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Old 03-05-2010, 05:39 PM   #1
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Default Book recommendation: The Unfair Advantage -- Mark Donohue

Just wanted to share a little review of a book I'm reading. Mark Donohue wrote "The Unfair Advantage" a few years before his death. It's not really a full autobiography...more like a personal automotive memoir. He starts with his very first forays into amateur racing and describes, in detail, what he recalls about the car, his competitors, the difficulties he faced, what they tried when they set up the car, and so on.

It's kind of shocking to see how much pure guesswork went into the early attempts. Even later on in the book, when he's describing teams with factory support, I was surprised to see that they basically had zero groundwork for picking spring rates. They just kept guessing at numbers (with little success), until they finally settled on a basic real-world test -- they'd go softer and softer in the rear, until the car started scraping. They go back up one step. Then they'd start going up or down in front spring rates until they were happy with the balance of the car. And then they'd leave it.

The title, "The Unfair Advantage", comes from Donahue's self-deprecating approach to winning races. Never confident in his own driving ability (despite consistently running similar times, and occasionally faster, in the same car against more famous drivers like Dan Gurney), he decided that if he was going to win races, he had to be more innovative and better prepared than the other drivers and teams. This could mean running big blocks when everyone else was running small blocks, or showing up with a 20 ft fueling tower to lower refueling times. One trick I like particularly was running 2 identical cars, except that one had acid-dipped panels. They would use the back entrance to their pit garage, and just swap the numbers between the cars when the race officials weren't watching. This meant they could pass both inspections with the straight car, and set both qualifying times with the acid-dipped car.

You probably won't find it on the shelf of your Borders, but you can order it online from the usual places, and if you have a local independent bookstore, I bet they can special order it for you.
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Old 03-05-2010, 06:02 PM   #2
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Thanks, I will look for it. I wish I could have seen racing in its more "Wild West" days when it was more an art than a science.

Not to Hijack, but I just read "Against Death and Time" by Brock Yates. Awesome.
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