Issue: October Vol: 2013
archived issues


[p.1] VOTE!

[p.2] Mercer Takes Exciting Sports 2000 SCCA National Championship

[p.3] Aquilante Dominates Touring 1 at SCCA Runoffs, Pettiford on the podium

[p.4] RMDiv presence felt at 2013 Runoffs

[p.5] SCCA RallyCross National Championship Features Contingency For Top Finishes

[p.6] SnakeBytes

[p.7] Nine SCCA RallyCross National Champions Crowned In Tulsa

[p.8] Powerful Paragraphs

[p.9] SCCA Announces Departure of President and CEO Jeff Dahnert

[p.10] RaceCon 2013

[p.11] Classifieds

[p.12] Advertisers Quick Reference

Powerful Paragraphs


Although this WILL be my shortest article to date, far more effort went into it than any other article I have previously written. Earlier this year, I read JIM CLARK AT THE WHEEL written by Jim Clark. The entire book was magnificent, but there was one paragraph that particularly stood out for me. I knew I just had to write about it someday. Also, I recently finished THE UNFAIR ADVANTAGE by Mark Donohue with Paul Van Valkenburgh and again, the entire book was great, and once again a paragraph jumped out at me. Out of the four racing drivers I hold in utmost regard, these two are the only ones who wrote books. I am incredibly grateful to own these books, but I must admit – both stories made me feel really sad upon completion and I wish I got to meet these drivers and talk shop about racing. The questions I have about racing these days are terribly complex. All I can add is that I am happy to have read these books after all my experiences because there are a lot of driving and engineering incites I would have not have picked up otherwise. Anyway, here is the first Powerful Paragraph:

“I am often asked whether it is a good thing to start your motor racing career in a big, powerful car, which may be out of your depth, and learn to control it, or to start with a smaller car and work upwards gradually. This is one of those questions on which it is difficult to generalise. In most cases, I should say it is better to start on the smaller car, but I am sure that for me, plunging into the deep end with the D-type was the best thing that could have happened. I consider I learned far more in my two years of big sports car driving than I would have in, say, a formula junior. The answer is really that the young driver must have enough sense to know his own capabilities, and to drive within these limits whatever the size of the car. Sooner or later you may have to overstep your capabilities – but make sure you pick the right spot – or you will never know what they are. A rule I always observe is to be able to say to myself after coming out of a corner: “I could have gone through a shade quicker and still stayed on the track.””

This message really struck me as I read Jim Clark’s book. It reminded me of how I “plunged” into race car driving – going to my first professional open-wheel racing school at a premier racing track with zero karting and sports car experience. HOWEVER, unlike Clark, I was armed with 12 years of knowledge through books, engineering, and driving simulation games. This passage also brought me back to the July 2012 article I wrote prior to reading this book: A SECRET TO GOING FAST: SLOWING DOWN. There I equated learning a new track to wood shedding a piece of music as a kid playing my trumpet. Now for the second Powerful Paragraph from an engineer and driver:

“My big mistake was that I thought I was smart enough to understand more than I did. Walter had good self-control in that area. When he didn’t understand something about a car, he didn’t go around showing everyone he didn’t. He just didn’t seem to do anything about it. He never even mentioned it. But he kept his eyes and ears open until he knew enough to at least ask reasonably intelligent questions. If we all did that, there would be a lot of silence around race cars. I’m sorry I didn’t recognize that as a good quality earlier.”
THE UNFAIR ADVANTAGE – Mark Donohue with Paul Van Valkenburgh

I simply love this passage as Mark Donohue accounts Walter Hansgen – a fellow driver who greatly helped bring Mark from obscurity to stardom in racing. As I went through my racing schools, my communications with the instructors reduced as I learned the craft. Messages were sent and received in a sort of “silent sea of understanding.” One thing that I have found really difficult as a driver is when you discover something wrong with the setup, but there’s insufficient time or the proper resources to fix it. In those times, I have remained quiet and drove on – never telling the instructors or the mechanics. I thought, “What good will it do? They can’t fix it.” It would just be viewed as “here’s the engineer complaining,” and I did not want to offend anyone. Furthermore, technically viewing racing is a lot like life – an exercise in embracing adversity and risk mitigation; I would reframe the setback as an extra challenge to my passion for racing and go for it. It actually helped me find my own limits and I got to experience stepping over them in a safe environment. Since those days I have matured and realize it is my duty as a driver not to withhold information from mechanics and instructors – even if nothing can be done. That way, the “team” understands and takes the risk – not the driver alone.

Finally – this is the shortest article I have ever written and it could not be more appropriate. I hope these two paragraphs are as powerful for you as they are for me. I thought I would end with the very sobering end sentences from each book:

“This, however, is motor racing. Were the results predictable, there would be no racing, and though at times I maybe don’t understand the fate which governs it, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“We will be using our old familiar systems of development and maintenance, and trying to adapt to Formula One as rapidly as possible. Just like in USAC and NASCAR, we’ll have to serve an apprenticeship. And hopefully, in a few years, I’ll have another story to tell.”
THE UNFAIR ADVANTAGE – Mark Donohue with Paul Van Valkenburgh

James Clark Jr. and Mark Neary Donohue Jr. – two clearly extraordinary people.