Two for the Road is a hangout for mystery writers Tammy Kaehler and Simon Wood to chat, reminisce, gossip, speculate and argue about all things motorsport.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Admitting to the Appeal of Danger in Racing

by Tammy

For the second time in a week, a racer has died of injuries sustained in a race. This week it was Marco Simoncelli, a motorcycle racer in MotoGP, who was apparently dragged by his bike and hit by other riders who had nowhere to go. It's just a week since the death of Dan Wheldon at the Las Vegas IndyCar race, of course.

And not often mentioned, but equally felt in the racing world, was the death of off-road racing champion Rick Huseman in a small plane crash the same day as Wheldon. Has there been a deadlier week for motorsport? Perhaps there has, and the shock of this week has more to do with how few deaths there have been in recent years given all of the safety improvements.

I've spent a bit of time this week examining my own reaction to the danger of death in motorsport, and I've come to a few conclusions. I've gotten over my own (admittedly absurd) knee-jerk reaction that would effectively wrap all drivers in bubble wrap (or closed-cockpit cars). I like watching drivers struggle with the edge of control as they race each other, and if that means they spin off, brush a wall, crumple a fender, good. But I don't really ever like accidents that prevent a driver from continuing to race--not even for those guys I don't like and never want to see win. And I really don't like when drivers are really hurt.

I recognize the "have your cake and eat it too" aspect of those statements, however. Because you can't have drivers riding on the edge without the danger of big, small, and fatal wrecks. And I have to admit, while I don't want accidents to happen, or watch them in gory detail when they do, I am completely fascinated by the psyche of people who strap themselves into cars (or onto bikes) in spite of that danger. That's part of why I write about a driver, Kate Reilly, whose attitude is much like that I've heard from most of the racing world this week: sure, we realize the risk is there, but we take every precaution, trust in our equipment, and don't let the possibility prevent us from doing what we love and what we're good at.

Bottom line: humans are going to do stuff that could get themselves killed. Some activities are dumber and less regulated and protected than others (think running with the bulls in Pamplona, the Jackass movies, etc., all stuff I really won't watch). Humans will push limits, and occasionally we receive painful reminders of the potential consequences.

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