Turbo-charged look at the heated race-car rivalry between Ferrari and Ford.
In this cultural history, character study and page-turning action-adventure story, Playboy executive editor Baime (Big Shots: The Men Behind the Booze, 2003) focuses on France’s 24-hour Le Mans race in the mid-1960s—which doubled as an advertising showcase for Ford and Ferrari to sell cars. This was the international playground where self-promotional genius Enzo Ferrari and the impossibly wealthy, ambitious Henry Ford II could most visibly conduct their battle for supremacy. The two biggest automotive chess masters of the day squared off in something akin to a 20th-century version of The Knight’s Tale, where race-car drivers were little more than expendable pawns in their quest for wealth and global domination. Baime covers the golden-era years from 1964 to 1966, when a culture of youth and speed ruled and car racing was still considered a gentleman’s sport. In the author’s capable hands, the controversial 1966 Le Mans race makes for the ideal climactic centerpiece. The furious narrative pace never lets up, with facile but effective tension-building transitions between each chapter. Baime also provides ample historical and biographical context for nearly everyone involved—not just the big shots Ford and Ferrari, but also the steel-nerved drivers and invaluable pit crews. These included Ferrari’s seemingly indestructible champion John Surtees, the perennial underdog driver Phil Hill and Ford’s mechanical mastermind Carroll Shelby. Baime’s rich descriptions of the cars—including the muscular Shelby Cobra and the curvy, sexy Ferrari—lift them to near-human proportions.
The ultimate speed-read