2013-08-14

Racing is not about recklessness

Let me get it out there. Just because it scares you, doesn't mean it's reckless. Racers use years of highly honed skill to perform on the race track.

Why this post? Because I am seeing a lot of people make the cognitive mistake of assuming that if something scares them because they couldn't do it, e.g. driving a car at its limit around a race track -- then that activity must be inherently reckless, and only crazy people would engage in it.

Nothing could be further from the truth though. It takes many thousands of hours of training, both on and off the track, for a driver to become comfortable in a racing situation. It would be reckless to allow someone who just drove to the racetrack for the first time to be allowed to participate in a race, but that's not what is happening.

Racing has its rules, both explicit (such as the Club Rules and Regulations) and implicit (like good sportsmanship on track), and it takes a good while to internalize them all. It's a complex social system, constantly changing and evolving, as if the driving skill alone wasn't hard to acquire.

When you see a bunch of cars negotiate a turn and trade places in a race, you may think it's all animosity and competitiveness, brute force against force, in a testosterone-drenched red mist. In many cases, that's not what's going on. Racing is more akin to chess or karate sparring than to a barroom brawl.

Just to take this analogy further: when you watch a pair of karate masters spar, do you think either of them is full of blinding anger, and is going to try to win whatever the cost to either of their health and well-being? No.

Traditionally we see martial arts as combining fine control of body and mind. You wouldn't think that just because you can't exercise such precise strikes and blocks, the two sparring opponents must be reckless idiots who have no concept of what's safe.

So next time you call one of your friends crazy just because they do something you can't imagine doing well yourself, think how much passion, effort, and pure time of their lives they poured into honing their driving skill. Then compare to yourself, and stop saying silly things like that.