They called him The Rat, or the Computer. Some onlookers claimed he was something beyond human. He defied death, won world championships, and late in his life, saw his career immortalized by cinema. Whether you liked him or not, Niki Lauda will always stand as a case study in superhuman determination. Nothing, anywhere, blunted his relentless quest for excellence. When he died last year at age 70, few obituaries in the mass media attempted to address his unshakable focus, if the authors were cognizant of it at all. This author is. Niki Lauda: His Competition History is a biography that the subject himself would have likely appreciated: It’s precise, direct, and much more firmly rooted in facts and analytics than in hero-worship hyperbole. This, despite the fact that its author, Jon Saltinstall, is a lifelong Lauda fan of unswerving devotion.
The formula for literary success here is straightforward: This 376-page hardcover is not the usual litany of statistics and recycled quotes, but instead consists of individual accounts that recall each of the 316 pro-level races that Lauda contested during his career, from saloon cars to Formula Ford to Grand Prix glory. Not only that, but the author also examines each of the documented press events, manufacturer’s introductions, and celebrity events at which Lauda drove once his competitive years ended. There’s also an appendix of races where Lauda was entered but didn’t actually drive. Observations on the subject come from Lauda’s former teammate at Brabham, John Watson, and from the esteemed historian Doug Nye. We especially appreciate the fact that this book is in original English, unlike some of the Lauda autobiographies, which were unevenly translated from German. This title is the work of Evro Publishing in the United Kingdom, whose catalog contains a slew of intriguing motoring titles. At current exchange rates, it retails for $74.09.