I love – or at least appreciate – all forms of the motor sport. There are some I like more than others but, in the end, I admire the courage of everybody who gets into, or onto, a racing machine of any kind.
I must admit, however, to being apprehensive every time I watch motorcycle racing. It is so bloody dangerous.
And some of it is even more dangerous than others – so dangerous, in fact, that even I have to question whether it should be allowed to continue as is.
I talk today about the racing that goes on each year at the Ilse of Man in which an average – an average – of a little over two riders a year are killed in competition. (That’s just the organized racing toll; the number of motorcycle deaths recorded on public roads during the annual two-week festival of speed is frightening – 10 people died in 1993 alone, for instance.)
In 100-plus years of competition, starting in 1907 and including 2010, 233 competitors were killed during the island’s Manx Grand Prix and the Clubman Tourist Trophy races.
Just this week, two more were added to that list. Sidecar racer Bill Currie, 67, and his passenger, Kevin Morgan, 59, were killed. As is usual in these incidents, all the news stories included this paragraph:
"The coroner of inquests has been informed and an investigation into the circumstances of the accident is under way."
Which makes me wonder: in investigating 235 (and counting) fatal accidents over the years, has the coroner of inquests not come to some conclusions? That perhaps this particular racing course might be too dangerous?
Motor racing, by definition, is dangerous. Which is why great efforts have been made to make it safer. There hasn’t been a fatal accident in a Formula One race since 1994. NASCAR Sprint Cup races feature a "big one" every race now and everybody just ups and walks away. Ditto Indy car racing.
Why? Because of improvements to the cars, helmets, the HANS device and SAFER barriers. Motor sport should be about competition, not gore, and auto racing in particular has met the challenge.
And strides have been made in motorcycle racing to try to make it safer, also. The riders – if you strip away their leathers – look like mediaeval knights underneath.
So the problem at the Ilse of Man would seem to be more with the course than with the protective equipment worn by the riders.
The "track" at the Ilse of Man is not a racing circuit at all, but public roads. They are narrow, winding, undulating strips of pavement with stone walls on either side. Many – if not all – of the fatal accidents happen when a rider is going too fast and can’t make a turn and smashes into one of those walls.
So, my question today is, can the authorities not do something to try to cut down on the carnage at that place? Install SAFER barriers at particularly dangerous sections? Or – horrors – enforce a speed limit at places where riders are more likely to die than at others? Or something like those two suggestions?
The sollution - really - is fairly simple. It will just take some courage on the part of the organizers - the same kind of courage shown by the riders - to do it.
It's not rocket science. Just make the course safer. Or the government will step in one of these days and we all know what happens when government gets involved.
Better to act now, before it's too late.
Yes, I know. Those racers are there because they want to be there. But to a one, I guarantee you that – given a choice – they would like to "be there" again next year, and the year after that, rather than never "being there" again.