Book Review

‘Jimmie G.’ The extraordinary life and tragic death of a Scottish motorcycle racing champion
Author: Paul W Guthrie
Publisher: Paul W Guthrie. Available from Amazon, Waterstones and other specialist bookshops.
Hardback, 220 x 260mm (portrait); 344 pages with over 140 photographs and illustrations.
ISBN 978-3-9820872-0-7
£34

On August 8, 1937, Jimmie Guthrie was on track to win his third successive German Grand Prix, when he crashed heavily on the last lap.

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He died shortly afterwards in hospital and was mourned by racing fans all over the world.

The cause of the crash was never fully explained at the time and many rumours circulated.

This book uncovers the known facts surrounding the crash, and explores hypotheses to explain it. In the course of researching the story, many facts were uncovered, shedding new light on the British motorcycle racing scene in the 1930s.

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Never before published German archive documents are examined to understand what really happened behind the scenes.

There is an explanation as to why the cause of the crash was obscured by a veil of secrecy. The context of the time is characterised with many facts about German motorsport and the political implications of the (Nazi) NSDAP.

Jimmie Guthrie’s life away from racing was equally as extraordinary as in the saddle.

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A biographical account of his formative years in the Scottish border town of Hawick; his experiences as a machine-gunner at Gallipoli and France in the First World War; and the successful business he ran with his brother Archie are presented. ‘Jimmie G’, as he was affectionately known by his many admirers, was an enigmatic figure, but a picture of his character has been created from first-hand accounts of those who knew him well.

His motorcycle racing career achievements from 1921 to 1937 are chronicled for the first time.

There is evidence also that some British motorcycle racers were involved with British intelligence.

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For those unfamiliar with German motorsport during the Nazi era, there is a detailed explanation of how it was run and just how important it was as a propaganda exercise for the Third Reich.

Paul W Guthrie systematically discusses all the crash theories including rider error and mechanical failure – and while we can never be sure, the most likely explanation is that Guthrie crashed due to interference by a German rider, Kurt Mansfeld.

If a German rider had caused the crash the incident would have become a geopolitical disaster and a threat to the reputation of the Third Reich.

Political tensions were high between Germany and Britain at the time and Paul suggests that it was in the interest of both sides to be vague about the real reason for the crash.

Australian-born and fluent German-speaking author Guthrie is to be congratulated on this truly fascinating and absorbing tome – the result of many years research.

Book reviewed by Jonathan Hill.

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