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Road Racing is Dangerous

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.

 

Simon Andrews 2

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.

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362 thoughts on “Road Racing is Dangerous

  1. tony says:

    well said!
    I am 50 years old and have just used 2 days of sick leave due to a historic racing crash in the wet .no problem for my boss (bike rider) as I don’t take many sick days .but my fellow workers are telling me its time to give it away your too old you could have hurt your self more I will print dazoo ,s words and put it on the notice board at work but I think they will STILL NOT GET IT!!!

  2. ‘The problem is the shit heads in suits have already made their mark on the once safe haven for true warriors,there are the pathetic mickey mouse chichanes in places at once great tracks like cadwell,oulton and mallory.wtf.as a clubman racer myself this has ruined the character of these tracks,yes they are dangerous,so what! thats why we do it.we dont want it ‘dumbed down by a load of untermensch nerds.fuck off!Any true racer will accept the risks of his ‘chosen’ sport and if shit happens it happens,end of!

    • Gordon Lunde says:

      Not all changes to tracks are designed to slow down or dumb down the facility for racers safety. Some are for spectator safety as well. I redesigned a local track to help prevent race machines (bikes and cars) from flipping over a wall and going into a spectator area. The reason it needed redesign was due to the ever increasing speeds of the newer race vehicles. Remember, most of the tracks were designed many years ago and the speeds have increased dramatically since they were built. Yes, we as racers accept the risks of our sport, but improving safety for all should be a full time job for track owners and race orbs. And, safety can be improved without ruining the action.

  3. Reblogged this on The Road to Revelation and commented:
    As a former road racer, I applaud and concur with the authors comments. I was fully aware of the dangers. With freewill, I accepted all the risks. Motorbike racing IS dangerous, in fact it’s supposed to be dangerous. Furthermore, any racing or fast riding on two wheels, motorized or not is dangerous.

    • Gordon Lunde says:

      I disagree that motorbike racing is supposed to be dangerous. I’m quite sure the first two guys that lined up next to each other on a country road many years ago, to find out who was fastest, had any thought in their mind of, “Hey, let’s see if we can hurt ourselves.”

      • It’s clear you do not fully understand motorbike racing, or life on the edge for that matter.

        And, you can certainly disagree, it is your tame opinion and right to do so. But that is why motorbike racing is NOT for the meek, the weak-minded or for those who are afraid to push the limits knowing that death is a possibility.

        It’s okay to be afraid, but it is not okay to interfere with something those who do not comprehend. That is one of the major problems societies face today. Meddlers, Progressives, and busy-bodies who think they know what is best for the populace.

        You and those who think like you can leave the danger sports to those of us who are willing to risk it all. Because that is what Freedom and Liberty are all about- having and exercising Choice.

      • @exmaschine
        But why does it have to be dangerous? In all sort of racing the riders and controlling body work together to minimize the risks to both riders/drivers and the public. No racer wants to die but to race on the limit and go as fast as possible. To do that you have to eliminate/reduce the risks as much as you can. Only then can the racer have the confidence to go full throttle. Of course we have races like
        Isle of Man where danger is ever presence and the most thrill seeking riders can satisfy their needs for rush.

  4. Ian Roscoe says:

    Smoking related illness kills many thousands per year, costs millions in treatments and is an antisocial habit, yet tobacco products are still sold, so why single out a sport/pastime that kills a handful, is great fun and costs taxpayers very little?

  5. Wayne says:

    These people don’t seem to have much consideration for the people that love them, all they are concerned with is being the big fast man on the bike, sad.

      • ANN MARIE BROLLY says:

        Its understandable that they get a thrill and that this is what they love to do, nothing is going to stop them and why should it.
        They know the risks and are willing to die for this sport, but its sad that family and friends are left behind and have to live their life with the heartache of losing a loved one! how can they be happy then, especially when someone dies so young, and had their whole life in front of them…

    • Elaine says:

      We all have a passion in life for something. Why is it ok to tell someone with a different passion from you they are wrong. Live and let live. For those who don’t like racing then simply stay away from it completely. Indulge yourselves in what you love and leave these people to do the same.

