Eric Killorin

Mon Dec 30 2013 21:40:27 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

'Riding a bicycle around your living room' was how the Brazilian champion Nelson Piquet described racing on Monaco's cramped Grand Prix circuit. Laid out on public streets, the course is threaded so trickily through the world's second-smallest state that it contains both the fastest and slowest corners on the Formula 1 circuit and twice (in 1955 and 1965) has launched errant drivers into the harbor. The layout tends to yield unpredictable results, too, which makes it remarkable that for 10 consecutive years (1984-93) the winner was one of two men: Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, Formula 1's greatest pair of rivals. The French Mr. Prost was the 'Professor,' renowned for his methodical style of racing, while the Brazilian Senna was aggression and speed. All the more striking is that they were teammates at McLaren for two of those seasons (1988-89). The British team is the subject of the large-format retrospective 'McLaren: 50 Years of Racing' (Prestel, 293 pages, $160), and while the book covers the team's beginnings and continued success today with drivers like Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, the days of the rivalry are the leading attraction. We see the Frenchman leading the field at Monaco in 1984, high-rises banked like bleachers behind him (above), and winning at Adelaide, Australia, in 1986, his arms thrust from the cockpit in victory as heat shimmers from the tarmac. Senna, befitting his almost spiritual intensity, is shown in a sequence of solemn close-ups dressing to race. Another shot shows the moment of the teammates' final break: The two sit side by side in their matching cars on the shoulder of the track after colliding at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix. Other photos trace the continuous refinement, aerodynamic and mechanical, that has made McLaren cars so successful. But in the end, it is the men who risk their lives at speeds above 200 miles an hour who compel. —The Editors

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