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Recommended Reading: “What’s it Like Out There,” by Mario Andretti

Published in

Scans of book from author’s collection.

Back in the spring of 1971 I was in my freshman year of high school and one of our English assignments that semester was to read a book of our choice and write a report on it. Having been a total car nut even then, with a deep interest in Grand Prix cars and the Indy 500, it was only natural that I write about racing. At some small bookstore in my Brooklyn neighborhood, I found the ideal book: What’s It Like Out There? Not only was this a book about racing but it was written by my favorite driver, Mario Andretti.

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Like most teenagers I wasn’t much of a reader, not even comic books, but once I started reading this book I literally couldn’t put it down. I found it immensely interesting, which must have reflected in my enthusiastic report because the teacher gave me an A-.

The book itself is a paperback, totaling 240 pages; the price on its spine reads 95-cents. Today, 35 years after I bought it, it remains part of my automotive library, and one day, if I ever find the time, would like to read it again.

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What’s It Like Out There? is the story of Mario’s rise into racing, starting from when his family first settled in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. It begins with him sailing past the Statue of Liberty back in June, 1955, when he and his family immigrated to the U.S., and ends with his recollections of his win at the 1970 12 Hours of Sebring and his third place showing at the 1970 Spanish Grand Prix – his best Formula One finish at the time of the book’s publication. In between those periods everything Mario did on race tracks and all the cars he drove is talked about at length with all the details that hardcore racing enthusiasts want to know about.

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From racing Sprint cars on dirt tracks in the Northeast, which got him rides in USAC and his win at the Indianapolis 500 in 1969, Mario talks about what he did that made those achievements happen. It talks about testing tires, car preparation, dealing with publicity, his title drives and his time with Andy Granatelli and what’s it like to drive the Turbine car. There’s even a paragraph devoted to working with Colin Chapman, with in-depth discussions that he had with Colin, whose Lotus factory built the chassis for the Turbine car. All in all this book is truly a fascinating and entertaining read, one that all racing enthusiast will enjoy.