To Phil Gardner, Editor and Jill Singer, writer, Herald Sun,
In a recent article, Jill started with the question, “HOW is it that so many motorsports fans seem shocked when drivers and riders are killed on the racetrack?” The question was asked in the light of deaths to former Indycar champion, Dan Wheldon and rising Moto Gp Star, Marco Simoncelli.
There has been quite a few insensitive articles written over the past week, But this one has prompted me to respond in this way for two reasons. Firstly, I am the first to acknowledge everyone’s freedom of speech but it is clear by the two published comments that we don’t have the freedom to reply. Through social media, I’m aware of a considerable amount of people who have posted comments, none of which (including mine) have been published. Secondly, to put our point of view over that, Marco Simoncelli, Dan Wheldon, Daijiro Kato, Shoya Tomizawa, Roland Ratzenberger or Ayrton Senna didn’t die in “legitimised form of road carnage” as Jill described.
Before I answer this question, I’d like to say that I’ve been a motorsport’s fan from an early age and through social media, I have started writing about Formula 1 . One day I hope to be able to earn a living from it.
In today’s ‘bubble wrap’ society, in all walks of life, we are less accustomed to death in the workplace. Thanks to strict guidelines and enhanced safety features, butchers are less likely to lose a finger cutting a joint of Beef. It is the same in the motorsport world, these technological masterpieces are driven by today’s equivalent of jet test pilots. Around the worlds circuits, in the highest echelons of the sport, tomorrow road car technology is being put through its paces for the first time. Traction control, ABS and computer controlled suspension were all pioneered on race cars, all of which make the cars you and I drive today a much safer place to be. Since the invention of the motor vehicle, companies have used the race track to showcase and perfect their cars. As with test pilots, it takes a special type of person to take a car or bike to the limits of what is possible.
You went on to say “They try to rationalise their dangerous thrill-seeking by saying the men died doing what they loved – and in the next breath they talk of “tragedy” and their disbelief when someone dies”. Anyone who loses their life prematurely is a tragedy, whether they die doing something they love or otherwise, it make no difference.
Ayrton Senna died when I was sixteen. The feats of genius he was capable of behind the wheel of a car is something that will stay with me forever. More than that, he is someone I try to emulate in all aspects of my life, his focus, dedication and compassion to his family and to the less privileged in his home country of Brazil are an example to everyone. Formula 1 was his platform to achieve greatness in life both on and away from the circuit.
Attached to this email are some of the comments/emails that haven’t been publish on your website. To summarise the general feeling toward this article, here are a few quotes:
- Christina Eades, “For you to brand us as ‘fake’ and ‘idiots’ is incredibly insensitive and disrespectful. We are shocked when someone dies in the name of motor racing for the simple reason, it is such a rarity today. As fans, we are aware of the risks and danger involved, just as those involved do. But we DO NOT watch it for the crashes and to see someone die”
- Louis Suddaby, “Jill, you clearly underestimate the intelligence and personality of the common motorsport fan. We all know the dangers involved. We all know what could potentially take place. But that is not why we tune in every week. We all tune in to see these guys (and girls) demonstrating the kind of talent, skill and bravery that we can only respect and admire. Hopefully one day, you can learn to respect that too”.
- Laura H, “I don’t understand how you can comment on what it means to be a fan of motor sport when you clearly know nothing about it?!?! What gives you the right to comment on a tragedy like this is such a vile way?”
- James O’Conner, “I’m completely disgusted and appalled by Jill singer’s piece, we do not watch motorsports to see people crash and die. We watch it to see great, close racing and lots of overtaking, not what this lady says!”
- Andrew Dobb, “There is a time and a place for grief, for comment and for action, you seem to have crossed the boundaries to attack grief, destroying your reputation to comment and disregarding the motorsports ability to take action. I admit that too many people have died young perusing their dreams, but this is not limited to motorsport. The first pilots risked life and limb so we can take airline safety for granted and the top racers risk it all so we can be safer on the road.”
- Holly Craig ”Yes, Motorsports fans are thrill seekers and yes most are fully aware of the dangers involved – this does not however excuse the fact that the paper-thin argument you are trying to make completely contradicts itself. To attempt to label all fans as inhumane, blood hungry hypocrites is one thing, but then to claim that our pain at losing our sporting heroes is in genuine”.
Combined, Formula 1, Moto GP and Indycar generate global TV viewing figures in excess of 500,000,000 annually. Firstly for Jill to write such an insensitive article that is guaranteed to upset so many people is bad enough, but for you, Phil, to publish the article make you as guilty, if not more. We believe that you both should offer a retraction to this article, along with a written apology to the million of decent people you have offended at this time, when emotions are at their rawest.
Thank you for taking the time to read this response, This letter will be posted on my F1 site and will forward any comment this generates on to you.
I’ll finish with a quote from Senna, hopefully this will help you understand the mindset of our hero’s and why they do what they do. “Racing, competing, it’s in my blood. It’s part of me, it’s part of my life; I have been doing it all my life and it stands out above everything else.”