Friday, 28 October 2011

Tragedy strikes when you least expect it...feelings of a motorsport fan

I'm a pretty big fan of motorsport. I've written about it on this blog a few times about my love for Formula 1, and the sport in general.

"Even aside from Formula 1, I love watching motorsport. This year, I've found myself branching out and watching different categories to explore different racing. I finally started watching Indycar and NASCAR from Stateside (and I definitely prefer Indycar), GP2 and GP3 from the F1 support races, British F3, British Touring Cars, Le Mans (both the 24 hour race and the Intercontinental Series) and then bits of Formula Renault (including the World Series events)."

So there we go. I love the sport, and if I can find it on TV (or online) I'll watch it.

Sometimes though, there are moments in life that make you question the things you love, why you love them and how you can continue to do so. Without a doubt, this week has been one of those.

For anyone unaware, two weeks ago, we had the Indycar finale in Las Vegas. As part of the attractions, the organisers had set up a $5million challenge for Dan Wheldon to start at the back of the grid and try to come through the field to win the race. If he did that, he'd split the $5million with an Indycar fan who had entered their details in a competition.

Plenty of people who know far better than me have plenty to say about the Las Vegas track, mainly saying that it was far too dangerous to race Indycars on, and that having them driving flat-out for the entire lap and being able to run 3 wide would end in disaster. They were right, but I suspect none of them could foresee what actually happened.

In a few seconds of absolute horror, some 12 cars were involved in an accident after two cars made contact. Driving so closely behind each other, the drivers behind found themselves in an impossible position and facing an accident. Some drivers were lucky in that they made light contact, others weren't so lucky and found themselves being catapulted through the air. Pippa Mann, JR Hildebrand and Will Power were all sent to hospital with varying degrees of injury as a result of the crash while Wheldon tragically lost his life.

Watching it live at the time, there was no question that the accident was one of the scariest accidents I've ever seen in my life. In Formula 1, you never really see such levels of destruction, and that's mainly because cars aren't racing in such close proximity. It's safe to say that I never want to watch that accident again in my life though. Knowing the consequences of the incident and the fact that a great driver lost his life, I can't watch it again.

The two hours waiting for news on Wheldon's injury were some of the most difficult pieces of television to watch. Obviously, they didn't want to show replays of the accident because of its severity, and not many drivers were wanting to give interviews. Both in the USA and on British television, both teams of presenters did an exceptional job for which they have to be commended, and even when the news broke that Wheldon had passed away, they kept it together. The five lap tribute was something that I was unsure about at the time, but watching it, it was the right thing to do. The sound of bagpipes playing Amazing Grace was enough to make me cry during this, and it really was a sad occasion. I don't think I've ever seen racing cars look sad while they're going around the track, but these Dallaras certainly didn't look happy, and it wasn't the nicest way for them to end their time in Indycar before moving onto the new chassis, which has been named in Wheldon's honour.

Then, this Sunday the motorsport world was stunned again by the death of Marco Simoncelli. I can't say I've been an avid viewer of MotoGP this year since the races have been largely processional (and Rossi hasn't really been that strong on the Ducati). When I have watched races though, Simoncelli has been one of the most exciting racers in the field. His wild, curly hair made him stand out in the field and his racing was some of the finest seen in a long time. Perhaps he would have made it to the top and dominated MotoGP for several years, but he was definitely on his way to becoming one of the top names in the sport.

Simoncelli's accident could have perhaps been avoided had he not been so determined to save himself from falling in the middle of the corner, but he was a racer. He fell, and Rossi and Edwards were unfortunately behind him and virtually powerless to avoid making contact. I've not seen the accident since it occurred, and once again, I don't think it's something I want to see in the near future.

To have one death is tragic, but to have two top racers die within a week of each other...there aren't really words to describe it. It's a dark cloud over the motorsport industry, and it highlights how important safety is. No matter how safe you try and make a sport, there is always the risk of injury or death. That's why when you go to most events, it'll say on the ticket "Motorsport can be dangerous"

I'll leave it on this note. The Indycar commentator, Marty Reid, signed off from the broadcast on that Sunday evening with this: "Many people ask me why I always sign off 'Til we meet again'. It's because goodbye is always so final. Goodbye Dan Wheldon" Goodbye Marco Simoncelli

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