Speed, racer

I was a kid.  I loved Speed Racer.  There were crashes and explosions.  Faceless, nameless racers died.  The evil drivers always had a boss who wanted money or new technology and power.  They had guns.  They took hostages.


Speed always won.  He had a chimp, a little brother and a woman called Trixie as backup.  Pop provided the agro, and he built the Mach 5.


The Mach 5 could withstand bullets, fire, water, snow and monster cars.  The Mach 5 was fast.  It could jump.  It could roll down mountains without dinting a panel.  The Mach 5 could do anything.  All Speed had to do was push a button.


And Speed never got hurt.  When he was in trouble, his estranged brother, Racer X, was there to bail him out.


Maybe I was eight when I saw a crash during Bathurst.  It was an exciting crash.  The drivers got out of their cars and walked away.  No one was hurt.  I kept watching, waiting patiently for another crash.


After a few laps, I complained to my dad, Bill.


‘They’re not supposed to crash,’ he said.


That didn’t make sense.  They were driving really fast around a narrow track, trying to overtake at high speed.  Crashes seemed imminent.


As I aged, I didn’t get excited about motor racing.  I just didn’t get into it, not when football and cricket captivated me.


So I don’t watch too much Formula 1 racing.  I don’t watch much television, which means Football and cricket take precedence.  It can take me three nights to watch a movie.


A couple of years ago, my mate Simon and my brother in law Danny piqued my interest in Formula 1.  They know the history and the technicalities.  Any question, they can answer.  They have leant me books and DVDs.  They have educated me.


I couldn’t tell you who leads this year’s championship.  I can’t tell you what team is ahead, but I know who Daniel Riccardo is and I’ve watched several races this year.


On Sunday morning I was at Lifeline looking for nothing but wanting a bargain.  I paid twenty bucks for a cd-radio-cassette and ten for a working Buzz Lightyear toy.


Lifeline wanted three bucks for the Senna movie.  I lifted it from the rack.  It was taped shut so I couldn’t see if the disc was scratched.  Senna is the best formula 1 movie I’ve seen.  It’s also the most tragic.


While holding the disc, I recalled that tragedy and couldn’t buy it.


A few hours later, Jacques Bianchi was seriously hurt in a crash in Japan.  Early news reports didn’t contain any vision of the crash.


Monday morning, I sent Simon a text.  Hope Jules Bianchi is okay.


Bianchi had serious head injury.  Was given emergency surgery, still unconscious and critical but breathing unassisted.


Bad crash.  I hope he wakes up.


From what I have read Sutil said it was becoming dark and hard to see the wet patches.  He said Bianchi went off on the same spot he lost it the previous lap.


Then Simon called me. He’d been watching the race and didn’t see the accident.


‘They mentioned Bianchi’s accident during the coverage but we never saw anything,’ he said.  ‘He hit a recovery vehicle.  Have you seen any footage?’


‘No and that means they haven’t released any,’ I said.  ‘It has to be a bad accident if they can’t show it.’


I told him about seeing Senna at Lifeline.  ‘I didn’t buy it because I remembered Senna’s expression as he sat in the car before the race.  He looked fearful.  Then I remembered the accident footage and I didn’t want to watch that again.’


For a moment Simon was silent then he sighed.  ‘Accidents like this aren’t supposed to happen anymore.’


Reports on Tuesday weren’t good.  Bianchi had serious head injuries.  I was at work when Simon called.  He said there was vision available on the news sites.


‘Have you seen it,’ he said.


‘I saw the story but didn’t want to watch the vision.’


‘Bianchi should be dead.  He virtually went underneath the recovery vehicle.  I don’t know how he didn’t die.’


I sighed.  That meant I had to watch it.


It was after midnight when I watched the vision captured by a spectator.  Bianchi went off the track and crashed into a small crane, technically known as a recovery vehicle.  The vision is shocking.  He should be dead.


I didn’t want to watch it.  I couldn’t stop watching it.


The small crane is used to lift disabled cars from the track.  The body of the crane was so high that Bianchi hit the underside.  His head ricocheted.  His car was destroyed.


His life is in danger.


Since the accident, I’ve been thinking about the Senna movie.  On grand final day, the Pole said he’d seen it in Big W for eight bucks.  I told him to go back and buy it, because it’s a great movie.


Now, after Bianchi’s crash, I’m thinking Senna is just a movie about death.  Despite its brilliance, the hero dies and we see how it happens.  It satisfies our primitive, voyeuristic nature.  We want to know, we want to see, to feel.  Let us watch.


I didn’t buy the Senna because I don’t want to see it again.  He is the last Formula 1 driver to die in a race.  Motor racing is now supposed to be safer, but Bianchi slammed into a crane that was moving another car.


It appears to be a massive error in communication.  An investigation will provide answers to what we already know.  The race should’ve been stopped or under control of the safety car while the crane was working.


About five years ago I gave the Speed Racer collection to my mate Andy.  His kids, Matthew and Ben, watched it over and over.


‘It’s one of the most violent cartoons I’ve ever seen,’ Andy said.


‘Motor racing with guns,’ I said.


My boy Angus is two and a half.  He likes Speed Racer.  Despite the violence, it is just a cartoon.


The first time he watches a real motor race, I’m going to tell him the cars aren’t supposed to crash.


About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Enjoyed your piece Matt. I remember watching Bathurst in the great days of the 70’s when huge early lap smashes at the top of the mountain were common. Bill Tuckey was a frequent victim from memory. All predictably boring these days like F1.
    F1 is very safety conscious except when TV revenues get in the way. The Japanese Grand Prix could have been run perfectly safely if the time had been brought forward a few hours, but that would not have suited TV networks world wide.
    I loved the Senna movie, because of his magnetic personality and belief in his destiny. He was almost other worldly. It told the story of the evolution of F1 from amateur sport to mega professional business – with all the changes in tracks, cars and safety that accompanied it. Sure I knew the tragic end, but nothing can totally remove the risk. I didn’t feel ghoulish watching it. The Hunt/Lauda movie “Rush” is more compressed, but tells a similar story in a compelling way.
    Bathurst used to be an all day on the couch for me, but now its only first and last hour (like one-day cricket).
    Thanks Matt.

  2. Earl O'Neill says

    Thought-provoking, Matt. Like Peter, I find F1 and Supercars terribly dull but enjoy most other motor-racing, especially motorcycles.
    A few years ago, Perky Girl and I returned from our first roadtrip, three days around the countryside northwest of Sydney, barely 500km (we’ve since movied up to 3200 in four days). We settled on the couch to watch the MotoGP. Marco Simoncelli was our favourite rider, he had great hair, personality and a wicked style on the track.
    Freak crash on the first lap, I knew it was fatal immediately. We sat there stunned.
    Motorsport is a dangerous activity. That’s part of the attraction, for the racers even moreso than spectators. You’re never more alive than when you’ve stared death in the face. I’ve never pushed much beyond 200 on a motorcycle, but, crikey, what a feeling!
    ‘Closer To The Edge’ is highly recommended, a movie about the 2011 Isle Of Man TT, the most extreme motorsport event around. It focusses on the eccentric Guy martin and features interviews with Bridget Dobbs,, a widow whose husband died there in 2010, and some severely injured riders. She is completley understanding that that was Paul’s path, what he had to do. The riders are talking about recovering in time for the next year. For them, it’s a calling.
    Peter, Bill Brown was the one who crashed. Tuckey’s a journo, only races being 3 starts at Bathurst in 67/8/9.

  3. Matt – your piece is listed in the Worthy Reads on http://www.theallrounder.co
    Well played.

  4. Hey Peter,
    That’s cool…

Leave a Comment