This is hardly the way I wanted to start off here, but doing anything else would be wrong right now.
If you are a motorsport fan of just about any kind, you should by now have heard about the accident that claimed the life of 18 year old Henry Surtees at Brands Hatch yesterday.
Exactly what happened is not my concern here. There dozens of print stories detailing the accident, and, of course, there are the obligatory videos in Youtube. If you want to watch them you can, but out of common decency I’m not going to post them here.
Motorsport is inherently dangerous. Many may claim that this flirtation with danger and speed is part of the appeal for drivers (alongside glory and money) and fans alike, who keep coming back, to the wheel, to the track and to the TV, week after week.
And while everyone knows of the danger you don’t expect anyone to die anymore.
Perhaps we have come too complacent about safety in motorsport. With the safety advances that have come in over the past few decades, most obviously items like the HANS device, we are all too used to seeing drivers destroy their cars, only to jump out, wave to the crowd and be back next week pushing for the win like nothing ever happened.
There was, no doubt, a time when racing fans constantly had their hearts in their mouths everytime there was an accident such was the level of mortality within the sport. Now crashes are seen as a crucial part of the entertainment value in racing, NASCAR’s constant promotion of “The Big One” ahead of races at Talladega or Daytona, being the primary example.
Of course, just as modern racing has got safer, it has also got more litigious.
In the more dangerous years a death in racing would probably have been greeted with weeks of sombre faces carrying on racing, acknowledging the danger and the mortality of the human race.
However, only hours after the accident, it was reported that an investigation was likely. Now, this may simply be down to “closure” for everyone involved, I fear that it may be equally down to the various parties covering their legal behinds. After all there are a lot of maybes, and what ifs.
What if the Westfield barrier had been at a better designed angle, rather than angled around a tree.
What if the wheel tethers on the car had been stronger, was the design of the car to blame.
Maybe it was just an accidental tragedy. A chain reaction of events that defied the law of averages and fell into place for one event.
Maybe today we were all reminded that motorsport is dangerous.