Simply titled, SportErfolge (English: Success in Sport), this book came my way quite by surprise. It is not a book I knew anything about until I spotted it on the internet, and decided to look for a copy. As a writer on Porsche matters, I thought that I had a fairly good grip on what was being published on this marque, but to be honest, at the time this book was published my own very large book on the Porsche 956/962 had just been released, and so my head was probably in the clouds somewhere at that time.
Upon recently finding this publication, SportErfolge, I decided to dig a little deeper and to my surprise I found that it covered one of my favourite periods of Porsche motorsport, from 1951 to 1963. But to be perfectly honest, there is hardly a period in Porsche’s rich motorsport history that isn’t a favourite of mine, although this 12-year period importantly formed the foundation of the company’s extraordinary motorsport achievements.
Starting out with Porsche’s first sports cars, the 356, the book covers events from as far afield as the USA to Europe, Argentina, Mexico, Scandinavia and even Africa. What is refreshing, is that the author covers races, rallies and other events that are not normally covered by other books. With such a wide international motorsport stage to cover, the reader will find the following Porsche race cars within the pages of the book: 356 (including 356 SL) next to the Carrera Abarth GTL, the 550, Glöckler Porsche, America Roadster, 718, RS60, 804 and more.
The author has listed many, many races from such important events as the Le Mans 24 Hours, Carrera Panamericana, Targa Florio, Spa-Francorchamps, Pikes Peak as well as so many more lesser known (today) competitions. With such a wide range of events, it is easy to see how the author has covered so many different race cars produced by Porsche, and all in just one 12-year period. Each race has been given a comprehensive write up, enabling the reader to understand the circumstances and conditions, and the competition, under which that race was run.
Absolutely priceless is a photo the Porsche PR supremo, Baron Huschke von Hanstein, trying to straighten out the bodywork of a car in which he was a passenger (filming naturally), after it hit a bank during a practice run. At the wheel was Taffy von Trips, and the photo shows von Hanstein attempting to straighten out the front fender after contact with a bank, the ever-present cine camera ‘plonked’ on the bonnet of the 718 RSK. This just shows the commitment, enthusiasm and loyalty to the company, that one should find the head of the company’s Press Dept. in the passenger seat of the race car, and then trying to mend the fender. Would this happen today, I wonder?
Certainly, the strength of this book is in the photographs. Selected from the author’s own extensive photographic archive, which in turn consists of private collections acquired over many years of work and research in this area. As such, the images that grace the pages of this publication, are unique (and I use this word with caution, but it is appropriate in this case) and most of them have probably never been published before. And refreshingly, the photos do not just show race cars in action, they include the personnel and drivers, engines, the race cars themselves, and spectacular action shots. The quality of the images is outstanding, and I don’t mind going over the top here, because they really are superb. And remember, these were images taken at a time when motorsport photography was hard work, and very much a labour of love for both the amateur and professional alike. Colour photography was not in general use at this time, making the images that much more special.
Added to the quality of this book, is the fact that the author has put an awful lot of work into the photo captions. Take it from one who has gone down this road several times before, researching the details for each photograph takes a lot of time, as each photo has been selected for a specific reason, and the author must ensure that his/her words match up to the story being told through the image. Detailed and lengthy captions form an important part of this story, and such captions just take longer to research, check, double-check and then write up. In a nutshell, this is an admirable piece of work, and the author was justifiably selected as the winner of the 2013 ADACMotorwelt Autobuch Preis in the Motorsport/Rennsport category with this book.
If any criticism can be levelled at this book, then it is the text which is quite small and difficult to read, and with the captions printed in a shade of grey, these are also hard to read. Keeping in mind that this book is more likely to be read by folk who were around at the time or who can remember this era of racing, good eyesight is sometimes just a memory. This criticism aside, this is a really serious publication by any account. And do not be misled by the German title of the book, all the text is in English.
And so the question remains, is this a good buy? Without any shadow of a doubt, this is not a book you want to miss out on, and it certainly deserves a place on your bookshelf. The price may be a stretch for some, but it is worth every penny if only for the unusually high quality of images. The narrative is well written and very easy to follow, but with 640 pages, this book is no lightweight. This book would have to be categorised as a ‘specialist publication’ and would most certainly make an excellent mid-year gift to self, especially during this time of restricted travel. Get yourself a copy while you still can!!