Rare Book Review: First Among Champions – The Alfa Romeo Grand Prix Cars by David Venables
Judging from the talk of Ferrari’s Chairman, the famous Alfa Romeo marque will be back on the grid in the not too distant future (re-badged Sauber or Toro Rosso?). An absolute gem of a book, is David Venables’ ‘First Among Champions – The Alfa Romeo Grand Prix Cars’. This one’s quite hard to find now […]
Judging from the talk of Ferrari’s Chairman, the famous Alfa Romeo marque will be back on the grid in the not too distant future (re-badged Sauber or Toro Rosso?). An absolute gem of a book, is David Venables’ ‘First Among Champions – The Alfa Romeo Grand Prix Cars’. This one’s quite hard to find now and in my mind, is definitely one of the better F1 books to have been published – its comprehensively researched, contains excellent photography with great layouts and its subject matter – this is most definitely the essential book for any Alfa Romeo grand prix car fan.
The book traces the beginnings of Anomina Lombarda Fabricca Automobili (Alfa) in early 1909 after severing ties with the French manufacturer Alexandre Darraq and hiring its first engineer, Giuseppe Merosi who began development of its early 24hp engines, through to the early P1, the arrival of design engineer Vittorio Jano to develop the P2, the birth of the Scuderia Ferrari and the P3 through to its retirement in the late 1930s.
The middle of the book deals with the golden era of the Alfetta 158 and 159.
The third part of the book delves in the brief return of the Alfa Romeo name to F1 via engine supply to Brabham in the late 1970s (including some excellent photos of the BT45C, BT48, Tipo 179 and 182) and final swan song in the mid 1980s.
The archival photos included in the book from the 1900s to even the late 1970’s are a fantastic compilation for Alfa fans. Considering their age, the definition and reproduction quality of the some of the B&W archive photos (including photos of Enzo Ferrari and from Pirelli archives) are excellent. There are plentiful photos of Alfa’s famous grand prix drivers of the pre-F1 golden age – Campari, Ascari, Varzi, Nuvolari, Carracciola, Farina and Fangio.
There are 3 appendices at the back of the book – the first contains brief bios of all the Alfa drivers from Ascari to Wimille; the second contains basic specs of the various Alfa Romeo race chassis and engines; and the third and final appendix is a list of race victories from 1920 -1951.
In summary, David Venables’ book is what all grand prix history books should aspire to – close to 300 pages of highly detailed research, carefully selected archival race photography, attractive page layouts in a professional high quality hardcover binding. The excellent cover photo is a true reflection of the standard of the book’s contents.
Wow Factor/Money Shot: Some very poignant photos – Ascari’s overturned P2 at his fatal race in 1925. Various shots of the young Enzo Ferrari. Nuvolari at Monaco 1932
Suitable for: Alfa die-hards