Damon Hill’s dry and witty foreword sets the tone for one of the more amusing F1 book I’ve read. Perry McCarthy’s greatest attribute, and perhaps greatest weakness, was that he never took himself or his surroundings too seriously.
Whereas that probably prevented him from being quite the exacting professional that most Formula One drivers are, it was exactly the state of mind required to even contemplate driving the ghastly Andrea Moda car.
The infamy of the Andrea Moda team has passed into Formula One folklore.
They were formed by Andrea Sassetti who purchased the remains of the Coloni team after 1991. Having burned his bridges with Alex Caffi and Enrico Bertaggia, Sassetti fell back on McCarthy and Roberto Moreno to be his drivers.
In the teams short existence they managed to equip McCarthy with wet tyres for a dry qualifying session, and sent him out to qualifying at the ultra-fast Spa-Francorchamps circuit with a broken steering column. Later that weekend, Sassetti was arrested and that was the end of Andre Moda.
That farcical episode plus a couple of tests for Benetton and Arrows is, sadly, the extent of McCarthy’s claim to having been an F1 driver.
But the story of how he got to the ‘top’ is a cheering tale of utter bloody-minded persistence against ridiculous odds. It’s just a shame for McCarthy that the gut-wrenching lows vastly outnumbered the euphoric highs
He does, however, make an excellent narrator and brings his past to life with colourful anecdotes and a bone dry sense of humour. And there is a happy ending too, for after Formula One he had successes in sports car racing and took the role of the myserious ‘Stig’, the “tame racing driver” of BBC’s Top Gear programme.
Far less serious than your typical F1 book, Flat Out, Flat Broke€ is a welcome departure from the norm. Enjoy it.