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The Mechanic's Tale Paperback – February 3, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A top Grand Prix mechanic’s firsthand account of the personalities and performances that make or break a Formula One racing team, featuring 60 color photos.

From the Publisher

In his new book, Formula One Grand Prix mechanic Steve Matchett offers the reader an inside look at his life as a pit crew mechanic, from his beginnings as a young apprentice through his time at Ferrari and BMW, to his later success with Benetton. There are eyewitness accounts of the great drivers, including Michael Schumacher, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, and Ayrton Senna. He also talks about key Benetton personalities, revealing how the team was transformed into a strong competitive organization, winning three World Championships. In this fast–moving account, the high–pressure world of Formula One leaps off the page.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (February 3, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752827839
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752827834
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #172,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Taylor on February 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
I buy about 10-15 books a year related to racing. I also have many subscriptions to racing magazines. I have put off getting this classic for some unknown reason. I have always wanted to get it but this book has eluded me until recently. I have to say that this is one of the best racing books I have ever read. Matchett is a much better writer than people give him credit for. His use of blending incredible detail with humor is amazing. Mark my words, you will be reading this book and have moments in which you will find yourself in tears from laughter. This book is also very informative and is not your average racing book. I have also read his first book, which is also a classic, but I feel that this is the better of the two. I found myself not being able to put it down and anyone who loves racing will be in the same situation. The book starts out with how Matchett started his career as a mechanic and a brief history of how he was able to break into Formula One. I actually got an idea from the book that I now use everytime I'm looking for a new job. Anyway, the chapters go over the years he spent in F1 and gives you the true story of what F1 team members go through. On the outside it looks like they live a glamorous life, but you get to see the side that most people don't get to see and the true appreciation for their efforts is realized. Bottom line is that this is a must read for anyone that is a racing or grand prix fan.
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Format: Hardcover
Steve Matchett's second book, The Mechanic's Tale, is a quite extraordinary work, in essence the memoires of a Grand Prix mechanic throughout his ten year career with the Benetton Formula One team. That an engineer has written such a fascinating and entertaining account of his life inside the somewhat secretive world of Grand Prix racing is unique in itself, but what makes this book so outstanding is the authors original approach to the subject and his natural flair for writing: his style is witty, rhetorical and very readable. "Every so often in the endless stream of biogrophies churned out by the Formula One book industry," says Motoring News, "something different emerges. This is it." Matchett touches on all aspects of this prestigious job, describing the incredible effort that the team are expected to give; the dangers and high stress of the pit stops; the myriad of famous drivers he worked with; and how Benetton and Schumacher stormed the world championships - amid great controversy - throughout 1994 and 1995. But The Mechanic's Tale is more than a collection of derring-do racing escapades; through his occasional digressions Matchett takes the reader on many colourful diversions, including an ill-fated ballooning trip; his views on the future of computer technology; and his slightly surreal comaprisons between Formula One and Orwell's 1984. All of that, combined with his attempts to make reason of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwoky, make this book anything but predictable.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are looking for a blow-by-blow account of a F1 season, you would be better served by Matchett's "Life in the Fast Lane" an inside account of Benneton's crazy 1994 season. If you want to learn more about F1 technology, then try "The Chariot Makers."

However, if you want a very human and personal account of one man's journey from being a road car mechanic to mechanic for a Formula 1 world champion in a half decade, this is the book for you. Matchett describes his cautious entry to the sport, the great Benneton personalities he meets (most of whom have now gone on to senior positions all over the sport), the insane hours, and the holiday antics in the off-season. The book is peppered with Matchett's insight about the workings of Formula 1. Interestingly, he strongly disagrees with the Benneton's sacking of Schumacher's teamates every year and believes stability in the 2nd driver position would have improved the team. Ironic that Ferrari has used that exact strategy: Schumacher has had 3 teamates in the last 11 seasons...

A must read for anyone whose interest in Formula 1 goes beyond glossy driver biographies and flashy magazines.
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Format: Paperback
I'm certainly going against the grain with this review, but I felt the need to speak out. I very much looked forward to this book because Mr. Matchett does such an excellent job commentating on Formula One races for Speed Channel. His technical knowledge and articulate manner add a great deal to the broadcasts.
Perhaps I should be fair, in that I was expecting something more along the lines of what other reviewers have said about the book. Yes, there are some fascinating bits about the drivers he's worked with, and there are some humorous pieces as well (especially the part about Piquet's antics when Matchett had to stick his head down in the foot box with Piquet still buckled in). My complaint about the book is that it tends to go into great detail regarding the periphery of Matchett's journey into Formula One, and not enough into the technical acrobatics the mechanics have to perform, both in the garage and on the track. If you want to hear about the quaint little towns, the drives up the country on vacation, and the pub down the corner from Steve Matchett's point of view, then get this book. I feel it concentrates too heavily in these areas, and I was frustrated for it. Why, I recall perhaps the most compelling chapter wherein Matchett and crew are furiously chasing a hydraulics gremlin that is wreaking havoc with the car's variable suspension. He describes in excellent detail the agonizing frustration of checking each component, over and again with no success. Because of the enormous pressure the mechanics are under, this section starts to read like a suspense novel. In the end, though, after building us up to share the unbearable frustration he feels at the time, he doesn't let us know how the problem is fixed, or how the situation turns out. He just ends with saying something along the lines of "see how frustrating it gets?"
Frustrating, indeed.
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