Imagine a book that took an entire chunk of global motorsport and not only digested its history into a single manageable volume, but was so comprehensive, chockablock with data and photos, and engagingly presented that it’s hard to put down. Impressive praise, to be sure, but here’s a book that richly deserves it, albeit from an unlikely source. We were perusing the website of Grand Prix Models in England, which is much better known for selling premium-quality diecast replicas, and spotted this history of rallying, published by the Portugese automotive and rally historian Francisco Santos, and luckily decided to take a flyer and order it.
That turned out to be a wise decision. World Rallying 125 Years is simply the best-condensed, most readable, and data-loaded book on this iconic global motorsport that we’ve ever encountered. The authors of this 275-page hardcover edition are Santos, Jose Barros Rodrigues and the late rally historian Martin Holmes, with forewords contributed by luminaries such as Jean Todt and Carlos Sainz. The book encompasses the sport’s full chronological scope, in what’s best described as linear, quick-hit fashion that is jammed with facts, related to both rally events and technology, many of them obscure. The great Mille Miglia started as a rally and is addressed herein. If you want quick tech histories of the Mini Cooper, Ford’s Kent engine and the three-cylinder DKW, all rally icons, you’ll find them. So are handicapping formulas, the evolution of stage routes over the year, and a year-by-year guide to both drivers and marques. It’s dizzying and delightful. This may be the single best automotive book we’ve encountered in many months. According to current exchange rates on the Grand Prix Models U.K. website, the price works out to about 59 U.S. dollars. The book can also be found at a website that the publisher maintains. If you think we’re gushing here, you’re right.