Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Eight People Killed at California 200 in Mojave Desert

Some of us are drawn to the edge of the race track like moths to a flame.   We know the risk.  We don't care. 

The great international Bennett Cup 1900-05 was stopped after spectators died as cars plowed into the crowds lining the road.  Fifty years later, the Mexican Road Race, Carerra Panamerica, was stopped because the crowds swarmed onto the roads in front of the cars, stepping aside at the last moment like wannabe bullfighters.  56 died before they stopped running the race. 

The Mille Miglia a thousand miles of open road racing the length of Italy, was stopped after 1957. In that last race, Alfonso Antonio Vicente Eduardo Angel Blas Francisco de Borja Cabeza de Vaca y Leighton, Marquis of Portago, to give him his full name, blew a tire and killed himself, his co-driver and 8 spectators.    

The worst accident in motor racing history took place at the 1955 24 hours at LeMans when Pierre Levegh hit the back of an Austin Healey. Pierre Levegh hits the back of an Austin Healey. His Mercedes flies into the crowd and explodes.   

The start of the 1973 Indy 500 sprayed fuel into the crowd. After the 1973 Indy 500, spectators were moved back behind a second fence

The only really safe place to watch a race is in front of a TV.  But TV doesn't tell you much.  TV doesn't give you ferocity, the vibration, the thunder, the scent of hot oil, and burned fuel, the seismic shifts of force with the flick of a wheel, the sense of real danger.  There is something in our primal brain that loves the risk.  

You ask what were those people doing there, in the dark, in the desert when Brett Sloppy came flying over the rise out of control.  They were waiting, hearing the noise, seeing the lights flare in the night dust, leaning forward. Like moths to a flame.

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