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.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Appeal of Danger

TAMMY: Simon mentioned hearing that Junior Johnson has said racing should be more dangerous. That it shouldn't get too pedestrian. Make it a driver sport, not a technological masterpiece.

I thought about this comment this week when a video of Jeremy Foley and his co-driver rolling down the side of Pike's Peak during the hillclimb made the front page of after making the rounds on Facebook and racing sites.

Apparently, they're OK. So, do people want danger in their racing? I think they do, at least a little. Do I? I admit to being fascinated by the wrecks, though I don't honestly ever sit there and hope for them.

Why do we want danger? I think it reminds us that what those drivers are doing is hard. It makes them heroes when they succeed, and makes us glad it's not us crashing. Of course, we all want the danger right up until someone dies....

But I agree with Junior Johnson. I enjoy watching NASCAR more than I enjoy watching Formula 1. It's not that the F1 drivers aren't working hard or fantastic at their jobs. But the cars are such technological marvels it's hard to see what the drivers are doing. And I guess I like a little rubbin' with my racin'.

What do you think, Obi Wan?

SIMON: I came across Junior Johnson's comments in Sports Illustrated (not the swimsuit issue). I don't think he was highlighting the danger as such, but more that he wanted to see more driver skill and less chassis design.

I suppose Junior's point is the best driver should win and not the best team of engineers. That's where it gets tough for F1. Operating a modern F1 car makes my brain hurt because it's so complicated, but the drivers seem to make it look easy (the bastards). But as much Junior laments the olden days, I don't think there's ever been a time where a competitive edge didn't come from car design to assist the driver.  Sorry Junior.

However danger is part of racing.  It's a risk vs. reward thing.  How close can a driver take a car and essentially get away with not ending up in a wreck. I think the creepiest thing a spectator at a race track ever asked me was "do you think we'll see someone die today?" Yes, danger is a part of the equation, but it's a small part.  You know there's danger, you accept the danger, but the thrill and excitement comes from the competition and defying the risk to find the limits of a vehicle.

That's us, but what do you all think--how much danger should be in motorsport?


  1. I suppose there is a difference between reckless endangerment and testing your driving skills. I think when racing is organized to provide danger, then it's wrong. When it allows drivers and equipment to explore the limits of their skills, then it's excellent. An outstanding example of skillful driving is the Polish rally driver's save in the rain. Remarkable skill and presence of mind.

    And I think the "danger" is what motivates manufacturers to come up with better safety mods to protect drivers, crews, and spectators.

    Kathy Downs

  2. Good points, Kathy. Thanks for commenting!