The accident review revealed that Wheldon's path on the lower portion of the race track was blocked by the multi-car crash he was approaching. Car No. 77 became airborne and ultimately flew into a vertical post of the track fencing. The pole intruded the cockpit, and the impact with the driver's helmeted head produced non-survivable blunt force trauma.
All I will say about that book is this: Kitty Kelly and her editors could take a lesson in how to write a book about Frank Sinatra.
But this is supposed to be about auto racing and my purpose today is to tip you off about the best books, videos, models – what have you – that I assure you will be a quality gift.
As always, prices here are Suggested Retail Prices by either the producer or the retailer. Always remember, you might be able to get a better deal at another outlet, or online.
Okay, before we take our annual tour of Toronto-area shops, here are a few good reads I would suggest you keep in mind when you’re either out and about or browsing on the Web.
– No Angel, the Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone by Tom Bower, Faber & Feaber Ltd., publishers, $23.
I have quoted from this book several times in the past year because if anybody has any doubts about how Machiavelian, conniving, sneaky, nasty, mysterious and utterly brilliant Bernie Ecclestone is, a read of this book will remove them all.
He was born into poverty and grew up in a household completely lacking in affection, which helps to explain his ruthless view of business and the world. That he loves nothing more than sticking it to his pals (Ron Dennis, Sir Frank Williams, et al) while at the same time making them even richer is illustrated time and again.
He really is a fascinating man. A very strange man, but fascinating all the same.
– Steve McQueen: A Passion for Speed, MBI Publishing Co., $40.
I first saw Steve McQueen in a 1960s film called The War Lover (a role in which he didn’t have to do much "acting," if you catch my drift). Then came The Great Escape, the Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt and Le Mans. Yes, there were films before and films after but in my book, those were the Big Five.
I didn’t know, for instance, that the original plan was for McQueen to actually race in the 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans. The studio nixed that idea because of insurance; the compromise was that McQueen could drive the Le Mans course at speed post-race and the film editing would make it appear as if he was right in there.
There are all sorts of tasty tid-bits like that sprinkled throughout this book.
The only thing I don’t like about it is the section that perpetuates something that McQueen said, but which he lifted from high-wire walker Karl Wallenda.
After two members of his Flying Wallendas were killed in a fall in Detroit in 1962, Wallenda told a reporter that "to be on the wire is life, the rest is just waiting." McQueen, in the script for Le Mans, substituted "racing" for "the wire." Fair enough, but he should have attributed it.
— Real Racers: Formula 1 in the 1950s and 1960s — a Driver’s Perspective, by Stuart Codling, MBI Publishing Co. (Motorbooks), $40.
This is an F1 picture book (the Klemantaski Collection) and there are some beauties in it — some you’ve seen before, but many new (to these eyes, anyway). The photos are explained by the subjects — Chris Amon, Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart, et al.
I get a kick out of the title. “Real racers” was a term coined in the 1980s, I believe, by editor, publisher and commentator Dick Berggren to set U.S. short-track oval racers apart from the wine-and-cheese road racers. Let there be no doubt, however, that the F1 drivers of the Fifties and Sixties were every bit as brave, aggressive and tough as any American dirt-track hee-ro.
Be warned: there are a couple of grisly pictures in this book. Amon driving past the burning Ferrari of Lorenzo Bandini at Monaco in ’67 is one I’d never seen before and some people might find it upsetting.
— Dead Man’s Switch: A Kate Reilly Racing Mystery by Tammy Kaehler, Poisoned Pen Press, $30.
I’m injecting some fiction here and this isn’t a bad example. I mean, there have been all sorts of hokey racing books and movies over the years — thin plots, improbable scenarios — but this one’s okay.
Kate Reilly wants to race in the American Le Mans Series and arrives at Lime Rock one day to find a dead driver. Naturally, she’s a suspect in the guy's murder. She gets a chance to race because, natch, there’s a seat open. (I know what you’re thinking, but stick with me here.)
So between racing and discovering all sorts of twists and turns off the track as well (not a lot of people liked the dead driver), Kate finally helps solve the crime.
The dialogue is interesting and the author has done her homework so far as the racing is concerned.
Okay, here’s what’s available locally.
