That’s the thing about automotive books in general. People who buy them tend to buy a lot of them. And don’t think for a minute that publishers don’t capitalize on our habit every chance they get. The problem with a lot of books, particularly books that focus on a single make, is that they start to get repetitive in a hurry. Nowhere is this more evident than at the photo editor’s desk. We tend to start seeing the same iconic images again and again.
You are not going to have that problem with SportErfolge.
Tony Adriaensens’ work with his Corsa Research imprint has, in my opinion, brought a sense of discovery back to the world of sports and racing book publishing. His commitment to sourcing amateur and largely previously unpublished photography is remarkable. It gives a fresh new perspective on not just eras of motorsport, but individual races that we’ve read about for years and thought we knew.
This moment from early in the book captures that sentiment well and also gives some insight into both the process of producing SportErfolge and the philosophical approach of the author:
“My decision to make this book came about when I found the Kodachrome slide opposite, out of the late Bob Lytle’s collection from Phoenix, AZ. Bob drove his Jaguar XK120 from California all the way up to the Tuxtla Gutierrez on the Mexican border with Guatemala to see the start of the Carrera in 1953 and 1954. In ’53 however, when returning to his hotel room after dinner, he found all his equipment stolen; cameras, films .. all gone. He only had one single roll of exposed Kodachrome film left in his pocket. This was the last film he had shot and he had captured José Herrarte’s class winning Porsche after the finish of the Carrera.”
That quote does a few things that I think are central to why SportErfolge is so successful as a work of early Porsche racing storytelling. It gives us some perspective on why this topic begged to be covered—after all, let’s be honest; there’s no shortage of Porsche books out there. More importantly though, it highlights in a very real way how precious these photographs and the stories that they tell truly are. In this case, Bob’s photograph is a rare survivor when he lost the bulk of his captures of the event. How many other photos from this era are metaphorically stolen as they languish away forgotten in closets or attics—slowly deteriorating in their albums? Are they not just as lost? This is why I so admire Tony’s efforts to source amateur photography for his work. It is the same motivation that has prompted me to find these kinds of forgotten amateur archives for this site. It is so much more arduous a task than phoning up the major photo houses and having them send over the usuals. It’s a task that pays off again and again in SportErfolge.
Corsa Research calls SportErfolge a “photo essay” and I think the description is apt. The captions that accompany each photograph (the vast bulk of which are presented in full-page glory) are as vital as the book’s main narrative in telling the story of Porsche’s racing efforts starting with the 1951 Coupe du Salon at Montlhéry through the effort at the 1963 Le Mans 24 Hours Race.
SportErfolge also excells at highlighting some of the races you haven’t read much about. It would be easy to just rely on major international events and championships to tell the story of Porsche’s racing heritage. It’s the lesser known events like Switzerland’s National Slalom of May, 1956 or the Flying Kilometer of Antwerp in July, 1959 that are just as pivotal to Porsche’s early racing heritage as the Mille Miglia. These amateur events, presented alongside the biggies in chronological order, do a great deal to show how Porsche entered, astonished onlookers, and established itself as central to global sports car racing. I also appreciate that this puts the privateer and gentleman entries right up there with the factory efforts in the story of Porsche’s rise to the international stage. That’s not to say that iconic Porsche-centric events like the Carrera Panamerica and Targa Florio are neglected—they are decidedly not. It is refreshing, though, to see these much-storied and gloried races (and drivers) have to give up a little spotlight to regional events like the Santa Barbara Road Races and Grand Prix of Léopoldville, Congo.
In addition to the photography, the inclusion of small graphic details like the specific race logos that adorn the slipcover or the inset Liège-Rome-Liège rally stamps are a welcome glimpse into the visual ephemera of the era. This does not give the book a scrapbook aesthetic, but are presented as a tasteful graphic that enhances the typography and overall design. That level of detail makes me believe that Tony’s choice of photos to bookend the piece is deliberate. Within the foreward for the book and among the first photos in the volume is a 3/4 rear shot of Carrera Abarth #1010 in the pits at LeMans in 1962. The very last photo of the book is a shot of Carrera Abarth #1009 at the 1000 km of Paris. Taken under different circumstances at virtually the same angle. Whether the author intended to let this juxtaposition reflect Porsche’s stability and permanence in sports car racing, or whether he just likes the Abarth’s rear (who doesn’t?); I don’t know. But it’s little touches like this that make SportErfolge such a joy to repeatedly dig into and find new details to absorb.
Tony’s books ain’t cheap, but I think they’re worth much more than their cover price. More information at Corsa Research. SportErfolge is an absolutely beautiful, well researched, masterfully photo-edited book.