Today we continue our off-season look at great motorsport journalism.
For instance, the book starts with Revson writing a chapter about the difficulty connecting with other drivers titled: "You can be friendly, but it's hard to be friends." Mandell's version is titled: "If everyone around thought the profits from 100 million tubes of Orange Flip lipstick were buying your car, you'd be testy too."
Revson, of course, was heir to an enormous fortune built by his father Martin, who was one of three brothers who started the Revlon cosmetics company. In fact, his full name - and you find this out in the book; not even Wikipedia has this correct - was Peter Jeffrey Revlon Revson.
Well-to-do, well-educated and well-connected, Revson could have lived a life of leisure but chose instead to go racing. You wonder, though. The first guy he went racing with got killed doing it. Then his brother was killed racing. Did the thought ever cross his mind that somebody was maybe trying to tell him something?
But he charged ahead anyway and was quite successful until March, 1974, when he died as the result of an F1 pre-season testing accident in South Africa.
He won two world championship Grands Prix, the 1973 British GP and the '73 Canadian GP at Mosport. That Canadian race has gone down in F1 history as one of the strangest (a safety car was used for the first time and it pulled out in front of the wrong car), with three drivers - Jackie Oliver, Emerson Fittipaldi and Revson - claiming to have won it. In the end, the win went to Revson.
As the book's publisher notes in a precede, the book was finished and sent in for publication on March 15, 1974. A week later, on March 22, Revson was dead.
"Because it is our feeling that this book offers immediate and vivid insights into the world of a Grand Prix driver, it appears as originally written."
Watkins Glen, 1973
Revson: On to Canada (Revson had just won the British GP). Thanks to the driver of the pace car, I won the Canadian Grand Prix in a burst of wet confusion that still has officials arguing. We were all boiling through the rain when Scheckter and Cevert bumped. They both escaped unhurt - in fact, Cevert was threatening to sock Scheckter - but out came two ambulances and a break-down truck. They also rolled out a pace car that was supposed to control the field by driving in front of the race leader until everything got straightened out. But he picked the wrong car; the real leader, Emerson Fittipaldi, I think, was caught in back and unable to pass. And while they were circling slowly, I was able to catch up from the rear. Fittipaldi never did, and I won the race. As they say, take them any way you can get them.
The weekend was very odd and very tense. There had been a lot of typical end-of-season negotiating going on, driver deals and new alliances shaping up betwen teams, a lot of closed-door contract talks and everyone was preoccupied.
I ruled out a proposed Ferrari contract on the basis of its exclusivity clause. The original deal was $100,000 for Formula 1 only. But that meant no other racing for any other team. The $100,000 would have been almost enough if Ferrari had been willing to add to it for prototype racing with their sports car. But Ferrari came back and said the contract included driving the sports car. All of a sudden, the deal started to look less attractive. All of a sudden, I was not going to be paid very well. If Ferrari had upped the ante to $150,000 it would have made sense. But in this business, exclusivity is pretty sticky. I sent Ferrari a Telex and they didn't answer. So I postponed a trip to Italy indefinitely.
The preoccupation with the future continued at Watkins Glen the next week. But my thoughts were soon taken up with something sadder and more immediate. Francois Cevert had his fatal accident.
Francois was coming up the hill over the bridge. It is probably the most dangerous place in racing. You come up to the hill blind and you are just about flat out, using the whole road and drifting to the right. Just as you exit the turn, you come up on top of a bridge with nowhere to go on either side.
From the skid marks, it looked as though Francois might have slid a little bit too far, tried to correct and hit the upper railing of the Armco barrier. The barrier collapsed and the car disintegrated and rolled over on its cockpit, killing Francois.
The next morning, the Tyrrell team withdrew from the race in tribute to Francois, so we started without Stewart and Amon. My chance to win was faded right on the starting line. I couldn't disengage my clutch. After everyone was past, I jammed it into gear and took off but of course my clutch wasn't working for the rest of the race.
When you realize you've lost the race before you even start, a lot of adrenalin and enthusiasm drains out of your system. It becomes harder to concentrate and harder to bear down. As the race wore on, I got back into the swing of things but it was too late. Ronnie Peterson won it; I ended fifth behind my McLaren teammate, Denny Hulme. It was an unsatisfactory end to an unsatisfactory weekend.
What with the death of Francois, my own disappointing performance and the pressure over contract negotiations, it was one of the most difficult weekends of my life.
Mandell: Revson had arrived at the Glen Motor Lodge in Watkins Glen with Marji Wallace on Thursday. Marji had come from nearby Binghampton where she had just won Miss USA on her way to the Miss USA title.
It is crisp in October in the Finger Lakes region of New York. There is no other part of the country so splended in the fall. The glacially worn hills roll softly beneath the greens and yellows and reds of the foliage. Most of the roads are ancient two-laners and they break startlingly around a wooded corner above Lake Cayuga or lake Seneca again and again as they weave through the region. The countryside is quiet and content.
There is a deceptive laziness to the atmosphere of a Grand Prix practice/qualifying session. Unlike the system used in many American races, where the cars go out one at a time to turn official qualifying laps, the Formula One cars are all out together. They are timed on every lap. The morning unwinds slowly and gently, despite being punctuated by the bark of race-car exhausts.
Then on Saturday morning at Watkins Glen, there was a sudden stillness. A race track is not meant to be quiet on a busy weekend. When it is, the quiet suddenly turns into a terrible chill. It means everyone on the track has stopped and cars at work stop for only one reason.
Jackie Stewart, in his dark blue Elf Team Tyrrell was one of the first drivers in. His whole crew, along with members of other crews, closed in on his car. His wife Helen offered her hand to him as he stepped out. He pushed her aside, pushed away the crowd in front of him and walked to the pit counter. "Where's Helen?" he asked, as though at that moment he was only just returning to counciousness. Helen took his hand and led him around to the back of the pit. Somebody gave Stewart a sedative.
Revson was one of the last to come in. Teddy Mayer asked him what had happened and there was a brief conference after Revson pulled off his helmet wiith the lollipop shapes painted on it. Then he walked slowly to the pit counter where a terrified Marji was sitting. "Cevert," he said. "It's a bad one. It really is a bad one."
Revson said he wanted to walk down to the Paddock Club. There was a one-man show of motor racing paintings he wanted to see. He seemed unaware or unconcerned that he would have to walk half a mile or more through the crowds and that when he got there he would be facing a window that looked out upon the spot where Cevert had died.
Revson paused during lunch to ponder Cevert's crash. He speculated about its cause: he talked about Cevert's considerable abilities as a driver, wondering about the possibility of human error. He spoke almost as if Cevert had been a man he'd never known. He didn't mention Cevert's death again.
Speed with Style: The Autobiography of Peter Revson was first published in Great Britain in 1974 by William Kimber and Co., Ltd. It was published in North America by Doubleday and Co., also in 1974. It is available at Amazon.com
- NORRIS McDONALD