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.

Posted at 9:29 pm | Posted In: Motorsport Tagged:



Tuesday 18th May 2010, 3:35 pm

‘dying’ not ‘dieing’. Otherwise, very interesting point. After all, climbing on real rocks, and leading rather than toproping, is so much scarier than technically more difficult climbs on a wall when you’re toproped. So yes. But on the other hand it’s still pretty exhilirating, I would’ve thought, to do a race like that despite the chances of dying being a lot lower…!


Tuesday 18th May 2010, 9:52 pm

Lol, oops. Knew I should’ve proof-read.

Yeah, you’re probably right that its still pretty exhilarating. But I can only imagine the pure adrenaline they must’ve got from taking those risks; the satisfaction from cheating death. I mean, look at two videos from the same circuit, 40 years apart. In the 60s they were on public roads, with ditches, embankments, trees houses and people lining the circuit. Different times.

I read something the other day about one of the drivers from the 80s. He apparently expected that he would die in a racing car. Think about that; he didn’t just think it was something that might happen, he thought that it was basically certain. But it didn’t stop him from doing it…

Now I wouldn’t want to go back to those days at all; I quite like my racing without fatalities, thank you very much. I just think that the mindset – that the danger of being killed was part of the attraction – is amazing.

And thanks for reminding me that I haven’t been climbing for aaages. Bleh.


Friday 21st May 2010, 6:53 pm

I got the pissed ripped out of me for not recognising or recalling some of the most famous names in motorsport. I don’t do F1 and the boys seemed genuinely shocked that I didn’t know *any* names. The only one I knew was Lewis Hamilton. I lose and I think I lost their respect a little bit. Maybe I should start reading these posts.


Saturday 22nd May 2010, 3:42 pm

I actually think it’s understandable. F1/motorsport doesn’t have a massive profile outside of specialist media (for reasons unknown to me), and it’s rare that the drivers have the “star quality” to be that well known. Hamilton does have that quality I think (again, for reasons unknown to me), so he is rather well known by most people.

You definitely should start reading these posts though :P. They’re not always written from an entirely selfish “I want to write about motorsport” point of view; occasionally it’s something I think is just interesting. In this case, I think the interview with Stirling Moss is interesting whether you like the sport or not.

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