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Risk

Tuesday 5th August 2008

Motorsport is dangerous. If we’re honest with ourselves, that danger is probably part of the reason people like the sport. Everyone involved with it, either directly or as a fan, is aware of the risk and accepts it. If we didn’t accept it, we wouldn’t be involved. You just bury it in the back of your mind; ignore it, pretty much.

I’m mostly interested in car racing, so I wasn’t really aware of the World Superbike meeting at Brands Hatch last weekend. To be frank, I was much more interested in the F1 Hungarian Grand Prix, which was an absolutely stonking race. Whilst I was watching it with one of my brothers I remarked that “races like this are why I love this sport”. It was absolutely astounding. But if the Grand Prix is an example of what makes the sport great, the WSBK race serves as a reminder of the darker side of motorsport.

As I’m not really interested in bike racing, I’d only vaguely heard of Craig Jones. He was in second place in the race on Sunday, when the back end of the bike just started to slide, as he powered out of a corner. He fell off. He was involved in a fairly tight battle at the time, and so the guy in third place was pretty much right behind him. Right behind him. At about 140-150mph. You can guess the rest (or read the story).

Motorsport is dangerous. There are little signs all around race circuits that tell you that, and it’s even printed on the back of the tickets for most things. But it’s something that you’re only dimly aware of. Sure, you know it can happen, but you’re fairly sure that it probably wont. Especially in car racing – I can’t remember the last time I heard of someone being fatally injured in a car, outside of rallying. It’s something that I think I – subconsciously at least – thought belonged in the past, to the Gilles Villeneuves and Stefan Bellofs of the world.

Sure, this time it happened in motorbike racing; something which is inherently more dangerous than car racing (you can provide all sorts of crash structures in a car to cushion an impact. You can’t do that in a bike – no matter how hard you try, you can’t stop someone falling off and being hit by another rider). But that doesn’t remove the fact that we’ve been incredibly lucky with car racing lately. Incredibly lucky. I can think offhand of about half a dozen accidents that could have been much worse, had things been ever so slightly different. I still remember the feeling when I watched Kubica’s crash at Canada last year, for instance.

The next person to tell me “the accidents are the best bit” is going to get punched in the face.

I think part of the reason im so taken aback is that it happened at Brands Hatch. I’ve never been there, but it’s a circuit I’ve seen a fair amount of racing on (BTCC and so on), and it’s actually one of my favourites. I can’t explain why, but that sort of makes it more “real”. I know that the next time I watch a race held there, the image of Jones sliding gently onto the tarmac is going to go through my mind, at least for the first lap. Honestly, I don’t know how people could even watch motorsport back in the 60s – when it was properly dangerous – let alone compete. I think it was 1968, when during the summer one top-line driver died each month. One a month. I can’t even imagine how I’d feel if that happened now.

This news has seriously shocked me.

Posted at 12:44 am | Posted In: MotorsportSleepStuff Tagged:

11 Comments:

Lucy

Tuesday 5th August 2008, 12:46 pm

Don’t you think you become slightly inured to it, though, as you get into the sport?

I was in the same room as the Grand Prix on Sunday (- I was taking advantage of my housemate watching it to borrow his computer) and was horrified that cars were setting off to drive again at 200mph, literally seconds after their engine fires had been doused in the pit stop. Yes, it’s racing and obviously important to the drivers… but I would not set off in a car at any speed that had just been on fire, and you’d call me a fool if I did so.

You only have to die once. All the other stakes may be raised but that one stays exactly the same, and I can’t help feeling that motorsport sometimes forgets that.

hannah

Tuesday 5th August 2008, 1:24 pm

I may come across as a little naive here but most motorsports beit cars or bikes etc just seems to me a fairy expensive way of achieving little.

Please don’t hate me :oP

Lucy

Tuesday 5th August 2008, 6:03 pm

Totally agree, Hannah! But I was going for the tactful approach :-P

Dickie

Tuesday 5th August 2008, 7:18 pm

@Hannah: You could say the same about the Olympics, or Football, or any sport.

@Lucy: I don’t think anyone could become inured to it. How could you?!

The cars weren’t catching fire on Sunday, by the way. The fuel was. It happened to one driver last year at Spain (he won the race). It was mentioned to him in the press conference afterwards, and his response was “oh, I didn’t know that happened”. All thats happening is fuel (or even fuel vapour) is coming into contact with the engine cover, catching fire and burning itself out. Looks worse than it really is.

“All the other stakes may be raised but that one stays exactly the same, and I can’t help feeling that motorsport sometimes forgets that.”
Untrue. Completely untrue. Motorsport – all motorsport that I’m aware of – is acutely aware of safety. For drivers and for marshalls, pit crew, spectators; everyone involved with the sport. You don’t follow it so you wouldn’t be aware, but it is taken very seriously, for the very point you make that you only get one life. It is – with respect – fairly ignorant and arrogant to say that motorsport isn’t aware of that.

It’s about risk, and managing that risk. Sure, motorsport is an inherently risky activity. But most things carry some risk. If we shied away from danger all our lives, how incredibly dull would it be? Sure, it only takes a freak accident – as in this case – for a tragedy to occur. Everyone involved with the sport (on any level) knows this, and carries on regardless. It’s their choice, and what gives anyone else the right to say that they’re
wrong? Will I stop going to races because I could conceivably get hurt? Hell no!

