Tag Archives: 24 Hours of Le Mans

Motorsports Coffee Table Books by Sheilah Villari

The best motorsports coffee table books for all racing fans

A good coffee table book can elevate the décor of your entire room. If you have frequent visitors, they are excellent conversation starters, especially if they are fans of the material. Keeping a neat and well-designed stack on a table in the living room, placed by a bed, or lovingly nestled on a prominent shelf tells your guests, “Yes, I am a car nerd.” Each book can serve as a beautiful centerpiece and elevate you beyond a casual fan to an elite gearhead, serving as a testament to your nerdery. Any of these would make a fantastic gift for the garage guru in your life, too. Especially now, we made sure to get all the motorsports enthusiasts in on this, not just the Formula 1 die-hards! Just some food for thought with the holidays fast approaching.

1) Owners’ Workshop Manuals

These Owners’ Workshop Manuals are such a nice touch to have out in your home. Instance cool points. This McLaren M23 book is currently on my coffee table. These are great because you can build your own set, as there are many out there from different decades and constructors. Each book is a comprehensive guide to the history of the car and its era within F1.

Outside of just being very well put together, each of these manuals has an encyclopedic look into builds and tales of both the liveries and the teams. There are quite of few floating around, so start your pile today. Buy the McLaren one above, or try out the Lotus, Ferrari, Red Bull, and/or Brabham editions! You’ll definitely get a complete view of where car tech was at each of the timeframes of the books, as well as where F1 was in motorsports history.

2) NASCAR 75 Years

This has certainly been a year of anniversaries for motorsports, and NASCAR hit its 75th birthday. I grew up a huge NASCAR fan (there are serval Polaroids of me in Dale Jarret gear). I was so excited when they announced this book. If you know anything about NASCAR, its origin is interesting, to say the least. If you’re a ’90s baby, there is no way you didn’t remember the rise of Jeff Gordon with the dominance of Dale Earnhardt. You didn’t have to watch to know who they were and their impact on American culture.

The alluring archived photos are meticulously placed amongst some of the most thrilling stories from the last 75 years. Given the growing interest in motorsports and IndyCar within the US, this is a lovely representation of an organization that I hope is on the upswing again.

3) Schumacher: The Official Inside Story of the Formula One Icon

Another entry plucked straight from my coffee table. No matter who you are a fan of, there is no doubt Schumacher is the greatest driver to step into a Formula One car. Given his current health, having a book of his history in his own words and memories is something to covet. Schumacher was the undisputed king of F1 and broke almost every record in his time in the sport. Seeing his life within motorsports through his eyes is special, especially for newer fans.

This book takes you right up to the tale end of his World Championship supremacy, for time reference. And if you are a Mick supporter, there are plenty of adorable snapshots of the blonde-haired babe growing up. A dynamic career marvelously preserved, the legacy Schumacher is leaving behind makes for the perfect book for any F1 fan’s coffee table.

4) Porsche at Le Mans: 70 Years

Le Mans hit its centennial race this year back in June, and Porsche is well a part of that story. With over 19 Le Man wins, Porsche’s prominence in France made perfect sense for an all-encompassing coffee table book. Earlier in the year, I was lucky enough to attend the screening of the documentary Racing With Giants: Porsche at Le Mans. I even interviewed Le Mans and Porsche veteran Patrick Long there.

Psst, give my interview a peep!

The history of this race and this team is rich and deep. Hundreds of photos were foraged from the very beginning in 1951 all the way to 2021. This coffee table book is a rich, sweeping history of Porsche’s victories and exploits at La Sarthe. Spyders, GTs, hybrids, oh my! Get first-hand stories from Le Mans legends like Jacky Ickx, Mario Andretti, and Helio Castroneves, to name a few. I highly recommend checking out the documentary and our article before getting cozy with this enticing book.

5) IMSA 1969 to 1989

And now for something completely different! If you’re newer to motorsports and want to look at the history of different racing series, IMSA is a great one. The International Motor Sports Association was founded in 1969 and is the North American sanctioning body for all things sports car racing. If the name sounds familiar, that would be because they are actually a division of NASCAR.

