Faster: How a Jewish Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Beat Hitler’s Best

Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781328489876. $28. HIST
Bascomb (Hunting Eichmann) offers an astonishing account of a singular victory at the 1938 Pau Grand Prix in Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France, executed by an unlikely team of challengers over Adolf Hitler’s dominating Silver Arrows during the heyday of international automobile racing. It begins with socialite Dame Lucy Schell, who broke with convention to become a competitive Monte Carlo Rally contestant, subsequently forming her own Grand Prix team—the first and only woman to do so—then financing a brand-new racer. Selecting the financially strapped auto manufacturer Delahaye to build her a car, Schell then chose René Dreyfus as its pilot. The author describes how a near-fatal accident early in Dreyfus’s career damaged his confidence as a driver, and how, as a Jew, he found himself excluded from competing with teams in a burgeoning fascist Europe. Among Bascomb’s central themes is Dreyfus’s finding a personal reason for reentering a sport he loved but had reservations about. The epilog traces the multifaceted postwar careers of various racers, especially that of Dreyfus, who went on to become a celebrated Manhattan restaurateur.
VERDICT Highly recommended for historians and aficionados of pre–World War II motorsport competition and its larger-than-life contestants.


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