Mention Jimmie Guthrie to most motorcyclists and his outstanding racing career will spring to mind. The first assumption, when picking up this book is that the author is related to this iconic rider, which he is not. The second is that you are about to embark on a biographical account of his career. This is only partly correct. This exhaustively researched, illustrated and well referenced work of 344 pages could be considered as a collection of three books. Paul W Guthrie has undertaken a monumental task, which takes the reader through Jimmie's family and business life in the border town of Hawick and his initial involvement in motorcycle racing. This leads to an in depth and well referenced description of the sport in the British Isles prior to WW2. Subsequent chapters detail prominent fellow home competitors and British manufacturers of the period.
Norton's success at home led to overseas competition and the second part of this work describes in detail the efforts of the German industry to gain motorsport supremacy during the volatile geopolitical period of the 1930s. Paul W Guthrie is a fluent German speaker and has accessed previously unpublished government and business records to provide an exhaustive background to the importance of a high profile dominance by the Third Reich in all sports including the 1936 Olympics.
The might of BMW, NSU and the Auto Union, leading figures and riders are covered in detail to give the reader a thorough understanding of the fascinating power struggle enacted on European and British circuits. The political influence of the German government was enormous, and the efforts made to ensure home victory were directed through the various security and military services of the Reich. The continued success of Norton and other British manufacturers and riders remained a thorn in the side of the German drive for success throughout the period and several Britons were included in a Gestapo 'Black' book list.
This absorbing work culminates in highly detailed research into Jimmie's death, whilst in the lead and within 2 kilometers of the finish line of the 1937 German Grand Prix. Various hypotheses as to the cause of his fatal crash are discussed and the writer cleverly leads the reader into forming his or her own conclusion by introducing differing witness accounts, circuit analyses and machine examination. Political influences on both sides, during this highly sensitive period are introduced and provide clues to the element of secrecy, which remain even today.
This is a truly epic and absorbing account of pre-WW2 motorcycle sport.