This coffee table book covers the first 20 years and was compiled by the founders’ son. The prestige in that first-hand perspective presents such a magical look at one of the most accessible forms of racing in the US. If you’ve ever wanted to see racing in the States, this is a gateway, for sure. Flipping through, you’ll get a compelling visual story of design, politics, and how the management of this GT series’ lessons are still in practice today in motor racing worldwide.

6) RACEWKND World Champions

While technically less of a book and more of a photo collage, you can still add it to any coffee table for heaps of extra personality! These look dope, and you don’t even need to be a fan. Just have working eyes! This large-scale issue is one of many from the publisher, and they are all fabulous. In the first series, the magazine focuses on legends of F1 (past and present). In collection two, they focus on our favorite constructors of Formula 1.

This issue centers around World Champions like Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton. Rainer Schlegelmilch opened up his archives to feature never-before-seen photos. Read about the evolution of the FIA from the ’50s to the present day. If you want one of these, I would suggest purchasing it as soon as possible, as these are not being reprinted.

7) Formula 1 Circuits: Maps and statistics from every Grand Prix track

If you’ve ever been curious about the statistics and records of each of the circuits in the history of F1, this is the coffee table book for you. Featuring all 77 circuits used in the many, many years of Formula One, discover hidden trivia and lesser-known tales from each. The book is laid out chronologically, starting with the first Grand Prix in Monza.

Keep an eye on 1978. That’s when my favorite track opens. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal has quite the history and is one of the best races on the calendar. You also get bespoke digital maps of every course. A very nice touch, indeed.

8) BMW M: 50 Years of the Ultimate Driving Machines

I see BMW M gear all over when out and about. Like, literally everywhere I go. The M-Series stands for Motorsport, which first appeared in 1972 for the historic German manufacturer. This coffee table book celebrates the 50th anniversary and deep dives into the range of famous M models that have been designed over the decades. This is an excellent gift to surprise a Bimmer fan with.

Or just that one poser kid who really likes the M clothes to go with their 335i M Sport.

9) Le Mans 100: A Century at the World’s Greatest Endurance Race

As aforementioned, we celebrated 100 years of Le Mans this year. The world-renowned race of 24 Hours at Circuit de la Sarthe is a sight and experience to behold. The fact that we have preserved a century’s worth of races, personalities, triumphs, and heartbreaks is nothing short of mesmerizing. We know you’ll recognize the usual favorites like Porsche, Ferrari, Ford, Aston Martin, Mercedes, McLaren, to name a few. But learning about how lesser racing “brands “have contributed to not just the track’s history but the sport’s metamorphosis is just as rewarding. The innovation that comes from Le Mans is hands down my favorite element about this storied race.

What was always a bit confusing that this coffee table book does a good job of touching on is the different classes. All the classes that have run are explained, and favorites are spotlighted. So you’ll get a full breakdown of the Le Mans Prototype and GT categories. This alone is so helpful in understanding where the race standards currently are.

10) Formula Ferrari: The First Official Inside Story of the Most Successful Team in the History of Formula 1

Another fine specimen from my exhibit! This book is a superb telling of the story of the world-renowned and beloved prancing horse brand. It is a bit older than other books on the list but still full of juicy Prancing Horse tidbits. I’m a sucker for old motorsport photos, especially from the ’80s and ’90s when everything was a little grainy and the antithesis of 4K resolution. It gives a lot of oh-so-delightfully nostalgic charm to them.

This book sits atop my Schumacher one, and together, they make me look like a Ferrari superfan… which I’m really not, but even I still enjoy both of these. What sets this book apart from others about the brand is that it’s the first sanctioned telling of their story, completely blessed by the Ferrari family. And having one of the most respected Italian sports journalists compile this tale doesn’t hurt either.

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Patrick Long with Porsche at Le Mans

Behind the wheel with Patrick Long: A conversation with Porsche’s American Le Mans legend

This is a year of milestones for motorsports. 75 years of NASCAR, McLaren’s 60th anniversary, and of course, the centenary of the Le Mans 24 Hour. Le Mans is a special race for many reasons, and this year was no exception. Ferrari’s return to the podium, the intrigue of Garage 56, and 75 years of Porsche. 

