It’s been two years since the last Motoring Book of the Year Awards were held at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, thanks to the pandemic forcing it to be held online last year. So, on the Wednesday of London Motor Week, it was wonderful to be able to attend this year’s Royal Automobile Club Motoring Book of the Year awards along with authors, publishers, press, club members and motoring enthusiasts from around the world.
This annual prestigious event, which is now in its eighth year, celebrates the previous 12 months’ accomplishments in the world of motoring publishing, which includes the histories of specific marques, motorsport, vehicle design and general motoring.
The awards have been expanded this year, reflecting a growing number of motoring and motor sport titles that are priced at different price levels, which means that there were four book categories in addition to the overall winner, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award and the Graham Robson Award for Best Debut Author. The latter named in honour of the late Graham Robson, a prolific and authoritative author who passed away in August.
This year’s awards saw a record number of submissions, totalling 52 entries from 26 different international publishers, including major publishing houses, independents and self-published authors. All entries were assessed by a panel of six expert judges led by non-voting committee chairman Simon Taylor, himself a former winner of the Specialist Book of the Year Award for his history of the HWM racing team in 2019. The other judges included Gordon Cruickshank of Motor Sport, Mark Dixon of Octane, Mick Walsh from Classic & Sports Car, BRDC Bulletin editor Ian Titchmarsh, Ben Horton from specialist bookseller Horton’s Books and Christian Whitehead from London bookstore Foyles.
Simon Taylor commented:
“The quality of entries this year has been quite remarkable, which made the judges’ job particularly difficult. There was a lot of healthy discussion and debate, and the fact that we were truly spoilt for choice is a reassuring sign that the publishing industry continues to go from strength to strength.”
The Motoring Book of the Year
The judges shortlist included biographies, marque histories, motor sport titles and general motoring reference books, with the judges selecting The Lamborghini Miura as the 2021 Motoring Book of the Year overall winner. Published by Kidston SA and limited to just 762 numbered copies – one for every Miura built – Simon Kidston and Jon Pressnell’s definitive history of the Lamborghini Miura is the most comprehensive work ever completed on the subject, and features many previously unseen photographs and countless in-depth interviews with all the people behind the Miura.
Judge Mick Walsh said:
“This stunning book is the result of ten years’ work by the talented team, and the enthusiastic resolve for the best is clear throughout. Spurred on by Miura fanatic Simon Kidston, author Jon Pressnell produced a text to match the wonderful imagery and Julian Balme’s beautiful design. A definitive model history. Ferruccio Lamborghini would be very proud.”
Ben Horton added:
“This is one of our fastest-selling motoring books of all time. It came and went in under two weeks. Truly magnificent.”
Motoring Book of Year (Below £50)
Andy Plumb, who was a designer at Reliant and now works at Morgan, received the award for Motoring Book of the Year (Below £50) for his self-published book Tipping Point – Designing a Great British Underdog. The book features development pictures and illustrations from the 1960s when the Robin was first conceived and includes contributions from all the designers, including Tom Karen.
Christian Whitehead said:
“The Reliant Robin was a brave and risky proposal to shake up the British car industry and whether you approve of it or not, it’s still a national treasure that puts a smile on people’s faces. Andy Plumb has done a wonderful job in producing a book highlighting in lavish detail the important design development of the car. The Robin might only have three wheels, but this book is very stable in terms of content and research.”
Motoring Book of the Year (No Price Limit)
Peter M Larsen and Ben Erickson won Motoring Book of the Year (No Price Limit) for Joseph Figoni: Le Grand Couturier de la Carrosserie Automobile Volume 1, Alfa Romeo which celebrates the relationship between Alfa Romeo and Parisian coachbuilder Joseph Figoni. The book includes chassis-by-chassis histories of each of the cars for which the company provided coachwork from 1932-1935, with Gordon Cruickshank commenting:
“Obsessively researched, lavishly reproduced – an impressive catalogue of one of the great pre-war coachbuilders.”
Motorsport Book of the Year (Below £50)
Mr Le Mans, Tom Kristensen won Motorsport Book of the Year (Below £50), which was written by the legendary Kristensen who was nine times a winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours, in collaboration with Danish broadcaster Dan Philipsen. Kristensen is extremely candid in sharing the ups and downs of his career and gives an insight into what it takes to succeed at the very highest level in motorsports.
Motorsport Book of the Year (No Price Limit)
Delage Records and Grand Prix by Daniel Cabart and Sébastien Faurès Fustel de Coulanges won Motorsport Book of the Year (No Price Limit). The book delves into Delage’s official return to racing in 1922, including an in-depth account of the genesis of each model and its development. There are detailed test records, technical data sheets and a comprehensive list of specifications, records and race results. Mark Dixon commented:
“Focusing on one of the most technologically advanced vintage marques at the height of its powers in 1922-’25, this superb volume covers much more than its title might imply: it charts the evolution of cars and engine designs as well as the many events in which they competed.”
Graham Robson Award for Best Debut Author
The Graham Robson Trophy for Best Debut Author was presented to Tom Fryars for The Rise of the Sidevalves, which details the success of the Crossley Motors works team in competition events in the years leading up to the First World War. Fryers managed to dig up photographs of almost all of the meetings and profiles factory drivers Hubert Woods and Cecil Bianchi in his book.
Lifetime Achievement Award
One of the unsung heroes of publishing, Mark Hughes, was presented with the Royal Automobile Club’s Lifetime Achievement Award. A former editor of Autosport and Classic & Sports Car, Hughes was later Editorial Director of the Book Division at Haynes Publishing. He has edited over 700 books in during his illustrious career and has more recently worked as an editor for Porter Press International and Editorial Director of Evro Publishing. Simon Taylor said:
“I’ve known Mark for many years, and his editorial skills and experience are second to none in the world of motoring publishing. Not only is he exceptionally good at his job, he carries it out in a calm and efficient manner, and has long been a reassuringly professional presence for authors and publishers alike.”
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of The Royal Automobile Club/Mark Lewis Photography