      • If I had listened to what others and those that cared about me thought, telling me to accept my lot in life as a disabled person and not pursue my dream and passion, I would never have done what it took so I could ride a motorcycle again. I was born into a family of accomplished motorcyclists and also born with a genetic (BLA-H27) collagen defect which started to present itself around the age of 9. I started riding junior motocross and riding off-road with my family when I got my first little dirt bike in 1968. My own body’s immune system attacked my slightly abnormal joint cartilage and by the time I was 14 my entire spine and both hips had completely fused. Ankylosing Spondylitis is what it’s called. I was consistently misdiagnosed, as it was the late 60s after all. I had to use crutches for 12 years which atrophied my muscles from not being able to move properly and I was facing a permanent situation in a wheelchair at the age of 20. I started a series of total hip replacement surgeries in 1980 and I learned NOT to tell any doctor what my goal was, nor many friends. I was lectured, hung up on, and dismissed from doctors offices when I naively told them I wanted to ride a motorcycle again with my family members. Severely crippled and you want to do what? Don’t you know motorcycles MAKE people crippled? I heard it all. I realized I was not going to accomplish my dream until I kept my mouth shut, which is why it took me almost 2 years to find a surgeon to work with my unusual condition. I endured the old-school total hip replacement surgeries, 6-8 hours at a time, plus the years of tortuous therapy to get all my atrophied muscles working again. I had 6 hip surgeries from 1980 to 1993 because the cement used to hold the implant in would deteriorate and have to be re-done. The last two surgeries were with the cement-less implants and no trouble since. I bought my first street bike in 1983 and threw away those crutches permanently. I got my physical freedom back, my confidence, and a turn-around with my own self image. If I had been concerned with what others thought, even those that cared about me, I would not be here right now. And I would not be enjoying an immeasurable improvement in my quality of life; which everyone I know, including those that would’ve been (and were) very negative about my dream back then, appreciates tremendously and acknowledges at this point in my life. I did it not because I didn’t care about those that cared about me, I did it for ME and my future which ultimately meant MORE for those that care about me and my well-being. No one now thinks I was an idiot for pursuing my goal and dream, many are very thankful that I did not listen or care about what others thought back then.

      • John,
        what an amazing story – thank you for sharing, it helps us all gain a little perspective.

        Do you mind if I share this on my Facebook wall?

        Peter

      • Peter, thank you for your comment. Feel free to share. I’ve been trying to get my story out there, but it seems not many are at all interested in a guy going through such great challenges to ride a motorcycle again. If I had gone through all that to play a ball sport, climb a mountain or run a marathon, I would’ve been celebrated and applauded as a hero, courageous in my conviction and fortitude to overcome incredible odds. Did it so I could ride a motorcycle? Not worthy. I’m still labeled an idiot, or I’m just making it all up. I read articles about athletes overcoming challenges to play traditional, “accepted” sports, like racing bicycles, or tennis and they’re treated like heroes, revered for their courage and self determination. I never did it for adulation, fame or even attention. And that is exactly what I’ve gotten. A tiny bit of recognition would be appreciated, mostly because it could help others achieve their own goals in spite of negativity and a seemingly non-achievable dream. There are other folks with Ankylosing Spondylitis, many misdiagnosed like I was, maybe they have given up. Having all your joint cartilage completely destroyed can do that to a person, as there are no current treatments to properly manipulate DNA to reverse this condition. There are a some biologic medicines like Humira that can help, but they are SO expensive and unaffordable to pay for by yourself, and many insurers will not cover the outrageous costs pharmaceutical companies charge for it, which is my situation. Thanks again Peter!

  6. Gordon Lunde says:

    To exmaschine……….. I’ve been involved with motor racing since 1981. First helping friends at the track. Then I started racing in ’83. In 1986 I took over as Race Director for a region of Championship Cup Series. Also in 1986 I started a nonprofit organization to help injured road racers pay medical bills (The Wegman Benefit Fund). I wrote checks to the widows of many deceased racers also. I did that for 20 years. From 1986 to 1989 I also worked with AMA Pro Road Racing in various capacities. During that time I held dead and seriously injured racers in my arms. In 1997 my son died in a motorbike racing accident at Road Atlanta. Some 10 years later I went back on the race track at the age of 56 to do a team challenge race with a friend. In 2010 at 59 I raced a 1000 cc BMW at Road America and repeated that in 2012 at 61 years old. Don’t freakin’ tell me I don’t know motorbike racing or life on the edge!

    • Jonas says:

      Well said. Many similar memories and experiences as I Raced afm ama omrra wera etc as well 84 to 95 then with son motocross unitil mid 2004 where injury stopped his racing career. Now i do few offroad races per year as well as track days with our gsxrs and even raced one amatuer event.
      My son is now as well riding with me and there is nothing better~!!