Porsche has dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans, winning its first race in 1970 with 18 more victories to follow. After seeing Hagerty’s documentary, Racing With Giants: Porsche at Le Mans, I had the chance to speak with Patrick Long – the only American to become a factory driver for Porsche since the German manufacturer was founded nearly a century ago. His track record speaks for itself, having won Le Mans twice and podiumed five times in the 16 times he’s completed what is famously one of the most demanding races in the world.

Given his pedigree as a linchpin in Porsche’s dominating presence at Le Mans for over a decade, it was a no-brainer to have the charming Californian share some of his secrets with the Acceleramota readership. And because I’m me, I started our conversation by bringing up Jenson Button, who raced Le Mans with Garage 56 this year. In his book, How to Be an F1 Driver, Jenson, a good friend of Long’s, explains the vast differences between the preparations for this race and a race in Formula 1.

“I’ve known Jenson for over 25 years, he’s always been at the top of his game physically but this is a different kind of physicality. “Mentally, it is a long, sustained burn. You’re in a constant state of reset, reset, reset,” Long told me.

A team in the 24 Hour of Le Mans consists of three drivers, each of whom must race for at least six hours, but no more than 14. If that sounds intimidating, that’s sort of the point. Long drove Le Mans 15 consecutive times, and it wasn’t until the later years that he began to enjoy it.

Every minute matters. If you’ve seen Ford v Ferrari, you have an idea just how high the stakes can be. So precious is the price of perfection at Le Mans. “One small slip up and you aren’t even near the podium,” Long explained. The clock is always ticking.

Le Mans is and always will be a race of innovation. Long couldn’t stress this enough. “The technology of the cars changed a lot,” he said. For the manufacturer, the effects of making the best car possible are two-fold: Sure, with victory, there’s honor and glory, but the outcome of a race has a consequential influence over the next generation of road cars. What works on the track won’t always translate seamlessly to your Cayman or 911, but the ideas trickle down.

“I’m proud to say when I first went, it was H-pattern, three pedals… old school,” Long said. And that has to be rewarding in its own right, experiencing technological advancement as it transcended. Learning and growing with the times.

Patrick Long being introduced as a Porsche factory driver while driving a car in the Hagerty documentary Racing With Giants: Porsche at Le Mans
Image credit: Hagerty

“I’ll tell you my physicality probably went down a notch, but my mental stress went up when we got air conditioning,” Long admitted. “It depletes you in such a different way when you’re pounding the car ten-tenths every lap.” 

20 years ago, you’d have the time to break and fix things on the fly without compromising your position to win. Not so much anymore. As cars become more capable and more resilient, drivers have to make do with fewer stops along the way.

“I’ll tell you what, the cars can really take a beating now; the floors, the suspension, hitting the curbs and just leaning on the cars.” The unfathomable force that propels the drivers of Le Mans is not to be underestimated, especially at speeds over 200mph.

Patrick Long being interviewed in the Hagerty documentary Racing With Giants: Porsche at Le Mans
Image credit: Hagerty

Tires have come a long way as well. “They can take so much more impact and you can run them so hard for the entire stint without drop off,” Long points out.

Le Mans is still a race of fortified mental strength, however, even with the upgraded gear. “I do enjoy the older stuff a bit more as it makes this a thinking man’s race, strategic.”

Herculean endurance conditions aside, what sets Le Mans apart from other high-profile races, particularly in the United States, is the cultural diversity. “Racing with American teams, German teams, French teams … can all be so different in communication style, but in the end, the objective is international.” Living proof that a winning mentality is its own universal language.

It’s in the downtime that these distinctions become more readily apparent. In his book, Jenson wasn’t exaggerating when he mentioned that while racing with Italians, the espresso machines were working overtime. “The height of the coffee is how you knew who was from where,” Long joked.

