Simon Andrews lost his life at the 2014 North West 200 in a crash on a very fast, straight section of road into Portrush. He was dismounted at high speed and suffered an impact with the kerb causing severe injuries. Typically in these circumstances the rider is put into an induced coma and airlifted. Simon showed some signs of recovery but passed away on Monday 19th May.
This along with an incident on the previous Thursday when a French rookie rider sustained severe injuries has induced the inevitable outcry from those who have nothing to do with the sport, suggesting that running the event is no longer feasible and indeed any government funding should be stopped. I feel the need to comment.
I feel this reaction is insulting to the life of Simon Andrews and all those other riders who have lost their lives for the sport. The implication that these riders need protecting from themselves assumes the commentator has a higher level of intellect than the rider, or at least understands risks that the rider cannot or chooses not to understand. Let us take Simon as a case in point. Simon Andrews has suffered three previous serious injuries from accidents at Le Mans (both arms and legs broken, all ribs broken, back broken and a collapsed lung, his liver failed, he was put on a ventilator and he was put into a coma for a week), Isle of Man TT (Two ruptured eyes balls, a broken shoulder, a broken wrist, a broken ankle on the already injured leg, a dislocated shoulder and a dislocated thumb) and Thruxton. So don’t tell me that man didn’t understand risk. Consider what it took for a body that badly broken to be worked back into shape fit enough to take on challenges like the NW200. That just shows how utterly determined the man was to follow his dream.
There is no stopping these men. They have a certain type of mind that needs adrenaline that the rest of us spend our lives avoiding. They live fast and often die young. But when they are alive – they are really alive. To quote another great rider who is sadly no longer with us as a result of a crash in Moto GP, Marco Simoncelli, ‘You live more for 5 minutes going fast on a bike than other people do in all of their life’. That ought to give you and idea of what makes these people tick – what they LIVE FOR.
So don’t presume that these great men and women don’t fully understand what they do. They dedicate their lives to it, they get hurt and they keep doing it. Because otherwise they would be unhappy. I’d rather be happy for 25 years than miserable for 90, and who is to say which is right? There is not one rider on the NW200 grid who has not been directly affected by a racing tragedy. There are fathers riding the year after they lost their son to the sport. There have been sons racing the same week their father died in the same race. These people are not stupid. To them, it is worth it. Most lay-people will never understand that and to my mind are poorer for it.
Remember that these men can’t be changed. If they were not taking part in legal adrenaline rushes, they would find much more dangerous illegal ones. Better to be riding round the NW200 with as many crash barriers as can be provided, with medics and marshals and air ambulances than jumping off a bridge in the desert with a silk sheet in your pocket.
So feel free to spend your life trying to make it last as long as possible. Spend your time piling up your cash for a retirement you may or may not reach or be able to enjoy. Stay safe, avoid risk, concentrate on getting through life without getting hurt.
But please do not be so presumptuous as to think that your way ought to be imposed on anyone else. Because life without risk, to some people, is no life at all.
If Simon was anything like me, the worst thing he could imagine would be that his death would stop others enjoying the sport he loved.