If motorsport is dangerous, then why do we watch it?

The weekend before last, I travelled to Donington Park with my dad for a spot of motor racing. More specifically we were watching the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) and the other minor competitions that were acting as support races.

 

Now I've been a motor racing fan for a long time and have always loved going to see them live. And as a result, I've seen my fair share of daring overtakes, incredible cars and, unfortunately, serious accidents.

 

And on the Sunday, there were plenty of them.

 

Right from the off there were first corner coming-togethers, spins and even a somersaulting Renault Clio.

 

Fortunately, none of the drivers sustained any serious injuries in these crashes.

 

However, during the third British Formula 4 Championship race of the weekend, 17-year-old Billy Monger of the JHR Developments team was involved in a serious accident when his car ran into the back of another that was stationary in the middle of the track. My dad and I, as well thousands of worried motorsport fans, looked on as every emergency vehicle was deployed to the scene of the incident and we could only speculate what had happened.

 

It took over two hours for Monger to be freed from his single seater and he was immediately air lifted to hospital. We all assumed the worst.

 

Fortunately, Monger is alive, however the lower parts of both his legs have been amputated.

 

Now you may be wondering why on earth people like me would find motor racing fun. There is the usual assumption that it is just cars driving round a track with occasionally one overtaking the over. This is far from the case and the races I witnessed at Donington were evidence of that. But more to the point why would anyone want to watch or compete in a sport where the chances of severe injury and even death are higher than most other mainstream sports.

 

Monger’s injury is a timely reminder of the dangers of racing, particularly in single seaters. We all assumed after the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994 that we would never see another fatality in Formula 1 again. But just two years ago, Jules Bianchi lost his life nine months after hitting a recovery vehicle during the closing stages of the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

 

Even though measures have been taken to avoid similar accidents to the one that killed Bianchi, it is no longer an impossibility that we will see another fatality in the sport, just a very high improbability.

 

Why should we therefore continue with a sport that still to this day is causing serious harm.

 

Simply put. We have a passion for speed.

 

Behind every car, driver and team there’s a story. Racing is an ever changing, ever evolving sport and there’s unpredictability at every corner. Every circuit, every location brings a new aspect to the sport whether a long sweeping track in the middle of nowhere or a fast, nerve-racking street circuit, there is always excitement to be found.

 

I guess like most other sports it’s a generational thing. My dad loves motor racing so he brought me up to love motor racing in the same way that he brought me up as a Crystal Palace fan because he supports the Eagles.

 

It is hard to put into words but I just get a thrill from watching remarkable overtakes, and drivers pushing cars to their absolute limit. Going out there an actually watching it live just amplifies the experience, getting an up-close look at the details of the cars and the hearing their powerful engines roar in the flesh. Applauding and: “Oohing”, with thousands of other passionate fans who are willing to stand out in the open, come rain or shine (usually rain though).

 

And even though passionate fans like myself will argue for hours on end why the team or driver I support is the best, when it needs to the entire motorsport community will gather together to support whoever is in need.

 

And Billy Monger’s story exemplifies just that. In the days following his crash over £600,000 has been raised to help him. And Billy himself has said that he wants to get racing again as soon as possible despite his injuries.

 

I’m proud to be motor racing fan. And it’s a wonderful time to be one.