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POM ON MOTOR RACING AND NATIONALISM

LAURENCE “POM” POMEROY, 1908–1966, wrote about more than automotive technicalities in his classic book The Grand Prix Car. There is a tale that Pom’s father, English automotive engineer Laurence Henry Pomeroy, improved his French by studying the writings of that country’s motor racing specialists. And, as is indicated in Part One of The Grand Prix Car, Pom approached motor racing history with similar erudition. 

Laurence “Pom” Evelyn Wood Pomeroy, 1908–1966, English motoring journalist extraordinaire.

History is evident in Pom’s citations at the beginning of The Grand Prix Car, with quotations from Horace, L.H. Pomeroy, Sir Thomas Browne, and Mannschaft und Meisterschaft

The Grand Prix Car, Volume One, by Laurence Pomeroy, FRSA, MSAE, Motor Racing Publications, 1954.

Horace:Sunt quos curriculo pulverem Olympicum Collegisse luvat, metaque fervidis Evitata rotis palmaque nobilis Terrarum dominos evehit ad deos;”

From Horace’s Odes 1.1: “There are those who it pleases to produce Olympic dust in a chariot having avoided the turning point with fiery wheels, and the noble palm carries them, like masters of the world, to the gods;”

Quintus Horace Flaccus, 65 B.C. – 8 B.C., Roman poet, as imagined by Anton von Werner.

As described by Wikipedia, “Horace was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus. The rhetorician Quintillian regarded his Odes as just about the only Latin lyrics worth reading.”

L.H. Pomeroy: “The firm which is building the high speed engine is adding to its knowledge of the durability of materials and of the effect of detail alterations at a rate which is incredible to those without similar experience.”

L.H. Pomeroy, 1883–1941, Pom’s father, was an English engineer, like many of his era trained as a locomotive engineer. (W.O. Bentley had a similar background.) The elder Pomeroy’s comment here can be summarized by the familiar “Racing Improves the Breed.” 

Sir Thomas Browne: “Man is a noble animal, splendid in ashes and pompous in the grave, nor omitting ceremonies of bravery in the infamy of his nature.”  

Wikipedia describes Sir Thomas Browne, 1605–1682, as “an English polymath and author of varied works which reveal his wide learning in diverse fields including science and medicine, religion and the esoteric.”

Frontispiece to The Garden of Cyrus, 1658, by Sir Thomas Browne.

In 1658, the discovery of 40 to 50 Anglo-Saxon pots prompted Browne to write Hyrdiotaphia, Urn Burial, or, a Discourse on the Sepulchral Urns Lately Found in Norfolk. Part of this is The Garden of Cyrus, which, according to Wikipedia, is “Browne’s contribution to a ‘boom period’ decade of interest in esoterica in England.”

English scholar George Saintsbury, 1845–1933, said Browne’s work was “the longest piece, perhaps, of absolutely sublime rhetoric to be found in the prose literature of the world.” Herman Melville called Browne a “cracked archangel.” 

Mannschaft und Meisterschaft: “The Fürher has spoken. The 1934 G.P. formula shall and must be a measuring stick for German knowledge and German ability. So one thing leads to the other; first the Fürher’s overpowering energy, then the formula, a great international problem to which Europe’s best devote themselves, and finally action in the design and construction of new racing cars.”

Google Translate says Mannschaft und Meisterschaft is German for Team and Championship, which sums up the Third Reich’s view of international motorsports in the period prior to World War II. 

Pomeroy noted it was a period “in which first Fascist Italy and, subsequently, the Germany of the Third Reich used the spectacle of motor racing to excite emotions of superiority in the breasts of their own nationals, and to further the prestige of their general engineering industry in the minds of the world at large.”

The Grand Prix Saboteurs, by Joe Saward, Morienval Press, 2006.

 Joe Saward’s The Grand Prix Saboteurs is an excellent description of this motor sports era. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021  

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