Friday, March 20, 2020

Books: "Faster" By Neal Bascomb

Faster: How a Jewish Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Beat Hitler's Best 
By Neal Bascomb
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; hardcover, 368 pages; $28.00

It's amazing how there are still historic sports stories that have not been told, but author Neil Bascomb was tipped off four years ago about a remarkable race car and the improbable team of upstarts who saw it come to creation during the golden age of motor sport. This team was so successful that Hitler reportedly sent a team to have the car found and destroyed when he invaded France.
This incredible tale has been told in an exhilirating new book, Faster: How a Jewish Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Beat Hitler's Best. The key players in this drama are Rene Dreyfus, a former top driver on the international race car circuit who had been all but banned from the Grand Prix by the mid-1930s because he was Jewish; Charles Weiffenbach, head of the declining automaker Delahaye, who was desperately trying to save his company as the world teetered toward the brink; and Lucy Schell, the adventurous daughter of an American multi-millionaire who yearned to reclaim the glory of her Monte Carlo Rally-driving days.

As Nazi Germany launched its campaign of racial terror and pushed the world toward war, these three misfits banded together to challenge Hitler's dominance at the apex of motorsport, the Grand Prix.

The trio's quest culminated in a stunning victory against the fearsome German Silver Arrows that was similar to the impact of Jesse Owens sweeping the 1936 Olympics. 

The only difference was that, after this motorsport race ended, Hitler attempted to completely erase it from racing history.

In addition to bringing the Dreyfus and Schell stories to life, Bascomb offers readers a glimpse of the death-defying thrill of these Grand Prix cars of old by narrating his experience of racing through the orange groves of California in the restored, multi-million dollar Delahaye that once made Dreyfus the "Babe Ruth" of his time. That car is not owned by the Mullin Museum.

Through the help of the Dreyfus family, a range of interviews, archival discoveries, and a deep dive into period newspapers and magazines (including French, British, German, and Italian publications), Bascomb has uncovered this important - and spellbinding - story.

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