Once again we find ourselves mourning the loss of another member of the racing community. I suppose it wont be long before someone will publicly question what is perceived to be the senselessness of motorsports. To the uninitiated, driving a motor vehicle competitively seems as though the driver has a death wish. To be honest, that is far from the truth.
Lets look at this mistaken belief in more depth by trying to answer a couple of popular questions asked by many, OK?
#1) Why do they do it?
A drivers reasons for getting into a racing vehicle are very complex. Many times, it is more than one thing that motivates them. Fame, fortune, public recognition, self-acclaim, a sense of accomplishment and self worth are amongst the more popular reasons in the mix. For some, proving themselves against an internal, insurmountable yardstick is what its all about. Who knows exactly? It is a personal thing.
#2) Dont they realize how dangerous it is?
In a word, yes. The possibility of losing ones life is considered, albeit briefly. The same can be said about the daily commuter driving to work though. There is a possibility that something could go very wrong and he might not make it home again. He doesnt worry about it. Its an accepted risk that hopefully, wont happen to him because the odds seem to be greatly against it. Can you see the similarities? You see, if you concentrate too much on the possibilities for danger, you would never leave the house.
Thats also how racing deals with the laws of probability. 'No, not me' lets the driver live an adventuresome life, rather than cower in a corner, afraid to experience it to the fullest. This doesnt mean they are ignoring reality, they are dealing with it in a way that permits them to continue on.
And then, a tragedy occurs that shakes the very foundation of motorsports. It brings to mind that no matter how hard we try, we cant change the fact we are mortal and must succumb to a higher calling. A racer can decide to acknowledge that fact, then continue on or possibly even choose to stop.
We have examples of those who did voluntarily discontinue their racing careers. Ernie Irvan is one that comes to mind. He tempted Fate more times than the NASCAR community would care to think about. When he stepped down, we, as drivers, owners and fans understood why. Those whom only have a casual interest in racing would probably consider him to be chicken-hearted or say that he should never have begun racing in the first place. No, he did the right thing. He wrestled with Fate and decided that The best 2 out of 3 was good enough. As for Neil Bonnet, just one more time was all he wanted. Fate had other ideas. You just never know what tomorrow holds, so live your life to the fullest. Both of these drivers have done just that.
Racing is an evolutionary thing.
Throughout the years, man (and woman) has pushed the envelope of knowledge, power and safety by going further than most have gone before. Chuck Yeager as a test pilot in the X15, Neil Armstrong as the first man walking on the moon and even Jacques Cousteau peering into the depths of the oceans are fine examples of what happens when someone dares to go beyond what we believe mere humans should do. Racing draws from the same parallels. Pushing the limits of a racing vehicle to seemingly defy the perceived laws of physics reaps many benefits. Finding where that edge is can give a driver the edge in a race. And even when a driver goes beyond the edge, mankind as a whole, learns.
This is the best solace we can take from the loss of a member of the racing community as a whole. The feeling that maybe something can be found to give value to the loss of their existence.
Thank you to those of whom have dedicated their lives, both past and present, to the advancement of humanity by taking the risks most would not. Thank you for providing us with the proving grounds of discovery and adventure. Without you, vehicular power, safety and durability would still be in their infancy.
If after reading this, you still cant understand the need to go far beyond what most are willing to do, we forgive you. It is not in your capacity to live your life to the fullest. For those of you that do understand, together we will mourn a loss with the full knowledge that mans contest with Fate will be an ongoing struggle, but as time goes on and we learn more, the casualties will become less and less.
Godspeed to our fallen adventurers.
By Johannes Nieborg
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