It was the final lap during the final race of the day – the 500cc class – at the German Grand Prix in 1937. The race was held on the circuit near Hohenstein-Ernstthal, later to be known as Sachsenring. Six times Isle of Man TT winner James Guthrie was leading by well over a minute. The Union Jack was readied for the podium ceremony which would conclude a long day of racing. But to the surprise of everyone in the start and finish area, the Norton rider did not re-emerge from the heavily wooded section of the course just half a mile from the finish.
What happened between the “Heiterer Blick” inn and the ascent towards the finish line at Queckenberg remained a mystery for eight decades. Rumours of a machine failure or another rider interfering with Guthrie circulated and several high profile motorsport journalists, including Mick Woolett and Dr. Helmut Krackowitzer, covered the story in previous years.
Almost twenty years ago Australian-born Paul W. Guthrie began researching his family history in Scotland and came across the famous racer from Hawick. Fascinated by Guthrie´s life story and puzzled by the mysterious circumstances of his death he began researching the case. The result of his investigation is now published in his new book Jimmie G. – The extraordinary life and tragic death of a Scottish motorcycle racing champion.
Before shedding new light on James Guthrie´s fatal crash, the book introduces the racing legend with extensive background information on his earlier life, his military service during the First World War, his family and the business he ran with his brother Archie. The reader also gains detailed insight into the British and German motorsport scene during the 1920´s and 1930´s with regard to the political situation in Europe prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. All that sets the scene to understand what was going on right after that fateful crash on the 8th of August 1937.
After all Guthrie discovers new evidence in the extensive archive of the former Auto Union. Documents that were sealed and secured in the archive for the past 80 years could finally be investigated by the author.
Speaking German as well as his first language English, Paul W. Guthrie was able to examine the available primary sources such as newspapers and magazines from both sides, British and German, published close to the date of James Guthrie´s death. He points out crucial differences in the coverage and checks the facts with available documentation from various archives, including the original documents from the hospital in Chemnitz. After all Guthrie discovers new evidence in the extensive archive of the former Auto Union. Documents that were sealed and secured in the archive for the past 80 years could finally be investigated by the author. With the available new facts Paul W. Guthrie can at last draw a picture of what might have happened or contributed to the fatal accident of James Guthrie.
For his analysis Paul W. Guthrie uses a scientific approach and the facts he introduces to the reader are marked with lots of references and footnotes. Eventually this book provides the detailed accident investigation that should have been carried out as a standard procedure right after the crash in 1937 but never was. As the reader will learn, this is just one of many anomalies surrounding the story and contributing to the various speculations over the years.
The intriguing story of James Guthrie and the Continental Circus in Europe is told in an exciting way and accompanied by a variety of photos and pictures of original documents. Jimmie G. – The extraordinary life and tragic death of a Scottish motorcycle racing champion is a must-read for every motorcycle racing fan interested in the connection of politics and motorsports, as the book includes valuable background information on the role of motorsport under the National Socialist regime in Germany.