AMEDEE GORDINI: A True Racing Legend
Roy Smith, published 2013 by Veloce who supplied the review copy (www.veloce.co.uk) Also available from Octane Books at $140.
Roy Smith is making a specialty of good quality books on French racing marques and people. This latest one is a beauty.
The Gordini team raced almost every weekend between 1945 and 1957, with very mixed results. But the book indicates how successful they really were, in terms of the resources the team they had available. Amedee Gordini could be a frustrating and stubborn team boss but there was no doubting his passion for competition and technical development, and he became something of a folk hero in France (though he had been born in Italy).
In those days there were far more non-championship races, many of which paid reasonable start and prize money. Class wins were important, as were the major hillclimbs. The Gordini team covered enormous distances in Europe to get to some events – either in their increasingly tired old Lancia truck or by driving the single seaters on the road, sandwiched between other team vehicles! But the team also ventured to American events like the Carrera Panamericana and F1 races in Argentina.
Drivers and mechanics had run-ins with Gordini over non-payment of wages and would sometimes ‘ambush’ him as soon as he’d collected the team’s start money! The cars got tired and less reliable- often they were running in 3 events at a time and the strain told. Yet he never gave in or stopped looking for the next development. Sponsorship came from Simca for many years- though they were more interested in rallying and sports car successes – supplemented by some trade support and even funds from the public.
The flag finally came down on the race team at Le Mans in 1957 which was the last time a Gordini ‘works’ entry raced. But some financial stability finally came through his arrangements with Renault and the success of the Dauphine and the R8.
From Grands Prix to the Monte Carlo Rally, Le Mans, Montlhery and the Tour de France, Le Sorcier (so named for his earlier tuning abilities) was there, with drivers of the quality of Fangio, Behra, Trintignant and Schell. The cars were almost always less powerful than their main rivals. There would be lean periods and then suddenly a major win would ensure the wages could be paid for another month!
There’s a detailed results section, plenty of photos and a real feel for the atmosphere of racing in the period. Well done, Mr Smith!