It is always a treat when a book turns out to be about more than expected and this was the case with "Racing Green." Expecting a book on the technical aspects of cars and their switching to electrical power instead of internal combustion, it did have that but so much more that was very interesting. Here is my review of this book.
Title/Author: “Racing Green: How Motorsport Science Can Save the World” by Kit Chapman
Rating: 4 of 5 stars (very good)
Review: Auto racing would not be the first sport one would think would be a leader in promoting environmental and scientific awareness but this book by Kit Chapman proves that thought to be false. The science that goes into building race cars, aerodynamics, fuel and energy efficiency and safety are all quite complex and yet can also be used to help preserve the environment, mitigate climate change, advance health care technology and yes, improve the driving experience of regular travelers and commuters.
Of course, given the title, one would expect that the book would address climate change and the use of electric cars to combat that. Chapman starts this discussion with that (after providing the reader with a brief history of auto racing) by telling the story of the Formula E racing circuit. Similar to F1 only in the types of courses they run, Formula E not only uses solely electric cars but they are considered to be the cutting edge for chassis design, energy efficiency and other such advances in the sport. Other circuits, even NASCAR, have taken notice. The other interesting aspect discussed about Formula E is how many scientists and engineers work in the industry as their talents are put to use in many different fields.
Speaking of different fields, the book does not concentrate solely on auto racing. One of the more interesting topics covered by Dr. Chapman in his explanation of how auto racing science helps other areas includes healthcare. He explains how some of the same technology that makes race car engines more efficient, whether electric or internal combustion, helped make ventilators that were used on patients during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic more efficient as well.
Chapman explores a variety of topics and interviews people of both genders in a wide variety of specialties to make the book complete. It does get very technical and detailed at times, so unless a reader is well versed in the topics, it will take careful reading to fully understand those passages. It does help that for the most part, the language is such that one doesn’t have to be an expert to at least gain a rudimentary understanding of the science and he uses many excellent everyday examples.
The writing about the sport itself, primarily F1 racing, is done quite well. This may come across as macabre, but this reviewer believed the best writing was done about two famous crashes in F1. The first, which shook a young Chapman to the core, was the 1994 crash that killed one of the greatest drivers of all time in any form of racing, Aryton Senna. The other one was the near death of Romain Grosjean in the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, when many of the advances in safety that Chapman writes about were used to save Grosjean’s life when his care was engulfed in flames. Both times Chapman explained the dangers the drivers faced and it was a good illustration of the tremendous advancements made in safety.
This is the rare sports book that will appeal mostly to non-sports fans as those with interest or careers in science or engineering will appreciate the connections between auto racing and other areas using those concepts. Race fans, especially F1 fans, will also enjoy not only seeing this connection but also get a good glimpse at the future of the sport.
I wish to thank Bloomsbury USA for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.