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Finding good books on how to drive fast was a bit harder than I expected. Every single book on driving is advertised as the most comprehensive, accessible and thorough work on the subject ever to be written. Most cannot live up to that claim, instead sticking to the basics most serious drivers already know without having set foot on a race track. I was looking to learn something new about driving cars. If you have any suggestions, please send me an email.

As I didn't want to spend my entire life savings on books on driving, only to find I didn't have money to run the car, I settled for the following books. All came highly recommended and looked promising. Two are from successful ex-drivers (but see the reviews below...), two are specifically aimed at explaining the techniques and fundamentals behind fast driving, and there's a book by Carroll Smith. I'll describe them below (semi-objectively) and add my own comments (thoroughly subjective).

Principles of Performance Driving Jackie Stewart's Principles of Performance Driving, of course by Jacky Stewart.
This book is about Jacky Stewart's outlook on life in general, and his views on race driving in particular. Don't expect detailed descriptions on how to heel-and-toe; this book is written from a different perspective (how to approach driving).

It's dangerous to summarise an entire book in a few sentences, but I'll give it a go:

  • Do things the right way, every time.
  • Pay attention to detail.
  • Drive smoothly.
  • Do not let emotions rule your driving.
I found it a thoroughly enjoyable book and would recommend it if you're interested in finding out what makes a man like Jacky Stewart tick. Of course, given the era in which Jacky Stewart raced, there are some interesting references to the Nürburgring. As is the case with many good books, this one's out of print. I sourced my copy through the used book section at Amazon.com

Competition Driving Competition Driving. The author is "Alain Prost with P-F Rousselot". You guessed it: this is Mr. Rousselot cashing in on his friendship with Mr. Prost. The entire book is written by Rousselot. Prost provides some comments and short anecdotes in separate boxes (probably about 5% of the entire book).

The book describes things like he ideal line, oversteer, understeer, a bit of car setup, a few lines on strategy, and so on. The only new thing I found in this book was a discussion on steering technique, illustrated with lots of pictures. Still, in my opinion you can safely skip this book if you're after information about driving. However, the one redeeming factor for this book is the 5% Alain Prost added. If you can buy it cheap, do so. Skip the non-Prost bits, and you'll have an entertaining booklet written by Alain Prost :-)

Speed Secrets Speed Secrets - Professional Race Driving Techniques by Ross Bentley. This book covers a wide range of issues, arranged into the following parts:

  1. The Car
  2. The Track
  3. The Driver
  4. The Finish Line
The Car focuses on things like seating position, operating the controls (how to apply the throttle, how to back off the throttle, shifting), suspension setup, slip angles, weight transfer, dynamic balance and more.

The Track discusses cornering technique, line choice, learning a track, making errors (and how to deal with them), racing in the rain and dealing with traffic.

The Driver deals with mental preparation, vision technique, driving style, qualifying, the race itself and some other things.

The Finish Line ties up the loose ends: racing as a business, career planning, a bit on telemetry and a bit on safety.

I found the book well-written, with a high information density (which some like, and others don't; I like it). The key points are highlighted by expressing them in axiom-like Speed Secrets (a bit like do's and don'ts). A very useful book, in my opinion.

Going Faster! Going faster! - Mastering the Art of Race Driving, by several authors (all affiliated with the Skip Barber Racing school). The subjects covered in this book are about identical to the subjects presented in Speed Secrets. Given the much larger size of this book, most subjects are discussed in more detail. This is particularly useful in the areas of line choice and the use of telemetry. On the other hand, suspension setup is explained more clearly in Speed Secrets. Then again, Going Faster! is better at explaining overtaking maneuvers. Additionally, there are lots of entertaining and useful anecdotes and quotes from drivers that came up though Skip Barber's school, such as Danny Sullivan.

The language used in the book is not as precise as in Speed Secrets, though not a problem with regard to readability. I found both Speed Secrets and Going Faster! useful books, and somewhat complementary. Speed Secrets covers the fundamentals a bit better, Going Faster! has more illustrations and elaborates more on the practical applications.

Drive to Win Drive to Win - The Essential Guide to Race Driving, by Carroll Smith.

A really good book, this one. The author has a definite opinion on many things and isn't shy about them :) It's the most technically/engineering oriented of the books on this page. Even though the book covers an almost identical set of subjects (driver, vehicle dynamics, environments, ...) as the other books described here, it does it from the view point of the engineer instead of from the perspective of the driver.

As many books by American authors, this one too is set firmly in a USA context. At times this can be a disadvantage to non-US readers, as there may be oblique references to obscure persons, which takes away some of the enjoyment of otherwise well-written anecdotes.

The strength of this book lies in linking the role of the driver with insights into the engineering aspects of racing. It's not a book that aims to teach you how to drive fast (though there is lots to be learned from reading in between the lines), nor is it a book for engineers. It walks the middle ground admirably, and provides some of the technical know-how lacking from books that concentrate on how to drive a car. All in all, a recommended read.