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For young devotees of Formula One, Senna’s reputation lingers, but for many of us postwar babies who tracked the triumphs of Jim Clark, the life of Seaman, the finest British race car driver of the 1930s, is but a blank. He was gone before our time. A Race with Love and Death, Richard Williams’ charming account of Seaman’s life, will help put this to rights and remind others of a time in Grand Prix racing when with grievous regularity, before the enhanced safety standards championed by Jackie Stewart and others, the fast died young and died often
This is a tale for the enthusiast, but by no means exclusively. Yes, there are mentions of plugs and pistons, tappets and timing; but there is also a brilliant Italian mechanic named Giulio working away in Seaman’s Knightsbridge garage, adjusting those tappets to get the engine timing (of a French Delage, this was pre Silver Arrow) just right. If you don’t know what a Delage looks like, look it up and picture these beautiful lethal silver machines hurtling around – and off – the Nürburgring.
His story was new to me and Williams is the right man to tell it — a fine sports writer with a deep passion for motorsport who published an acclaimed work about another tragic racer, The Death of Ayrton Senna. He knows his Maseratis from his Delages, and can take us under the bonnet. Trying to prise open Seaman, all Brylcreem hair and stiff upper lip, though is a tougher challenge. This chap from a line of Scots lairds was as buttoned up as the tuxedo he wore for dinner at the Ritz.