Book Review – Flying Kiwis…A Quest for Speed
…by Kerry Swanson & Andrea Spinks
This is not a slight on the book but it took me about six months to read this – this is mainly due to two facts; as much as I love motorsport (and especially motorbikes) I don’t get into the whole technical and historical side of it all, and secondly I was reading a lot of other books through this time and this one was perused as ‘in-between’ and casual reading…well, that was the case un til I got about halfway through it.
This story chronicles the Land Speed Record (LSR) which was a goal set by an incredible man, Phil Garrett, and I say incredible as once this book went into his life story and motivation one cannot but feel he was lucky to be here at all, and deserves every plaudit he gets.
The content and layout of the book is great as a coffee table read with on large pages that combine some great journalism and fantastic photos – it starts with a history lesson into New Zealand’s passion in motorsport and specifically motorcyles and speed records. After telling us well-known and little known facts about famous personalities it then drills down more into LSR attempts and enjoys a long tribute following the efforts of two men; Bob Burns and Russell Wright. These two fellows couldn’t be further apart in personality it would seem other than they shared a common goal to beat the large European teams at being the fastest men on earth, a goal both achieved (Burns on a sidecar, Wright on 2-wheels), all just outside my front door on Tram Road!
As our Pommie hero, Garrett, learned more of this historical fact (still unbeaten at the time) he made it his life’s work to better it, especially as those damned Euros changed the rules after the fact took the record away from Burns and Wright. And being a driven individual (he has suffered hardship we can only begin to understand) Garrett, a current side-car champion at the time set off on a four-year mission to not only break the record and return it to NZ, but better it by an astronomical figure (he was aiming for 320kph!).
In a world where bikes off the showroom floor are capable of speeds in excess of 250kph the LSR doesn;t seem that startling, but when the factors of regulation, and the inevitable politics come into it, getting to the start line seems a goal in itself and you have to feel for the characters in this play who went through hell, personally and professionally, to get the bike on the road.
While the story overall is very good, it was hard for me to see past the grammatical errors throughout (just an ingrained problem I have) but more disappointing was the commentary on the actual record attempt itself – it felt like the author had run out of pages, literally and was required to squeeze it into a short ending. Shame really considering the in-depth lead up and historical reporting.
All in all a great little book for anyone interested in these kind of things and the photos are a fantastic side dish to the story.
PiS…my wife got this book from Phil himself (signed with a great little motivational quote) after doing some volunteer work with her bank in tidying up and painting his Triumph dealership after the September quakes. And apparently I have a test ride owing after their conversation…choice! Never really been a Trumpy fan though, so maybe in doing so wouldn’t be right.
PiSS…if anoyone has any footage of the run, or testing at Wigram I would love to see a clip – email a link to You Tube for me (I couldn’t find any).