MINI GRID, 608 Mount Pleasant Rd., Toronto 416-488-7663, minigrid.com
Owner, and champion Canadian racer, Scott Maxwell suggests a DVD called Grand Prix: The Killer Years (60 minutes, $35). It is not for the faint at heart, however. Says Scott:
“2011 brought back the reality of what motorsports is, always has been and always will be, a dangerous sport that balances along a very fine line between thrilling escapism one moment and tragedy the next. Events like the death of Dan Wheldon, which are few and far between, remind us that it wasn’t always this way.
“Back in the 1960s, the rate of fatalities or serious injury was phenomenal. In fact, at one point, statistics supported the fact that one in four Grand Prix drivers at the beginning of the year would not be around at the end of the season…
“Things had to change… and this is the story of why and how. It is stirring, accurate and unfortunately real; but it will also offer perspective on what we view and enjoy today and how far the sport has come.”
Maxwell added that he also stocks other DVDs, books, magazine, models and racing art.
In fact, when I finish work today, I’m heading over to pick up a copy of the book Driven By Desire: The Desire Wilson Story ($52). Why?
Well, I have a framed, autographed picture of Janet Guthrie in my home office and, as anybody who’s read my stuff knows, I’m a huge Danica Patrick fan.
But they say Wilson was the best of the women drivers. I have an open mind, so we’ll see.
TRANSPORT BOOKS AT DRB MOTORS LTD., 16 Elrose Ave., Toronto, 416-744-7675, transportbooks.com
Says owner Jim Roseborough, as we begin our annual conversation of what’s hot at his place: “If you really want to feel old, buy the two ‘50-year-anniversary books’ I’ve got here on the AC Cobra and the E-type Jag.”
He then goes on to describe what his life was like half a century ago when both these cars first appeared.
“I can remember being in high school, particularly when the Jag came out, and I remember the sensation it caused,” he said.
Mr. Roseborough tells me the first book, Shelby Cobra Fifty Years, is by Colin Comer with a forward by Carroll Shelby and is well-written and has a lot of excellent photographs. He’s selling it for $44 plus GST.
The title of the second book is a bit of a mouthful. Jaguar E-Type: A Celebration of the World's Favourite '60s Icon, is by Nigel Thorley and retails for $43.99 ("a penny saved is a penny earned,” quips Mr. Roseborough, when questioned about the one-cent difference in the two prices).
He is enthralled by the photographs in the Jaguar book. “They give you goose bumps,” he said.
COLLECTOR STUDIO MOTORSPORT GALLERY, 136 Yorkville Ave., Toronto, 416-975-5442, collectorstudio.com
Proprietor Morry Barmack always has treasure after treasure on offer in his Yorkville shop. I guarantee you won't be disappointed if you drop in for a visit.
Here are a few things he's suggesting for this Christmas:
A 1984 Ayrton Senna signed steering wheel. Morrry says that this is an original steering wheel used at the ADAC 1000 KM Nurburgring on July 14, 1984. The wheel was signed in white tire marker after the race by Senna, Henry Pescarolo and Stefan Johansson.
As with most of the items at Collector Studio, you have to email for the price.
How about this treasure? Morry has a Jim Clark race suit, an original cream Hinchman uniform worn by Clark at Indianapolis around 1964 as well as during the Tasman Series between 1967-1968.
According to Hinchman (the Indianapolis firm that has outfitted racing drivers for years), only one of these Firestone suits was made with "Jimmy Clark" embroidered on the chest, as most had the more formal "Jim Clark."
There's lots more at Morrry's shop. Pop by.
CAR BUFFS AUTO GIFT CENTRE, Square One, Mississauga, 905-949-9707
I just about fainted when I went into the mammoth Mississauga Square One Shopping Centre last summer and went to where Car Buffs has been for years, only to find it wasn’t there.
But it hadn’t closed; it had just moved to another part of the mall and thank goodness for that, because owner John Cuschieri has always got a lot of stuff — books, clothing, collectibles, etc. — on offer.
His assistant, Julie, said that this year, Car Buffs has got a good selection of “front-of-car” wall shelves that would make an excellent Christmas gift for someone in your family. (You’ve seen them — the grille of an iconic car that can serve as a shelf for books or what-have-you).
“We have Mustang wall shelves, Corvettes and several others. They retail for $109 plus tax,” she said.
