Book Review: Faster | How a Jewish Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Beat Hitler’s Best

So many of Germany’s automotive greats were aligned with Hitler: Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, Hans Stuck and Dr. Porsche. While these names achieved on-track success as promised, their names will forever be sullied. 

But one small band of interlopers kept Germany from winning all the marbles: American heiress Lucy O’Reilly Schell launched her own Grand Prix team, putting Jewish driver René Dreyfus in a Delahaye. The plan sounded crazy, but it proved crazy enough to work. 

Faster: How a Jewish Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Beat Hitler’s Best” recalls that seemingly impossible story. Why was this up-and-coming driver benched? How did O’Reilly Schell transition from successful driver to team owner? And why did they field a Delahaye, a brand poised to go under? 

Call this the motorsports version of Jesse Owens’s 1936 Olympic performance. The so-called master race was again humbled on the international stage. 

Author Neal Bascomb manages to mix in just enough car lingo without bogging down the narrative. While not a short story at more than 350 pages, this deep dive into prewar history remains highly engaging and easy to read. And the bad guys are actual Nazis, so you feel extra satisfied when they lose.


Faster: How a Jewish Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Beat Hitler’s Best”
368 pages
 $28

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slowbird
slowbird SuperDork
6/17/20 4:42 p.m.

I can't believe I hadn't read about this before; I may have to check out this book.

It strikes me now that i once played a video game called Saboteur with a similar storyline; perhaps it drew inspiration from these real-life events. In the game, a racing driver ends up working for an arm of the French resistance in occupied Paris; aside from the part where he humiliates them by winning a race, he also sneaks into and sabotages their outposts/vehicles/etc. It's mostly been forgotten because it was sort of mediocre to decent, not great, but I enjoyed it at the time.

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