Caribbean Capers


The Cuban Grand Prix Races of 1957, 1958 & 1960

by Joel E. Finn

Nick’s take: one of the most unusual monographs on a racing venue of all time; while the cars and the drivers are fairly familiar, the political context for these GP events is, to my knowledge, unique. OK, the Cuban GP of 1957, 1958, and 1960… but what about 1959 a naïve reader might ask? That of course is when Fidel Castro ascended to power, and he has been in control even longer than Francisco Franco (another dictator, different type) has still been dead.

Reading the story of the late 1950s racing is like watching swimmers in sunny waters in JAWS… ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump… you just know the waters are going to get real turbulent—ok, bloody, in due course.
Buy this book for the Aston Martin content? No – but Ferrari, Porsche etc. content, yes.  Drama and intrigue beyond what Hollywood could do for a racing flick, absolutely.

Mr. Finn delivers what strikes me as a balanced perspective on the milieu of Cuban racing, with the macro politics and micro-economy swirling around the operation of these grand prix dates, and makes this a car history book with cross-over potential for Pan American 20th century history. Buy it. And pray for a free, and free - market Cuba. With a better national ethos than under Fulgencio Batista. Or Fidel.

BOOK DESCRIPTION from other sources:
The book is organized into ten chapters, beginning with Cuban Racing History in 1901, covering the weekend street racing on Malecon Drive (precursor to the 1957 Grand Prix), each of the three GP races, with a chapter on the first ever race held for the Formula Junior International Championships, and concluding with the Gran Premio Libertad sportscar race during the 1960 Havana Speed Week.

Sources for this review: the book itself, the publisher, and notes from the International Motor Racing Research Center in Watkins Glen.

The IMMRC noted of Mr Finn’s presentation last November that “this remarkable volume captures the dramatic story of Cuba’s famous sports car races, with all the international finance, political intrigue and competitive action that characterized the island nation at that turbulent time.
Havana was truly the sin city of the 1950s, as the gambling capital of the world, with profits that surpassed Las Vegas. If one had money and connections, you could get just about anything in Cuba. Against this backdrop, powerful Ferraris, Maseratis, and Porsches roared through the streets of Havana with the world’s best drivers at the wheel. Stirling Moss, Phil Hill, Carroll Shelby, Jack Brabham and, of course, the five-time world champion, Juan Manuel Fangio, were among those who competed is these now-legendary events. A kidnapping that captured headlines around the world, when pole-sitter Fangio was taken at gunpoint from his Havana hotel the night before the race in 1958, illustrates the challenges faced by the organizers and competitors.

“I was one of the timing officials at the races in 1958, and gathered as much original information, firsthand accounts, and rare, official records from organizers as possible, with the intention of creating this book on the events in Cuba during the Golden Age of sports car racing,” Finn said. “It’s a story that needs to be told, of a time in racing history like no other, set amidst the gaiety and glamour of the clubs, beaches, beautiful women and Hollywood stars.”

With more than 500 historic images of the cars, drivers and events – many never -before published – and numerous meticulously compiled charts of the race entries and results, Caribbean Capers: The Cuban Grand Prix Races of 1957, 1958 and 1960, is the authoritative account of this era of Cuban motor racing.

About the author:
Joel Finn has been a competitive driver in road racing for more than 50 years. Beginning in the middle of the 20th century, he was also a participant in significant events in American racing, working with pit crews, flagging stations and timing and scoring officials at tracks that included Sebring, Watkins Glen, Bridgehampton, and Havana. As a long-time competitor, he has raced many of the cars that attained legendary status in the early years of sports car racing and has known the drivers, owners and mechanics who competed in these challenging events.

Finn has written a number of highly-regarded histories of road racing including

o American Road Racing: The 1930s;
o Bridgehampton Racing: From the Streets to the Bridge;
o Sunshine Speed and a Surprise: The 1959 Grand Prix of the United Sates; and
o American Road Racing: 1948-1950 The Sport Revived.

His earlier books focused on the Ferrari V-12 Testa Rossa, Maserati Birdcage, and the Maserati Sports Racing cars.

368 pages. Indexed with Bibliography.
12”x9” landscape format.
500+ illustrations. 
Hard-bound with dust jacket. 
Weight about 7 lbs

Published by Garnet Hill Publishing, Washington CT 2010
distributed by Racemaker Press 
ISBN:  0-9647769-5-2
ISBN: 978-0-9647769-5-1
List Price: $199.95