A COMMUNITY UNITED                                                            Index
by Doug Nye

Last Saturday afternoon I glanced up to see my friend John Dawson-Damer sweep by in his familiar, beloved Lotus before he accelerated hard up the Festival of Speed hill. Twenty seconds later another car followed. Then the alarm at the nearby marshal's post warbled. Red flag. Immediate stop.

As what had happened became apparent, media men grabbed for their laptops and telephones and a closed-circuit television engineer toggled a tape from its recorder. In television and newspaper offices headlines and editorial stances were framed - most by people for whom this was just another fleetingly tragic story. News today, chip-wrapper tomorrow. But in the Goodwood paddock, and in homes remote, that instant marked the start of new lives for bereaved families and friends. Beyond them -to whom all sympathy extends - motorsport most keenly feels the impact of such an event.

This week - with a patrician driver and an enthusiastic marshal lost and another badly hurt - our community is perhaps more closely knit than ever. We founded the Festival of Speed on a premise of welcome and sharing for all. Where else in the sporting world could you find peers of the realm and pop stars, plasterers and plumbers, actors and proudly council house oiks like me, all delightedly sharing our common passion with an enormous public? Beyond most politicians' comprehension or capability, here for three days each year is a truly egalitarian world.

Within it there has always been a tremendous, and growing, empathy between Festival runners and the marshals who, in all weather and entirely unpaid, indulge their shared enthusiasm.

Each year overseas Festival entrants are astonished by the level of welcome, staggering range of expertise and help these volunteers provide. Imagine how it gnaws us all when drivers and marshals run out of luck while pursuing this shared life-long passion. In contrast to a desiccated, debased, increasingly exclusive world of industrialised sport - where cosseted stars so commonly forget their roots and their friends - one sensed a real togetherness, a warmth, on Sunday, as our community bound even more tightly together and was able to enjoy, to excel, to entertain and thrill, while never; ever, ignoring the pain.

In his marshals' briefing the morning after the accident, Clerk of the Course John Felix emphasised that any who did not feel like taking position that day could of course stand down. He had no takers. Volunteers for finish-line duty? Every man and woman stepped forward. At the prize-giving, after the British Racing Drivers' Club chaplain, Lionel Webber, had paid clear-sighted and compassionate tribute to John and Andy, and sought recovery for Steve, he was approached by a young driver who said, simply, "Thank you for that, Sir, you put it in context for me. You see, I've never known a death before." He is only 20 but he's part of our world's future. And I think he appreciates just how deep our grass- roots grow.

Doug Nye

* Thanks to Doug Nye and to the Daily Telegraph for permission to print this item. Thanks also to Chris Whitlock, the Chairman of BMMC South Midlands.

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