A really interesting article today in the SMH about V8 Supercar pilot, Paul Radisich.
Followers of the sport will recall Radisich’s high-speed, head-on confrontation with a tyre barrier during last years Bathurst event, which not only almost ended his career, but his life as well. In fact, 2006 was a bad one for prangs on the Mountain. Anyone who took even the slightest interest in the support events will recall the horrifying coming together between Mark Porter and David Clark during the Fujitsu Series event on the Friday of raceweek. Mark Porter died of his injuries on the Monday following while David Clark awoke from his coma two days after the incident, considering himself lucky to have survived. Since that time, twelve months ago, even though Clark has undergone intensive rehabilitation, he has not returned to the motorsport scene, at least at the top level. As the ticket stubs say, “Motor racing is a dangerous sport”. It’s also an unforgiving sport where, unless you’re at the pointy end and have the physical, mental and fiscal ability to stay there, you’re very quickly yesterday’s news.
I think this is primarily where Paul Radisich had an edge over the likes of David Clark. Radisich is a name driver, albeit an older driver these days, at 44 years of age. Former World Touring Car Champion, he’s had a couple of podium finishes at Bathurst and punted the DJR cars around aggressively for a few years not long back. He would have the monetary where-with-all to stick around the racing scene, the personal presence to stay in sponsors and team managers minds, and thankfully to the strength of today’s V8 racecars, the physical ability to recover from what could have so easily been a fatal shunt. One need only look at the state of the Porter and Clark cars from last year to understand just how well built they are. Yet motor racing can still so easily end a drivers life.
As Peter McKay states, motor racing is a game of many parts, but surely the most important part must be the driver’s individual self-belief, courage and will to win. It’s what made Peter Brock the undoubted champion he was. He wasn’t killed because his mind let him down. One just has to have enormous respect for someone who can climb back into a race car cockpit after facing the reaper in a 200kph blurred instant of time, and being able to talk about it afterwards. Drivers like Johnson, Lowndes, Skaife, Radisich all have that certain something, that presence of mind, strength of will. All have had monumentals and all have climbed back into a car and gone as fast or faster. I think that’s what makes the sport so attractive to me as a spectator. Knowing who the drivers are, their career CV’s, their aims, their egos and finding out through their ability to man-handle 1300kgs of high-speed, four-wheeled missile just what makes them tick.
Motorsport isn’t about the crashes or the cars, or the technology. It’s about the people. It’s about the mind games both on and off the tracks and inside the heads of the drivers, team owners and managers, the pit crews, the wives and partners. I think that’s what I find so satisfying about it as well. Getting to know the people, like Tony D’Alberto and Ashley Walsh, even if it’s only through casual conversation or a chance, once-a-year meeting at a local circuit. Getting to know the mind, is far more attractive than revelling in the smell of unburnt fuel or hot rubber or the so often postulated machismo which the uninitiated seem to think is the main attraction.