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The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit
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The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  385 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
In THE LIMIT, Michael Cannell tells the enthralling story of Phil Hill-a lowly California mechanic who would become the first American-born driver to win the Grand Prix-and, on the fiftieth anniversary of his triumph, brings to life a vanished world of glamour, valor, and daring.

With the pacing and vivid description of a novel, THE LIMIT charts the journey that brought Hi
Kindle Edition
Published (first published November 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

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Dec 08, 2011 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I'm not a huge sports fan, and have no real interest in motor sports at all, I can't deny that The Limit is a thrilling read, and a genuine page turner. Michael Cannell's retelling of events surrounding the 1961 European Grand Prix race circuit is developed as well as any novel, with richly defined characters, gruesome plot turns, and an ultimate resolution that is simultaneously elating and depressing. I'm much too young to have known of these events as they were actually happening, but t ...more
Jan 02, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A car gets me from one place to another and as long as it works I am happy. So one might wonder why I was attracted to read this book. It 'jumped off" the new books non-fiction shelves at the library because I had heard the author interviewed on NPR and thought it would be interesting to read. The book is supposed to be about Phil Hill, a race driver who grew up in Santa Monica, California. But it is more a story of many race car drivers, and also of Ferrari. The book ends with the 1961 Grand Pr ...more
Matthew Dixon
Nov 23, 2011 Matthew Dixon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not a car racing guy but this is a really interesting story about how ridiculously dangerous formula one racing was in the 50s and 60s was for racers went 180 mph and didn't even wear seat belts and for spectators who were pretty routinely killed when cars and parts thereof would go hurtling off the track. the book focuses on a couple of drivers, one being phil hill, still the only american to ever win the formula one racing championship. just the kind of fascinating non-fiction book that i ...more
L.C. Fiore
Jan 24, 2012 L.C. Fiore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author calls this book "novelistic nonfiction," and I think that's perfect--Cannell tells a riveting story about Formula One racing in the 1950s and '60s by following two racers in particular: Peter Hill and Wolfgang von Trips, both of whom raced primarily for Ferari. I'm not much of a racing enthusiast (although I always suspected NASCAR couldn't hold a candle to these guys, and now I'm sure I'm right about that), but The Limit gave me an appreciation for the skill of the Formula One driver ...more
Shaon Castleberry
Aug 29, 2011 Shaon Castleberry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The story of Don Hill and his experience racing in Formula 1 cars before driver safety was an issue. No seat belts, no roll bars, and fire always a problem as many drivers were engulfed in flames after the gas tank exploded. Mr. Hill was one of the lucky few to live through his career. An engrossing read - more please!
Jim Dolan
Jan 14, 2012 Jim Dolan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing as it should be...dangerous! Exciting!
Dec 06, 2013 Patrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I were inclined to be snarky, it would be easy to pick holes. The reference to 180 degree first corner at Monaco, Gasometer (it's actually the last corner) or the comment about the Sharknose Ferrari with it's 450BHP V6 engine (I'm not sure exactly how much power it was putting out, but given that, six years later, Cosworth struggled to get 400BHP from their DFV despite the fact it was twice the size, I'd guess not more than 200BHP). Michael Cannell is not a racing journalist, and as someone w ...more
Jan 07, 2012 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Limit was nothing short of a fantastic book.

Some have criticised it for some errors, and yes as a fan of Formula 1 you can see that there are a few, but this book was written by an outsider of the sport, someone who doesn't have a great interest in it, and that helps capture the story even more. The fact that a non-fan can be captivated by the stories of Phil Hill and von Trips shows how great a story it really was.

The author manages to get through just how dangerous F1 was at the time, you
May 23, 2014 Joanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, sports, 2014
As a new fan to F1, this wasn't as much as a book about the Phil Hill vs Wolfgang Von Trips for the 1961 championship as it was a primer on the era. I didn't know how any of the races would turn out or which drivers weren't going to make it, so this book was full of surprises. I recognized a few of the names but that was about it.

Michael Cannell manages to cover a lot of different stories and characters during this dangerous era and makes it all very accessible. It's not a knock on his writing
A readable and fairly engaging look at late 50s & early 60s racing through the intertwined stories of Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips. The book covers much more than 1961, tracing the paths that brought the two protagonists to Monza in '61, and it paints a vivid picture of the danger to which drivers in that era exposed themselves (and spectators - I hadn't appreciated the extent to which the horrific '55 crash at Le Mans was simply the ugliest of a series of awful instances where fans were ...more
John Bowen
Mar 04, 2014 John Bowen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a pretty awful book, poorly researched and full of errors. If you know nothing about Formula One in the late 1950s and into the start of the next decade (and clearly the author does not) then it might appeal as a story, but for any enthusiast it will only frustrate.

It does Phil Hill an injustice too, for it writes off his career completely ignoring his second place in the inaugural CanAm championship, his stunning pace in the early years of Ford's world sports car championship ambitions
The book was well written and was successful in actually putting you on the track. Races were very well described and it all seemed real in front of my eyes. This book is not just only for a race aficionado, but anyone can enjoy the read. The book succeeds in explaining how dangerous formula 1 racing was back in the 50s. Along with that its a good insight into a F1 racer's mind ! I would totally recommend it.
Mar 31, 2012 dennis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: d-recommends
fantastic story of a time when racing also equalled high body counts, both in drivers and spectators. i kept thinking of old "speed racer" episodes during the race segments. very well written, a great look at the lives of the drivers of the era, particularly Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips. now to find clips of these old races on youtube
Dec 07, 2011 Doug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is good reading. I was a racing fan and later mechanic in the 60's and knew most of the story and many of the people.

