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Posts Tagged: History

Talent, History and Danger

Monday 17th May 2010

After the last few posts on politics, now back to the really important stuff.

Monaco Grand Prix yesterday. I love this race; it’s a wonderful display of what the cars and drivers are capable of. It’s amazing seeing the speed they can carry through tight and twisty turns, and I am constantly in awe of the ability of the drivers around there. To drive a single quick lap round there is a massive test, requiring an immense amount of concentration, skill and guts. I simply can’t imagine driving any sort of car at 170-180mph on public roads, millimetres from solid barriers. And then I can’t imagine being able to keep that up for nigh on two hours. Great stuff.

I love the history too. The first race was held there in 1929, on basically the same layout (and incidentally, the guy who won that first race went on to work as a spy in WW2. Read this book because it’s fascinating). It’s amazing seeing the old videos and recognising the track, and realising that the challenges that faced Williams and Carraciola and Dreyfus are the same things which have challenged people like Graham Hill, Ayrton Senna and Stirling Moss over the years, and which still challenge the current crop of drivers. Some people fail those challenges, whereas others (people like Lewis Hamilton) thrive on them, and this means that Monaco – more than perhaps any other circuit – separates the great drivers from those who are merely very good.

Of course in the old days there were additional dangers. Note the lack of barriers in the old video, and the presence of street furniture. And the complete lack of protection in the cars. Luxuries that the drivers have today – things like seat belts – simply weren’t there in the past. And on that note, I heard an interview with Stirling Moss in the BBC coverage this weekend and he touched on this point. Listen to this even if you’re not a motorsport fan, because his comments on danger are fascinating:

“I’m glad that I raced when it was dangerous, because the exhileration of going round a really fast corner – 140, 150 miles per hour – knowing that if you go off you might die… Sure makes you feel pretty good when you get through it without dieing!”

It reminds me of another quote I’ve heard from him:

“To race a car through a turn at maximum speed is difficult. But to race a car at maximum speed through that same turn, when there is a brick wall on one side and a precipice on the other… Ah, that’s an achievement”.

Massive respect.

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