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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

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  265 ratings  ·  48 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 ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published November 7th 2011 by Twelve (first published November 1st 2011)
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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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
John Collings
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
John Bowen
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
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
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.
Dennis Willingham
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.
Colin Powell
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
Walter Bush
A guy's book, no doubt, but a great read. Cannell makes events of more than 50 years ago seem relevant and quite interesting.
Dan Piette
Lots of death on the early Grand Prix and Sports Car racing circuit.
Jim Dolan
Amazing as it should be...dangerous! Exciting!
Dec 25, 2011 Beth rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
By mistake, put my review out on Beth's page.
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
Marty Jones
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
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
excellent book detailing the racing careers of Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips and their many fellow racers. Chronicles a very dangerous era where most drivers would not survive the Formula One season due to the massive high speeds and lack of modern safety measures. Very enjoyable read
A very good recap of not just the 1961 Formula One season, but also the years leading up to that seminal year. Also great little mini-bios of Phil Hill, Enzo Ferrari, and (most interesting to me since I knew so little about him) the late Wolfgang von Trips.
Stacy Bearse
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
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
Great read for those interested in racing history. Well researched. Great characterizations of the major players, Hill the nervous car geek, Von Tripps the insecure dandy, and Enzo Ferrari as the manipulative egomaniac more concerned with the image of his cars that the routine deaths of those who drove for him. Most races run over long distances on everyday roads with no regard to safety. You may be shocked by the number of racing deaths in this era, typically one driver and several spectators P ...more
Doug Gordon
An excellent book about auto racing's most exciting and most dangerous period. I remember following that season as best I could and since then have learned a lot about Phil Hill's life, but reading this book was the first time that I really knew much about von Trips. He was a lot different a character from what I had assumed, and this book does a good job of painting the contrast and building up the tension to the final rounds of the 1961 Grand Prix season.
Mike Cannell's book The Limit is an good history of sports cars and the Gran Prix in the 1950s and early 1960s. It focuses on the competition between Phil Hill and Von Trips for Grand Prix wins, and Ferrari's manipulation of them. Ferrari's efforts to keep them on edge in an effort to achieve faster speeds literally caused the drivers to drive themselves to death. The number and description of accidents and deaths ultimately makes this book depressing so I gave up about 75% of the way through.
Recommended for motorsports enthusiasts who are interested in sports car and Formula One racing in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Excellent biographical coverage of the first American driver to win the F1 championship, Phil Hill, and his rivalry with von Trips in the fateful 1961 season. Sound coverage of the politics of F1, and peripheral biographical tidbits on great drivers in an era in which the driver mattered more than the technology of the automobile.
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