As a pimply faced preteen, I sought out any and every shred of automotive knowledge I could get my hands on. With “childhood” memories of cruising the Tyrol in a Dino and having a best friend that lived in an air cooled mecca, I had to get more knowledge. I had to know everything about cars and the people who built and drove them. I would scour the local library for anything automotive that I could get my hands on. One day, I picked up a plain white book that changed my life. It was called Sunday Driver.
Through the eyes of Brock Yates, I got some insight into the world of an automotive journalist. Yates also took readers through the inner workings of the world of Trans Am. Through Yates driver training, I learned the importance of smoothness behind the wheel. I may have learned more about driving from this book, than from any driving school I’ve attended. Just as his mentor’s beat smoothness into his brain, he beat it into mine. In the final chapters, I was introduced to an event called the Cannonball Baker Sea to Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. I was stunned and captivated. Yates & Gurney. New York to California. Cannonball.
One of my favourite movies, Gumball Rally, was based in reality. This was a stunning revelation for a 12 year old way back in the late Seventies.
As I’ve grown oldish, I’ve worked in the car industry and I’ve had involvement at some level in racing. I’ve made many friends who are car enthusiasts. Fanatics even. There are few who understand the depth of my obsession, or where it came from. There are even few who understand the history behind it.
Enter Alexander Roy.
I first learned of Alex’s existence in 2005, while working on The Garage. There was this modern version of Cannonball called Gumball 3000. Alex Roy seemed to have become the poster boy. There was something about this guy. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but somehow this outrageous bald guy seemed like the real deal. That’s a pretty superficial observation, given that I hadn’t even met the guy, but there was just something about this guy that was bigger than the hype he had created around himself.
Over the past year or so, I’ve watch his blog and his actions following some unfortunate incidents. This is no spoiled rich kid (ok, so he’s only 5 years younger than me, but he’s still in his 30’s), rather a guy who truly understands. This guy would get my obsession. A chance meeting in Pennsylvania proved that he is a very real guy, who indeed gets it.
While I was in Connecticut, my personal, advance copy of Alex Roy’s new book The Driver arrived. Coming home was like Christmas, ripping open the Fedex box to reveal the bright yellow hardcover book with cool MTV era graphics. It also bore striking resemblance to another book about cross country racing.
This is not your typical book review. First off, I’m not finished the book, so I can hardly review the whole thing. I don’t really have any intention of retelling the story, but I will let out a few tidbits. In the first 3 chapters, we learn about what makes Alex Roy tick. The history. The why. I’ll give you a clue. A mysterious Dad and a Porsche. I must admit, that during the first 3 chapters, I cried and I pissed myself laughing. My poor wife, reading next to me in bed, being subjected to hearty belly laughs. There’s a lot of belly.
We learn about The Driver.
After the history, we move to the beginning of Team Polizei and the world of cross country racing, and what a story it has been so far. To date, I have no idea who might be The Driver. Maybe I have an idea, but then again, Alex has been wrong so far too. Besides, what do I know about cross country racing? Does Roy find The Driver? I don’t know yet.
A lot has been said in the media about Alex Roy’s glorification of street racing. Unfortunately, the media doesn’t know jack about the history of most motorsports, let alone cross country racing. Street racing is done by jackass young adults who don’t think about the location or the consequences. Cross country racing is a whole different animal. The participant might be your doctor or lawyer. He might be your car dealer. She might be a model you saw on the cover of a magazine. He might even be the mechanic who fixes your car, or even your next door neighbour. The location is almost certainly not urban and the chariots are not souped up Civics with a $20,000 engine, but no seatbelts. There have been legal and illegal cross country races since the automobile was invented. They will continue, whether Brock Yates likes it or not.
If you get the history of racing on the open road, and you want a peek inside the world of semi organized cross country mayhem through the eyes of a competitor who gets it, then you have to read The Driver.