WHY is that motor racing inspires such dispassion and disdain? You’ve no doubt encountered some of the billions of people who refuse to acknowledge that it is even a sport, despite the fact that golf is considered one.
I was talking to a friend this week who is slightly older and yet much wiser than me, because his kids are all grown up and he can now have a life before he dies. He was mourning the fact that his teenage son has no love of car racing, despite having been forced to sit through countless Bathursts and Formula One races.
I can’t yet imagine how awful this must feel, but I’ve taken pre-emptive action by telling my seven-year-old that if he doesn’t like F1, and cricket, he’ll have to sleep in the bottle-recycling bin.
I think the problem with motor sport is that it’s not as relatable as you might think. Most of us have tried to hit a golf ball and realised how fiendishly difficult, and painfully pointless it is, so we can appreciate that it takes some skill when we see it on television, even if the bloke doing it is so fat that his idea of exercise is finding his shoelaces. And has a name like “Boo”.
Yes, we can all drive as well, but driving a car and racing one are two vastly different things. Driving looks, and feels, pretty easy, but doing it at pace, even without the added stress of other cars trying to spear you off, is physically draining in a way that simply can’t be imagined – it has to be experienced.
I recently spent a day doing the level four course at the Porsche Sport Driving School, which involved several 10-lap stints in the new GT3 at Queensland Raceway. About eight laps into the first session I was utterly spent and started almost hoping to see the chequered flag. Almost.
When I got out I went to Tomas Mezera, former Bathurst ace and now chief instructor for Porsche in Australia, and told him I had no idea how he ever did more than 20 laps, anywhere.
Obviously, he wouldn’t have been as scared as I was, and thus his heart rate and adrenaline levels would be significantly lower, but even putting that aside, the physical strains that driving at that kind of pace involves are punishing. G forces don’t tickle, and braking in particular is borderline painful.
There are only two ways to turn someone into a motorsport fan. One is to take them to an F1 race and make them stand close to the track at a good corner (this used to work better when the cars sounded properly loud). This almost worked with my wife, who actually managed to feign an interest in Mark Webber’s travails for the next year or so.
The other, which is both more effective and expensive, is to get them a hot lap beside a proper driver. At close quarters, even when you’re not doing the driving yourself, it takes less than 30 seconds for someone to realise that racing a car is a sport and that you have to be stupidly fit to do it competitively.
Hot laps can also be fantastically hilarious to watch as well, like this one.