Motorsport.com's Anne Proffit took a look at Jade Gurss' book, The Beast ahead of the holiday season.
Fans of Indianapolis 500 history will never forget the story of the Beast, the Mercedes-Benz engine that was built under extreme secrecy by Ilmor Engineering in the UK to take advantage of a loophole in the Brickyard's rules at the time using a pushrod-based engine. As related by one-time Mercedes-Benz publicist Jade Gurss and published by Octane Press, this story is technically mesmerizing and factually fascinating.
Dedicated to the late Paul Morgan and illustrated by his son Patrick, Gurss' book delves into the machinations of Morgan, Mario Illien and Roger Penske as they prepped this massively powerful engine for the three-car Penske Racing entry at Indianapolis with drivers Al Unser Jr, Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy. No one knew anything about the engine and its development until Penske pulled the wraps from the project - on the same weekend as the 1994 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. It was developed under extreme secrecy, tested under extreme secrecy (including at Nazareth in the snow) and finally brought to Indy for the race in 1994, to be mated to the Penske PC23 chassis.
The Mercedes-Benz 500I engine shocked everyone at Indianapolis and went on to win the 500-mile race at the hands of Unser Jr. Before then, in a span of just 14 weeks, this engine covered more than 11,000 miles in testing and went through 58 rebuilds as the Ilmor Engineering team attempted to make this behemoth race-worthy and able to last 200 laps and 500 miles. The Patrick Morgan drawings throughout this 304-page book (including acknowledgements) heighten the reader's ability to understand the technical aspects of producing this mechanical beast; a 32-page centerfold tells the story in photographs.
While Morgan can't tell his side of the story, Penske, Illien and a large number of Penske Racing (now Team Penske) staff members lend their tales of the project to Gurss for dissemination. While technical in nature, Gurss tells the story in such a way that even a technically-challenged reader can understand and, as the story moves quickly to its close, the engine was banned as soon as it was first to hit the yard of bricks at Indy. Still, Mario Illien states it best looking back on that project with partner Morgan: 'That was still the most intense and the best project we had done together."
Read this story of The Beast on a cold winter's day - I guarantee you'll power through it as quickly as the Penske boys rampaged the field of 33 at Indianapolis. $29.95 is an easy hit for this one.