One of the things I’ve always liked about Car Buffs is the clothing. Do you want to give someone a shirt that looks like the top half of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s uniform? Or Tony Stewart’s? or Carl Edwards’? There is always a selection of those “pit shirts” on hand and they sell for $95.
Oh, and Julie adds that the store also has a wide selection of 2012 calendars — NASCAR, F1 and so-on — and they sell for $20.
TORONTO MOTORSPORTS, 283 Port Union Rd., Toronto, 416-724-7223, tomotorsports.com
You have to pre-order, because this item won’t be available til next spring (the exact date has yet to be determined), but I think this could make a lovely gift for any IndyCar fan you might know.
The Dan Wheldon 1:18 scale by Greenlight 2011 Dallara tribute car retails for $54.99. This is the only licensed replica from the 2011 season for this driver and is a limited edition. The model features authentic sponsor and team decals, plus detailed cockpit and driver figure. It boasts removable engine cowlings with full engine detail. It comes with a gorgeous window display box.
Toronto Motorsports also has some hard-to-find models for sale, including Paul Tracy’s 1994 Penske Mercedes-Benz Indy car with Marlboro stickers (it’s on sale for $59.99) Lithographs — paintings and photographs, suitable for framing — of Gilles Villeneuve, Ayrton Senna and others, can be yours starting from $27.96.
Books (Villeneuve: A Racing Legend, photographs by Allan de la Plante) can be purchased for $50, DVDs (Bobby Deerfield, starring Al Pacino) for $17.99 and up and calendars (the Ferrari official team calendar) for $16.99 are also available.
There is also serious memorabilia at this store — race-worn gloves, helmets (a Rick Mears race uniform is on sale for $3,299.99) and so-on.
In fact, you can find just about anything.
JOE RUSSO'S PRESTIGE AUTO ART & GIFT GALLERY, 890 Yonge St., Toronto 416-929-9090, prestigeautoart.com
Enthusiastic owner Joe Russo is most keen to tell everybody that he has moved his shop from Yorkville to Yonge St., just north of Davenport, on the west side across from Canadian Tire.
Once inside, though, you will find that everything you got to know and love about Joe’s emporium when it was in Yorkville is still there, including the proprietor himself.
So what’s hot this Christmas, Joe?
“I have got some really cool, 1:18-scale, Rolls-Royce Ghosts for sale and they can be yours for $250,” he replied. “That’s the high end. Going down the line, for $55, you can take home a scale-model Lamborghini Aventador LP700/4 and let me tell you, that is a real deal.”
Once you get Joe going, it’s hard to stop him.
“If you would like a carbon-fibre arm table light, I have one for you. How about drink coasters that look like brake discs? I have some. How about a ceramic brake disc clock, or a table clock that looks like a Formula One steering wheel?”
Okay, Joe, What are those going to cost?
“Come in and find out,” says Joe. “But I have a big sale going. Walk in and decide to buy something and I will give you $10 to $100 off the list price, right then and there."
Okay, Joe. I'll be right over - er, after I come back downtown from Mini Grid.
Now, in addition to the specialty shops listed above, other racing businesses have gift ideas.
Mosport International Raceway has got gift certificate packages available that can be used to purchase souvenir merchandise, tickets for major events (the American Le Mans Series will be racing there next July) or passes to the Grand Prix Club (a VIP hospitality area), Call the Mosport Hotline at 1-800-866-1072 Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or go to www.mosport.com and click on the appropriate link.
The Honda Indy Toronto has tickets for sale at www.hondaindytoronto.com or you can call 1-877-503-6869.
Oh, want to drive a racing car, rather than just read about it, or watch DVDs? Well, the Bridgestone Racing Academy at Mosport is offering a "Thrill of a Lifetime" gift certificate starting at $295. Check dates and purchase your personalized gift certificates at www.race2000.com/giftcertificates.
Hey, remember Canadian F1 racer Allen Berg? He drove for Osella back in the 1980s. Well, he has a formula car driving school these days and is offering packages - but you'll have to fly west to go to one of them (his latest opening is at California Speedway). Go to www.allenbergracingschools.com for all the info.
I hope I haven't missed anything or anybody.
Merry Christmas, everyone!