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, October 26, 2012

Pros and Ams

TAMMY: Sportscar racing, more than other types (I think, correct me if I'm wrong), means professional racecar drivers sharing the track with amateurs. Granted, they're usually very good amateurs, but they often don't have the same level of experience as the pros. And that sometimes gets them in trouble.

Remember the huge crash at Le Mans this year, in which British pro Anthony Davidson's Toyota prototype flipped nose-over-tail and slammed into a tire barrier, fracturing two of Davidson's vertebrae? (See the video.) That involved a pro and an amateur, with the general consensus being that the amateur was responsible, as he just didn't understand how fast the prototype could and would maneuver.

There were two incidents at Petit caused by the same amateur driver, Peter LeSaffre in the Green Hornet Racing Porsche. The first was a dramatic upside-down slide by the Nissan Delta Wing during practice.

The second was impact with the Muscle Milk LMP2 car, which almost had enormous implications for the championship contender. Only heroic repair work by the Muscle Milk team enabled the car to get back out on track to complete the requisite number of laps and take the championship.

Tony DiZinno, Web editor for Racer magazine, wrote an excellent, thoughtful opinion piece this week reconsidering his initial stance that both incidents were LeSaffre's fault. Considering his points, I have to say I agree. However, I think it behooves amateur drivers to do a lot more studying of the other cars on the road, particularly closing speeds of prototypes at each racetrack. Similarly, as DiZinno points out, the pros need to cut the amateurs some slack also, and not expect every other driver on the road to react as a pro would

But I sure wouldn't get rid of the mix of pros and ams. What's your take, Simon?

SIMON: I wouldn't get rid of amateurs from pro racing, for one simple reason--Define pro??  Look at Romain Grosjean.  The best way to eliminate these incidents is through licensing.  There are different licenses needed for different types of racing and some series have low level license requirements.  All drivers need to earn their stripes and they will if they can't jump up a series until they have enough points finishes under their belts in a lower series.  Also I've mentioned before that mixed testing was a great learning tool.  I once tested with F3, F3000, Touring Cars and sports prototypes while I was driving a Formula Ford.  I had to have my wits about me with cars that cornered slower and cars that could catch me on a 1/3mile straight when I was hitting the braking area.  It taught me a lot about speed and manners.

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