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Regga by Christopher Hilton

Release date: 03rd January, 2009
Publisher: Haynes Publishing

List Price: £35.00
Our Price: £24.50
You Save: £10.5 (30%)
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By Christopher Hilton
Haynes Publishing price: £24.50, saving 30% on rrp

Excepting the exploits of its most senior administrators, when it comes to the sport's high profile personalities, Formula One has become about as spontaneous as Jonathan Ross.

Motor racing has developed into a well-structured industry, one with little room for maverick performers. In part, this is due to the amount of money at stake, but the absence of larger-than-life characters is also attributable to the establishment of what might be called a 'driver's template' which ensures that ebullient 'personalities' are either tamed or shipped out.

All drivers now receive media training which fine tunes their responses with a precision found in their vehicle's engines, but the days when drivers burnt the candle at both ends have long disappeared.

This first English language account of the Swiss driver Clay Gegazzoni proves that Formula One wasn't always so bland.

There is a marvellous tale of the charming 'Regga' having enjoyed rather too much female company on the night before the Canadian Grand Prix. So lively had proceedings been that the Swiss speedster crashed at the second corner, having been sapped of the strength necessary to turn the wheel√Ė

Not surprisingly, Regazzoni became a cult figure during the six seasons (1970-75) he drove for Ferrari and while he never became a world champion, possibly because he found other things in life too important, he did present Williams with the team's maiden Grand Prix victory in 1979. He also managed to drive Le Mans and in the Indy 500.

The book is replete with some great lines, not all of which are recommended should you find yourself stopped for speeding. It opens with an exchange between 'Regga' and a policeman who had pulled him for driving at excessive speed. The policeman asks the Swiss whether he knew how fast he was going: "Don't you know the speed limit on the autostrada is 130 kilometres an hour? You were doing 200." An affronted Regazzoni replies: "Bull----! I was doing 250!" Not the type of response to endear you to the boys in blue on the M6.

Regazzoni suffered an horrific crash at the Long Beach Grand Prix in 1980 which resulted in him being notionally 'confined' to a wheelchair, but such was the man's spirit that before long, he was racing again, using hand controls to race and rally cars, karts and trucks, as well as establishing a popular racing school and competing in the notorious Paris-Dakar Rally.

If there is a fault with 'Regga', it has nothing to do with its content, but an unbelievably high cover price of £35, thankfully reduced by 30% for this newspaper's readers.

The Swiss bestrode two eras in Formula One history, although one suspects he belonged in the former rather than in the sanitised modern one. In view of the often robust tactics he employed in his dual racing careers, it was astonishing he never met his end on the track. However, he did die at the wheel when his car met a truck head-on as he travelled along the autostrada, which somehow feels like a rather inevitable end to a thoroughly entertaining volume.

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