  7. Barry Clay says:

    Couldn’t have put it better myself, to know the thrill of racing on the TT circuit will always remain one of the highlights of my life which I hope doesn’t end up with me in a nursing home at the age of 90. I understand a couple of points on here, I am sure that the first two guys who raced never even thought about whether it was dangerous but although danger is part of the sport I do not think that that is the sole reason we raced/race bikes nor is it foremost in our minds, there is so much more to the sport than danger, the speed and the buzz of going as fast as you can and the comradeship that also plays a big part in racing! I think exmaschine Gordon Lunde certainly knows more about the sport than you give him credit for, could be that an apology is due here!

  8. Boo hoo Lunde…don’t get your panties in a bind. Your old and afraid…it’s ok. Just stop flapping your gums about it. You may have been someone back a long long time ago. But just because you have aged and are unable to quiet your massive fears, is no reason to poss on those who are willing to put it all on the line. Now go away old man

    • Gordon Lunde says:

      Geez, where ya been for 4 months? Trying to get up the nerve for that witty come back? Ha! Some day you may be old too, but I kind of doubt that. You go ahead and put it all on the line, as I used to do. Hopefully you’ll survive it.

      I’ll go away, to finish my vintage road racer and be at the track again next year, at age 64.

      • Kudos then Gordon. I just took exception to your comments about those who want to risk life and limb should be able to do so- and those who don’t should expect that racing is very dangerous and if if makes them uncomfortable, then they can choose a less dangerous sport. In this ever changing Progressive Liberal world, we are losing our CHOICES, which after all is the Crux of freedom.

      • Gordon Lunde says:

        I have no problem with people wanting to hang it all out. But, I think if we can make the tracks safer so these people can come back another day to do it again, why not?
        And please, don’t slip me into the “Liberal” group, I’m far from it.

        Hope you have a long life on the edge. I know I have and I hope to keep enjoying it for a lot longer.

        Keep the shiny side up!

  9. rudy says:

    losing our choices !!!!!!!! I have a question, how or what do you guys feel about all those electronics on these motor cycles recently .

  10. stuart royle says:

    the fundamental thing here is basicaly about riding a motorcycle, and the absolute feeling of freedom and excitement you get as soon as you turn out of your drive. wether its off road ,cruising,trials ,track days or if you are competing at the highest level in road racing. its all held together with that little bit of danger that ticks away in our brains and keeps us comong back for more because we love it.non motorcyclists and the safety police dont get it,fuck em.

  11. Rip big man u loved what u loved racing and miss u like mad but the memories I will have no will understand why they race like u enjoyed doing but all in all I miss are chats and the odd ride out no one can ever say that u didn’t love what u loved best

  12. Teddy Dunlop says:

    Road racing effects the public, not just the crazy self centred riders.. When the public gets effected and is seen in bad light, mla’s need to take action. It’s just a matter of time something more serious is going to happen. Road racing should be banned. The effort should be focused on getting more short circuits.

  13. Lance Wilson says:

    No matter what you say the sport of road racing has been going for man years…never short of competitors……like many high risk sports. Equestrian sports.mountaineering,flying even ball sports have sadly had fatalities …it is the human instinct to echeive , that’s who we are and what we are……take that from us and we become dead lifeless people….loss of life is a tragedy….but let those that want to do these things allow and support there endeavours…..x

  14. Sean Hayde says:

    I lost my girlfriend in a freak rally car accident in a sport we both loved and participated in. I’m still involved and partaking as much as I can. For those not involved and who do not understand the family aspect of the sports we partake in please and for the sake of others, join a club as a volunteer and help out before you pass a judgement. You might actually be surprised at your findings

  15. les says:

    you have basically said what everyone else is thinking , well done and i couldn’t agree more , I’ve been in riders company when a fatal accident happened and each one said the same thing im here to ride a motorbike i no the risks , and ill be on grid , so for those who want to ban it ask the riders what they want not what you want , and i bet they if there was a race in the morning they would be in the grid awaiting the green light to go out, so instead of banning it think of ways to make more safer for them to ride .

  16. John Roberts says:

    As motorcycle riders we all know that we are more vulnerable than in a car. Never a week goes past without someone saying how dangerous bikes are. We can not explain how it makes us feel to be riding in anyway they will understand. They have the same mentality as the people that want to stop the road racing events.
    Racers will always feel the need to do it. Better they do it in an organized event than on public roads. We all take risks. It’s what humans do.
    Racers are special people. I am glad they exist.

  17. Marty says:

    Good article dude 👍 may these guys rest in peace. I don’t think anyone should be allowed to judge another on choice of career or sports or whatever your into….i love watching motorsport, I would love to drive fast but I cant afford to pay for these activities, but I sure as hell wont mock or condemn others for doing it. How would people like it if we banned them going to church because it causes separatism between other religions and cults…? They wouldn’t….. Everyone should do what the hell they want as long as they do not cause deliberate harm to other living humans or animals.

