Travelling the world, competing in top-level sport and having millions of admirers all sound like dreams so many of us hope to achieve.
But there’s often a dark side to every story, and Bryce Winters’ tale has one of the darkest of them all. Winters’ fictional story is chronicled in Deadly Driver, an excellent book by J.K. Kelly. On the surface, Winters appears to be a racing driver, but through the lens of Deadly Driver, we read about his government-sanctioned activities and how he ended up in this situation.
A Formula 1 driver being a secret agent is a concept that most of us would never have considered, but Kelly explores this idea and does so brilliantly.
Caught between a rock and a hard place
Bryce Winters is an American racing driver with one goal, to beat Mario Andretti’s record as the most-successful U.S. Formula 1 driver ever. Winters already has one championship under his belt, but a second would see him stand above both Andretti and Phil Hill in this tally.
Winters though, lives a double life, with the second being as an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA have dirt on Winters, and use him to carry out missions overseas, including assassinations.
It’s a situation that could easily be farfetched, but Kelly does a great job of humanising Winters and making him relatable. Most people, especially those with families, could level with Winters and would probably make the same choices if they found themselves with the CIA’s axe swinging above their heads.
Rags to riches
The road to Formula 1 was a very long one for Winters, but he’s bankrolled by Max Werner, German billionaire and F1 team owner. Winters worked his way up through series like NASCAR and IndyCar to get to F1, thanks to Werner’s ambition and finances.
The relationship between Winters and Werner has echoes of that between Ayrton Senna and Honda, or Valtteri Bottas and Toto Wolff. It’s something that we haven’t seen in F1 to this extent, though, and their arc is probably the best in this story.
A real human
At its core, Deadly Driver is the story of a man who drives fast and wants to be the best in the world at it. He’s already proven himself, but outside factors complicate his life and provide layers to his story.
This is further fleshed out by the excellent cast of supporting characters. Everybody from Bryce’s Uncle, to his best friend, love interest and CIA handler work so well.
Winters is in a situation that, in truth, is unrealistic, it’s never likely to happen in the real world. However, he’s humanised and feels more real than some of the Formula 1 drivers we know. He’ll sit down at a bar and have a drink, party in between races and make full use of the hospitality provided to him.
Something that should be mentioned is that this story has very little to do with the racing on-track. You’re kept up to date with events in the championships, but the recaps are little more than a few lines. Kelly describes the world of Formula 1 well, but petrolheads could be disappointed by what at times is a summary that’s too brief.
Another slight gripe is that real-life historical drivers like Senna and Andretti are mentioned, but current drivers aren’t. Given the nature of the book, it’s understandable why this is, but how cool would it be to have the likes of Hamilton and Verstappen thrown into this mix?
Overall, we highly recommend giving Deadly Driver a go. Both motorsport fans and non-motorsport fans will definitely enjoy this Formula 1 spy thriller!
Sportlight Rating 4.5/5 Stars
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