“Where there is a language barrier, it can be very frustrating,” he added, going on to describe the importance of bringing in interpreters to disseminate pertinent information not easily communicated between team members with varying native tongues. “Talk to the team, they run the show. Get me that answer quickly or vice-versa.” 

This came in handy when Long started racing with actor (and now professional racing driver) Patrick Dempsey, who had a lot he could learn from more seasoned drivers. “I raced [at Le Mans] three years in a row with Dempsey – communication is so important at high speeds. It’s high stress.”

And Dempsey isn’t alone. In fact, celebrity actors are having a moment in motorsports. Michael Fassbender raced with Proton this year, driving a Porsche 911 no less. Nicholas Hoult recently participated in Ferrari’s Challenge racing series. And Frankie Muniz now drives full-time in the ARCA Menards Series for Rette Jones Racing.

But while some are approaching motor racing from a place of genuine passion, just as many celebrities and multi-millionaires are jumping on the bandwagon because they can, and have the deep pockets to do so. 

“There has always been a love affair between Hollywood and Le Mans.” Dempsey grew up aspiring to this race, it was a life goal. Like climbing Everest or running the New York Marathon. It’s the ultimate challenge to get there. 

“Yes, it takes money, but it takes qualification.” There is a certain level of humbling that happens for many celebrities who set out to achieve the same level of prestige in racing as they have in Hollywood. Doing so takes commitment. “Putting in the hours to get you to a place where you aren’t a danger to yourself or others is true dedication.” 

In their first year racing together, Long emphasized Dempsey’s initial trepidation with performance driving, even with the proper training. “I was so on edge and not comfortable with his driving.” But Dempsey didn’t relent. He gave Long full control over his training regiment and often covered the cost of resources. “He was so trusting of me and engaged. I believe that’s why he’s been more successful where others have not been.”

Dempsey finished second in his class in 2015, harkening back to Paul Newman who finished second overall in 1979. “What Patrick achieved in the modern day is nothing short of brilliant,” Long commended.

Actor Patrick Dempsey celebrating victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
Image credit: Porsche

It was fascinating seeing the two Patricks cross paths, as Long was at the pinnacle of his career at the time. “I was in a factory car, with all factory drivers, racing in my home country when I got the call.” Dempsey wouldn’t take no for an answer. Long recalled Dempsey’s agent telling him, “You’re the only guy he’ll accept to do this.” Long’s initial uncertainty turned into success at unforeseen levels. “It probably did more for me than staying put where I was.”

“This was certainly one of the proudest moments in my career, emotionally and we came [in] second.” It’s not often you hear a driver say how fulfilling a second-place finish is. “What I saw in him was a true life achievement. That is pretty frickin’ special.”

The relief of crossing the finish line at Le Mans is a feat in its own right, let alone coming in just behind the frontrunner. “We went through so much in those three years, and fair play to Porsche, too, for investing in him.” 

Patrick Long standing next to a vintage "Irish Green" Porsche 911
Image credit: Porsche

Dempsey, who has a reputation for being likable on and off the track, naturally attracted new racing fans. “The engagement numbers Dempsey was pulling in were higher than Audi. His following in France was incredible.”

The experience resulted in an unexpected friendship. Even with his newfound dual-celebrity status, Dempsey remained gracious, polite, and patient, and he certainly didn’t mind the first-class treatment on an international scale.

To see a documentary like Racing with Giants come together alongside this comradery was endearing. Long is a producer as well as a historian, rife with a deep, encyclopedic knowledge of Porsche history, which he himself has helped shape. “There are some great people in this film. It was so nice to bring Patrick [Dempsey] into this project,” Long reflects.

Le Mans is a cornerstone of racing culture, a place where stories of triumph and tenacity are penned in tire tracks and echoed in roaring engines. Porsche, with stalwarts like Patrick Long at the helm, has authored some of the most exhilarating chapters in a 100-year-old spectacle that continues to draw new crowds from exceptional drivers. As automotive technology advances, making motorsports more accessible than ever, time will tell who celebrity protégés like Dempsey will inspire to the podium next.

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