were great commentators. The instant screaming every time something happens on SKY’s feed is very unappealing. I don’t know if that is a cultural difference or just the commentators personality. The change in style is the biggest difference I have experienced in F1 in many years. Maybe it will grow on me…..
        I can’t wait to pick up Hobo’s book. His witty comments on race day like “dun blowwwed up” will be missed…

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