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A Speedy Read

It’s book season as Christmas hovers just over the horizon.

For motorsport fans, John Smailes has done the heavy lifting for Santa with his latest effort, ’Speed Kings’.

It’s all about the Indianapolis 500 and the Australians – and New Zealanders – who have tackled The Brickyard since its earliest days.

Smailes is best known as one of Australia’s crack motoring spin-doctors, but he changed the paradigm when he wrote an excellent biography of Allan Moffat.

This new effort shows the same relentless commitment to research and serves up the sort of untold insider stories which prove the quality of his work.

Anyone can rattle through a table of races and results, but Smailes gets into the fine detail with the people who were there. And the people who know and remember them.

He reveals a tale of cheating, gets back to Will Power’s roots in rural Queensland, and even meets Scott McLaughlin at the Team Penske race base in the USA.

Many of the stories are horrible, because The Brickyard has taken a huge toll on drivers and mechanicians – and even a young boy standing outside the family home – since the earliest days.

But there are inspiring tales, from Rupert Jeffkins who raced in the first Indy 500 through to recent race winners Power and Scott Dixon.

Smailes talks to drivers, team owners, engineers and even commentators – led by the brilliant Leigh Diffey – and shares their stories and insights.

At first it seems like it will be a historical tome, with a huge amount of detail crammed into the early pages to explain what Indy is and means, but the stories get more personal and emotional through the pages and it’s easy to get immersed.

Even if the latest Jack Reacher novel is your first choice for the summer holidays, Speed Kings is worth adding to the reading list.

Speed Kings is published by Allen & Unwin and priced at $32.99.

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