Reading the book was almost as much fun and drama as watching the news for the results of the races.
Walter Bush
Nov 12, 2011 Walter Bush rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A guy's book, no doubt, but a great read. Cannell makes events of more than 50 years ago seem relevant and quite interesting.
Dennis Willingham
Nov 29, 2011 Dennis Willingham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, non-fiction
Good account of the late '50s - early '60's sportscar and formula 1 racing series. Centers on Ferrari and two "frenemy" drivers, Hill and von Trips. Very enjoyable quick read.
Dec 25, 2011 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dean
Good book about a classic race between Hill and von Tripp in 1961.
Nov 07, 2011 Abc marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I won this book in a giveaway. Thank you.
Dec 25, 2011 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
By mistake, put my review out on Beth's page.
Dan Piette
Lots of death on the early Grand Prix and Sports Car racing circuit.
Oct 28, 2016 Jimagn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have very mixed feelings about this book. The subject matter is familiar to me, and I'm a knowledgeable fan of vintage racing. The story is fairly well told, but clearly done by an "outsider," as the author readily states in the acknowledgements. The research is impressive, though lacking the perspective of someone with a more thorough understanding of the context. I don't feel I can recommend it to a fan, such as myself, nor to someone unfamiliar with Formula 1 in the fifties and sixties. I a ...more
Oct 30, 2016 Travis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
here is the story of three men- phil hill, enzo ferrari, and von Trips-- a master, a visionary, and a cowboy who defined racing in a bygone and deadly era.
Jan 05, 2017 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: formula-one
The Limit demonstrates how death was common place in Grand Prix racing. It was accepted as a part of the job.

One thing I learned from this book is that Enzo Ferrari is a manipulative conniving man who put the car before human life. He wanted his drivers to drive constantly at the limit or above which is where racing borders lunacy. I think this is why he had a liking for Gilles Villeneuve in the 1970s. Gilles was not afraid of speed and pushing the car over the limit.
Oct 03, 2016 Felix rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book about what it was like in the early days of racing. The rivalry between drivers make the story thrilling, and there is some kind of tension throughout the book with a lot of drivers dying.

Beware as the book packs a lot of information, it is easy to become lost in the story if you are not paying attention.

A must read for any petrolhead!
John Collings
Feb 24, 2015 John Collings rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Normally I am not one who goes for a book about cars and racing, but this book really gripped me. I was surprised to realize how dangerous the Grand Prix circuit was back in the late 50s and early 60s. I can start to see why some people would consider this a sport. The comraderie that was shared among the fellow contestants also helped me realize the community that this group formed. It helped me appreciate the love and passion that they had for this sport. They had enough of it to put their liv ...more
Stephen Terrell
Jul 21, 2015 Stephen Terrell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an outstanding book for any auto racing fan. The book tracks three distinct personalities as they move through the death-filled years of the 1950s to their ultimate fates at Monza in 1961. This was a different time. Grand Prix racing recently suffered its first racing death in 21 years. But in the 1950s, in an eight year period, 20 drivers died racing.

Auto legend Enzo Ferrari ruled Formula One with his high powered cars and deadly psychology of pitting his drivers against each other. Ger
Marty Jones
Aug 27, 2013 Marty Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it!

Phil Hill is a sadly forgotten sports figure, and an unlikely hero. This book might be called a quasi-bio, as more than half of it's pages are devoted to recounting a by-gone period in the 20th century of which Ernest Hemmingway famously stated: "Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are just games."

When I was a kid in the 1960's I came across 2 things that kicked off a life-long fascination with the romanticism of early grand prix ra
Stacy Bearse
Feb 21, 2012 Stacy Bearse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I really enjoyed this story about mid-century sports car and Grand Prix racing. THE LIMIT is a story about living on the edge, a saga of life and death, and an exploration of fear and courage.

Racing purists will bridle at the author's many gaffes: You don't "adjust" the gas level in the carburetor, wheel bearings don't "collapse", and the turn at the end of Le Mans' Mulsanne Straight is not "300 degrees". But the author freely admits that he doesn't even own a car. This aside, Cannell has done a
Colin Powell
Jan 20, 2014 Colin Powell rated it it was amazing
I loved this era of Formula one racing and Le Mans too. The 1950s was one of the most dangerous times during the history of motor racing. This book delves into the life of American F1 hero Phil Hill, German hero Wolfgang Von Trips and car designer Enzo Ferrari who had both the racers on his elite motor racing team.

It is buzzing with excitement and eye witness accounts of many fatal crashes, including Le Mans 1955. Old time greats come into this historical account. I honestly could not put this b
Mar 18, 2012 Ian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
The story of the epic rivalry between two unlikely candidates for motor sport's most prestigious prize. The Limit begins with biographies of Phil Hill - an American mechanic - and Wolfgang von Trips - son of a German count. It charts their different routes into motor racing leading to them becoming team mates under the manipulative regime of Enzo Ferrari.

All of this leads to the climax of the ultimately tragic 1961 season where the sharknose Ferrari 156 allowed the two drivers to dominate.

If thi
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Michael Cannell is the author of three non-fiction books: "Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber and the Invention of Criminal Profiling"; "The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit" and "I.M Pei: Mandarin of Modernism." Michael edited the House & Home section of The New York Times for seven years. He has contributed to The New Yorker, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and man ...more
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