This deep dive book into Americans racing at Le Mans is the ultimate recounting

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Several excellent racing books have appeared in the past 18 months, many with ambitions to be their subjects’ definitive accounts. Tim Considine’s Twice around the Clock: The Yanks at Le Mans ($350, YanksatLeMans.com) now tops this list. Released early in 2019, the book has already won a slew of awards in the U.S. and Europe.

Twice took more than six years to write, with research beginning almost 30 years ago. Its 1000 pages and 925 photos are spread over three volumes. Including its handsome slipcover, the collection weighs an impressive 14.6 pounds. Considine, 78, has plans for another four volumes, for which he has named a successor in case he is unable to finish them.

The title suggests a narrow focus, but Considine’s intention was to capture every detail of Le Mans in the years his book covers, 1923–79, as well as the feeling of actually being there—all the sensations unique to the 24-hour race. He wanted to convey the thrill of Porsches and Ferraris doing 250 mph on the Mulsanne straight and also the world of mechanics and engineers behind the pit wall. In the countless individual stories that comprise Twice, he has succeeded. The book has involved an army of researchers, fact checkers, and historians here and in France.

From the sections about me, to which I naturally turned first, I can attest to Considine’s thoroughness and accuracy. He has uncovered facts I’d either forgotten or never knew, and where I had facts or impressions to compare, his are in perfect accord.

Le Mans has always attracted American competitors. In 1979, at age 54, actor turned racing driver Paul Newman made his debut, contesting the event in a Porsche 935. Along with fellow American Dick Barbour and German Rolf Stommelen, Newman finished second overall and first in class.
Le Mans has always attracted American competitors. In 1979, at age 54, actor turned racing driver Paul Newman made his debut, contesting the event in a Porsche 935. Along with fellow American Dick Barbour and German Rolf Stommelen, Newman finished second overall and first in class. courtesy of AP-BODINI and Getty Images

Considine is a gifted interviewer, and with his deep knowledge of Le Mans history, he put at ease familiar heroes such as three-time winner Phil Hill and Dan Gurney, who wrote the introduction. The interviews sound more like conversations with good friends. The combination of those interviews and abundant imagery brings you as close as possible to the experience of being there.

Maybe Considine’s greatest achievement, however, is that, despite its physical presence and the wealth of information within, the book never feels like a tome; despite all the work, it doesn’t feel overworked. Somehow, Considine has created an account of Le Mans that manages to be comprehensive and satisfying in every respect and leaves you anxious for the next installment—even if it takes another six years.

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