THE ROAD TO MONACO: MY LIFE IN MOTOR RACING
(Available in NZ from The Bruce Mclaren Trust)
Review copy supplied by
In 1970, when Desmond Mahoney’s Trioatthetop — his now iconic book detailing the histories of Kiwi Formula One drivers Chris Amon, Denny Hulme and Bruce Mclaren — first appeared, there were some who reckoned the title should’ve also included NZ’S ‘other’ F1 driver, Howden Ganley, as Quartetatthetop. Somehow Howden always seemed to get left out. The late Eoin Young, who provided encouragement to Howden’s writing efforts — and incidentally came up with this book’s title, together with Motorsport Flashback columnist Michael Clark — certainly aimed to redress the balance when he contributed his three-part feature on Howden to Nzclassiccar in early 2002. More recently Howden was honoured at the Gulf Oil Howden Ganley F5000 Festival held at Hampton Downs earlier this summer, which became the site of this book’s official launch. Unlike most racing drivers, Howden has written down his story — something he’s probably better qualified to do than most ex-f1 drivers, as he was once employed as a reporter for the Waikatotimes where, as well as founding that newspaper’s motoring page, he covered local sporting events. Later Howden contributed what could be viewed as a monthly New Zealand motor-sport column to the British magazine, Sportscarillustrated. Although his writing career was cut short by the need to earn more money in order to further his racing ambitions — Howden worked by day for a concreting company and by night washing dishes at Len Gilbert’s restaurant — his skill with words remains, and Theroadtomonaco is not only extremely well written, it’s also brilliantly readable. I have to admit that prior to acquiring a review copy, I had already prepared myself to hand out a big thumbs up for Howden’s book purely by default — after all, it’s not that often we get the chance to read a Kiwi racer’s autobiography. However, after only having read the first three or four chapters I was hooked, and realized that there was absolutely no need to apply any sort of intangible ‘Kiwi quota’ to this book. Simply put, Theroad Tomonaco is undoubtedly the best racing-driver autobiography I’ve read in years. Not only is it immensely enjoyable, it’s also packed with marvellous anecdotes from all points in Howden’s racing career while, historically, the book runs the gamut from early days skidding around on grass tracks in
mum’s Morris Minor, to competing at the highest level in Formula One. Along the way I learned a lot more about many aspects of Howden’s racing career that Nzclassiccar touched upon during the lead-up to this year’s Howden Ganley F5000 Festival, including detailed information relating to the Lotus XI that we featured a few issues ago, as well as more on Ivan Segedin’s Motordrome Racing Team. Really, for anyone interested in NZ motor sport, this book is an absolute must-have. What I also found very appealing about this volume is that Howden doesn’t shy away from revealing his emotions when discussing his family, and at times his story becomes intensely personal. Indeed, the most moving chapter of Theroadtomonaco is the final one in which Howden remembers his wife Judy, who sadly passed away in 2007. As well as the downsides of life, Howden covers those relating to motor racing. For him, that was always going to include clouting that power pole at Dunedin in the Lotus and, more seriously, the ill-fated encounter with the Maki F1 car that effectively put paid to his F1 racing career, after a major shunt in the generally uncompetitive Japanese race-car at the Nürburgring. Following a period of rehabilitation, Howden turned his attention to sportscar racing before joining up with Tim Schenken to form Tiga, a company that specialized in building racing single-seaters and sports cars. When Howden finally moved on from Tiga he became involved with the British Racing Drivers’ Club, eventually becoming club secretary. In later years, his position within the international world of motor racing was confirmed when he was elected as vice president of the Clubinternationale desancienspilotesdegrandprixf1 — and, in that capacity, Howden’s road to Monaco culminated with an invitation from Prince Albert II to a private ceremony at the Palace. The royal court at Monaco is a long way from Hamilton for someone who describes himself as “just a simple country boy” and, as covered in this book, it’s a truly enjoyable journey that’s well worth taking. As only 2500 copies were privately printed, you should grab your copy now — Theroadtomonaco has all the hallmarks of becoming a future collectible.
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