  18. Agreed, we live for it because it is our passion and nothing else send to satisfy our souls like racing. Those same individuals that cannot understand it wasn’t to control it as if they somehow make themselves feel better like they are stopping someone from injuring themselves so it is a selfish act. I am probably the oldest AMA Superbike rider on the grid St 52 and if I was stop in not sure what would satisfy my soul…

  19. Seppe says:

    Enormous amounts of SKILL and COURAGE! Leave them in there FREE little world and worship their Gods of speed … My HEROES!

  20. I’m sure the majority of us would find flying around on a superbike at speeds of between 100 & 200 mph a huge adrenaline rush, outrageously exhilarating, a bigger buzz than sex or drugs BUT common sense would tell you that it’s highly likely that you are going to sustain serious injury & most probably death should you come off. Those who compete in this sport may say they’d rather be dead than not compete but I suspect rather in denial that it will happen to them. Simon Andrews sustained horrendous injuries & you’d have hoped that would have been a warning to pack up. Is being addicted to an adrenaline rush that eventually kills you brave or foolish? I feel the latter. If heroin had been his addiction there would have been uproar & a stint in rehab. All these family members saying they died doing what they loved best. Is that really a genuine consolation? Lads dying at 20 & 25? Those with kids leaving them without a dad? I’m sure there are many things these guys loved, including their families who are now distraught. I’m not saying chop the sport. It’s their prerogative if they are happy to take the risks, albeit extremely selfish, an I know the risks & dont give a shit attitude, but don’t try & romanticise it & play down the deaths of all these young men & insinuate it was all worthwhile. Their deaths were horrifically brutal & extremely premature! Sorry if this causes offence but that’s my opinion!

    • Kate… While you make some valid arguments, you ignore the basic human nature of some people to take risks, or to push themselves.

      For some, life without challenge isn’t living.

      Without these kinds of people, mankind wouldn’t be what we are today. No one would travel beyond their local area if some unknown adventurous soul hadn’t tried riding an animal to get around easier and faster.
      “Oh no!… You’ll fall off and hurt yourself” the health and safety conscious would have protested, but our intrepid traveller ignored them and so the seeds of rapid transit were sown. With faster means of transporting ourselves, came the opportunity to spread out and make more discoveries. Eventually those dangerous forms of transport, that were only for the brave, became sanitised so the wimpier members of society could travel too.

      Today, those risks aren’t so necessary… but the instinct is still there for many. It’s just as well, as most of the freedoms we take for granted were won by men and women who were prepared to risk their lives. Some are still doing it against oppressive regimes around the world.

    • Kate, If we apply our own mindset to these riders, we come to the conclusions you have described. But these people are not like you and for you to assert that the only explanation is that they are deluded is, I feel, unfair. You clearly have an absolute fear of death. Not everyone does. Some see it as a risk worth taking for sporting glory and the thrill of competition. Any jockey, any mountain climber, and cyclist, and parachutist, anyone who does anything they don’t NEED to do that could result in injury is risking death for what you may feel is folly.

      The entire point of my original post was that I feel it is offensive to suggest that we know better than the riders and that the only explanation for what they do is that they are in denial or are just plain stupid. Without understanding their mindset, without seeing the sacrifice and pain they put themselves through yet continue to turn up, none of us are qualified to pass judgement. Wouldn’t it be more honest for us to simply say that you don’t understand why they do it – rather than to be judgemental about it?

      We all sit somewhere on a scale. Some people just want to live a long time, so they err on the side of caution in all things and are horrified when they see people take risks. Others, as Chris has pointed out, see no point in living long if that time is insufferably dull. A game of darts might be all you or I need to make our week worthwhile, for others they need to be throwing themselves off a mountain in a wing suit otherwise they’d turn to drugs.

      I do take issue with the idea that taking a personal risk is ‘selfish’. What is selfish is imposing your values on someone else such that it affects their enjoyment of life. ‘I don’t want you to do that because if you die I’ll be lonely’- now that’s what I call selfish. Assuming that your judgement of what risk is appropriate for someone else to take, that’s arrogance. People who marry these men and women, who have children to these men, they know what they are getting into. They love them so they don’t try to change them. Parents have less of a choice, but any parent must accept that their child might not make choices that they approve of. A good parent will simply be supportive.

      One thing worth pointing out – the TT paddock is full of racers who have ridden for years without incident, and not just slow riders either.

      I’m going to ignore the heroin reference, likening these men to drug addicts with some kind of problem – I don’t think it merits response.

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