An admiring biography of race car driver and daredevil Albert Champion (1878-1927).
Champion was unquestionably an innovator in cycling and automotive history. He created and pioneered the internal combustion engine, spark plugs (he's the AC in AC Delco), and inflatable tires for cars and motorcycles, in turn changing and expanding the industry. His childhood curiosity and aptitude for riding a unicycle through the streets of his hometown of Paris stoked his imagination, and The Automobile, a trade publication, wrote that he was "perpetually afire with new ideas and ever reaching for further achievements…versatile, amusing, brilliant, and delightfully companionable.” Champion not only broke records at speed and endurance races throughout France and Germany, including the inaugural Tour de France in 1903, he also earned the title of "the fastest driver in America around a circular track, on two wheels or four" at the turn of the 20th century. Nye (co-author: Peak Performance Under Pressure: How to Achieve Extraordinary Results Under Difficult Circumstances, 2012, etc.) devotes more than half the book to Champion's endurance and speed-racing careers, as well as the history of the sport until the early 1900s. The author also explores bike design but does not provide enough information about Champion's nature or behavior outside the garage or the boardroom. The book is painstakingly detailed and researched, and the infodump eventually has an enervating effect on readers—e.g., Nye tediously lays out Paris' topography and construction of the city, even the individual boulevards ("The neighborhood of Batignolles is shaped like a croissant sitting on the Right Bank of the Seine…”). Champion's numerous achievements are indeed impressive, but in this one-sided account, he's not very intriguing, despite the author's veneration.
An idolizing, overlong biography for avid bike-racing fans and speed freaks only.