Perhaps the next great auto racing picture will be based on Neal Bascom’s novel “Faster.” Published in 2020, “Faster” tells a true story about grand prix racing in pre-WWII Europe—It was a story I had never heard before.
I have a couple of amazing friends in Loy and Nancy Kirksey. Both are remarkable in their own way and both share a passion for books. Loy found “Faster” on a trip over to the coast. He has no love for auto racing per se (although he never misses the Indy 500 broadcast) but, Loy is a bonafide history buff.
Our story takes place in the late 1930’s. Lucy Schell is an American Heiress and rally racer. Not your common hobbyist but co-driving along with her husband Lawrence (Laury), a capable racer. Her driving career is winding down but her thirst for competition has not been quenched. Meanwhile Adolf Hitler is gaining momentum in his pursuit of world domination. His influence is already far reaching in fact, the Nazi party is subsidizing both Germany based Formula One teams; Auto Union and Mercedes.
Rene Dreyfus is an accomplished French driver, black-balled due to his Jewish heritage. He is no longer sought after by the German and Italian teams and to Lucy, he seems like a logical prospect. Now all they need is a worthy steed and here, the Schells make a dubious choice-they select the French coach manufacturer Delahaye. They are an established builder of high-end luxury vehicles, struggling in the current economy and irrelevant on the racing scene. Delahaye needs the contract and insists they are up to the task. What they produce in the end are a short run of mongrels that fortunately, perform much better than they look.
By 1938, a Mercedes W25 is a state-of-the-art Formula One machine. Sleek and aerodynamic, it is dubbed the “Silver Arrow”. By contrast the Delahaye 145 has no waistline, it was thick throughout and had a bulbous nose like Karl Malden. Some guessed that its appearance was inspired by Lucy’s pet bulldogs. Dreyfus himself thought it was the most awful-looking car he’d ever seen. In short, the Delahaye was no match for the Mercedes aesthetically but it had its merits. Its V-12 engine pulled hard, it had excellent brakes and handled well. Dreyfus reasoned that he could defeat the Mercedes if he devised the proper race strategy. He would get his opportunity in a non-championship contest in Pau, France in front of his fellow countrymen. It would prove to be one of the last chances the French had to thumb their nose at the Nazis who would soon invade their country.
I would love to tell you how it all shakes out but author Bascomb certainly tells his tale better than I can. This book has a better storyline than most of the racing movies I‘ve seen- And it’s all TRUE! I simply cannot recommend “Faster” highly enough. (Note: This novel was published under the title: “The Racers” as well. It is the same story, just confirm that it was written by Neal Bascomb. Accept no substitutes!)