Road Racers. The dare-devils that walk among us, disguised as ordinary folk but in possession of staggering ability, unrivalled testicular fortitude and lacking, it seems, any notion of fear or mortality. The thirst for adrenalin pushes them closer to the edge, closer to disaster, closer to death. It’s what they live for. All too often, it’s what they die for.
With motorcycle road racing the line between bravery and stupidity appears as fine as that between success and catastrophic failure, it’s what makes the sport so thrilling to behold. The magnificent highs of victory on a closed public road course are all too often tainted however, by the devastating lows. In road racing, the lows mean only one thing: death.
And with each death, a period of condemnation of the sport follows, one of which is being endured now.
Simon Andrews, a 29 year-old racer with as much experience of the dangers of road racing as talent for it, lost his fight for life following a crash at the 2014 North West 200. He succumbed to injuries sustained in a high-speed fall in which he made heavy contact with raised curbing, a relatively minor piece of roadside furniture road racers must contend with but a danger nonetheless.
The naysayers claim that Simon Andrews was a fool to be a road racer in the first place, that the Dunlops, Martins and McGuinesses of this world are all fools, clearly blind or ignorant to the inherent dangers.
They – particularly Andrews – are neither.
Simon Andrews had suffered more than most when it comes to those dangers, having broken nearly every bone in his body, suffered a collapsed lung and two ruptured eyeballs…I’ll give you a moment to recover from the thought of that…
Yet he came back to the roads, back to the likes of the Isle of Man TT and back to the North West 200. A fool would be one who charges into the fire with no idea of the pain; Simon Andrews was fully educated in such things; he was no fool, road racing was simply his passion, what he lived for.
But no amount of romanticising the sport or claiming passion as a reason for its existence will end the calls for road racing to be stopped. It’s rich history is no defence either – the naysayers won’t care a dot for it.
Nor will it help to suggest that by killing off the sport following an individual’s demise would condemn the departed to eternity as the person responsible for the death of his or her beloved sport. Alfonso de Portago, a Spanish race car driving ace of the 1950s will forever be remembered as the man whose death put an end to the Mille Miglia – a deeply unfair representation of his achievements.
To fans of road racing the sport needs no justification, to those who feel it must cease, I fear there is no hope of changing their mind. All I know is, Simon Andrews lived for racing motorbikes, and in his 29 years lived life to its fullest better than most of us mere mortals ever will. To stop road racing now would be to rob us of the future dare-devil souls like Andrews who we so admire, rob us of the supreme spectacle the sport offers and for many, rob us of our passion.