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
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.
* 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
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