I can’t believe that you (both) use this post to criticise the sport. Yes, you don’t like it, but a lot of people do. Frankly I’m fed up of people criticising it having never really tried to watch a race. Have an open mind, and have some bloody respect.

I’m not saying “don’t criticise it”. More that you shouldn’t criticise it without having seen it. And by “seen”, i don’t mean “had on in the background because someone else wanted it on”, I mean “watched a whole race, from start to finish, and paid attention to it all”. And even then, you can’t call it pointless. It’s something that millions of people worldwide are very passionate about. Hardly pointless.

/rant

Lucy

Tuesday 5th August 2008, 11:30 pm

“most things carry some risk”

Agreed. Motorsport just some more than others. You are more likely to die in a high-speed car crash than you are on a football pitch, whatever safety precautions have been put in place. Yes, it makes it exciting and yes, of course it’s the drivers’ choice but at what point does that risk become irresponsible, I suppose is the point I was trying to make? And no, I don’t like football either.

You have gotten very defensive :-) At no point did either Hannah or I use the word ‘pointless’, and even if we had, it would not have been meant as a cutting insult to yourself – standing around singing does not achieve anything grand in the world either, but that doesn’t stop me enjoying it and I don’t take it as a personal slight that most of the world doesn’t give a damn for four-part harmony!

Dickie

Wednesday 6th August 2008, 12:17 am

I think the thing is that people who don’t follow motorsport – like you and Hannah (and indeed most people who read this) – don’t really understand the attraction. I mean, F1 (for instance) is just 20 blokes racing round in sort-of circles for a couple of hours, wheres the fun? That’s essentially true, but theres just something to it that makes motorsport – not just F1 – really get under peoples’ skin. I can’t really explain why, but it does. The buzz when you’re stood by the edge of a circuit and a bunch of cars pass by on the first lap of a race, all desperately trying to get past each other, is pure magic.

For non-motorsport people, all you see is racing round in circles, you don’t see the rest of the spectacle that makes it so worthwhile, so I guess the idea of risking your life to participate is a bit of a weird one and yes it probably seems a bit irresponsible. But if you “get” the sport, if you really appreciate it, the risk suddenly becomes worth it.

I took “a fairly expensive way of achieving little” to mean “pointless”, by the way. Either way, my point stands. I get a little annoyed sometimes by people slagging off motorsport without ever having really paid that much attention to it, or without knowing much about it, and your comment about the pit fires in the Hungarian GP just touched a raw nerve. That’s why I got defensive.

hannah

Wednesday 6th August 2008, 6:40 pm

I’ve watched both F1 and moto GP races in the past…more than just a couple, too. I’m not saying I have a highly comprehensive knowledge of the sports but I would say I know a little more about it than you give credit for. I didn’t mean to insult you, that wasn’t the point in the least bit…it was merely my opinion…perhaps I could have written it in a less dismissive way but I was going for the jokey approach so as to not cause too much insult or injury. I certainly would admit to “slagging” it off, though I can see it being perceived this way. I suppose I should have known better having *some* idea of how passionate you are about it.

In short, I apologise but that was just an opinion.

hannah

Wednesday 6th August 2008, 6:41 pm

wouldn’t admit*

Dickie

Thursday 7th August 2008, 3:10 am

Actually, I wasn’t really insulted – it takes a lot to do that to me. And I can hardly get insulted by someone’s opinion when I’m always so forthright with my own.

To be honest, most of my rant(s) in this comment section weren’t aimed specifically at you. Most of what I said was aimed at the safety/risk question, which stemmed from Lucy’s comment about the pit fires in Hungary, and I was so defensive because Lucy’s “motorsport sometimes forgets that” comment was, well, wrong (sorry Lucy :-p). And my “watch it before you criticise” comments stem from comments that lots of people I know make about it being “boring”, despite never having watched a race properly. That said, I did kinda assume you fell into that category. Not sure why, because now I think about it I remember you saying you’d watched a few races in the past.

I think what really annoyed me as well is that the post is principally about the risk inherent in the sport, and indeed about the downsides. To follow it with calling it a “fairly expensive way of achieving little” was a little bit inappropriate, I thought, considering the piece of news that sparked the entry in the first place. If/when I write a “Why Motorsport Is Great” post, then the “seriously, boring” type of comments are to be expected.

My first comment was probably a little, uhm, robust, so apologies if that ruffled anyones feathers. It was probably unfair for me to go off on one like I did (even if the points I made are valid ones :-p), but I guess it was a bit knee-jerk. Hopefully the comments following it have been a little more reasoned, anyhow.

I’m well aware that pretty much no-one that reads this blog follows motorsport, or is even remotely into it (that I know of, anyway). I still write about it now and then though because, well, it’s my blog :-p. I do at least try not to do too much though, because I’m aware that I could probably turn it into a motorsport blog rather than a general ranty-studenty blog. I spend far too much time watching or reading or thinking about it though – it never ceases to annoy me how I can remember random bits of trivia really easily (I can remember every F1 champ back to about the mid sixties, for instance), but when it comes to exams I don’t absorb exam-related things quite so easily…

It’s good for people to have something they’re passionate about, I think.

hannah

Saturday 16th August 2008, 9:13 pm

Hope we haven’t put you off blogging!

Dickie

Saturday 16th August 2008, 11:38 pm

lol, course not. I’ve been working lately, so when I’ve got round to writing a blog entry I’ve tended to get half way through and think “fuck it, I wanna sleep now”, and do that instead.

8-)

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