Tuesday, 26 January 2010


Actually, I was going to call this post "more on Senna", for it was inspired by Mike Doodson's piece in Motor Sport this month about his relationship with Ayrton Senna. In addition to being a Senna fan, I am also a fan of 'The Dood' - having met him once, but also being aware that he, like me, used to sit in the back of commentary boxes and do lap charts - in his case for Murray and the BBC before the days of electronic timing, when a lap chart was the only way to follow a race.

And also, from reading him, it is clear that he is the type of journalist who gets to know drivers and then writes about what he knows, rather than necessarily always making up 'a story'. Although, it was that inevitable tendency that got him into trouble with Ayrton, to the detriment of his relationship with him.

What seems to have been at the heart of the problem were some remarks made by Doodson about Senna's spirituality. Not simply his religious beliefs, but some specific (alleged) religious experiences. Now I can well understand anyone's sensitivities on this subject, but there was another element to Doodson's article that caught my eye.

As a Christian myself (indeed, as a speaker I once heard put it, a 'praying man'), I often find putting my faith into practice to be a difficult balancing act. But Mike Doodson suggested that Christianity and sport did not mix - I quote: "It is... hypocritical and irreligious to ask Him (God) to favour anyone - especially oneself - in a sporting contest."

Now I do not engage in sporting contests personally, but I don't see anything wrong with those who do. And although it is certainly not my role to judge who is fit in God's eyes and who isn't, I do feel that those who engage in sport are not excluding themselves from heaven's promises and eternal life. No place in sport for God-botherers, Mike? I think not.

I admire the 'Christians in Motorsport' organisation. (How could anyone not be seduced by a Ferrari 430GT?) But I do fear the 'loopy' tag which can easily be associated with such initiatives. Mike Doodson also said in his article that "a man's faith should guide him in his daily life", and with this I wholeheartedly agree. In the 1924 Olympic Games, athlete Eric Liddell famously refused to run in a qualifying event on a Sunday, declaring that it wasn't appropriate to do so. His faith guided his daily life. The villains of the piece were the media, who made headline news out of the incident.

What we need in this world is a little more graciousness, call it 'grace' if you will. That ability to allow others to do what they feel is right without at the same time passing judgement (particularly prejudicial judgement). It is rarely helpful putting individual decisions under the microscope and inviting others to publish their opinions.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The culture thing again

I am a big fan of Ayrton Senna. Because I was involved in the sport throughout his career, I watched him in Formula Ford, Formula Three and in Formula One and feel that I could appreciate his talent at close quarters; which I was not able to do with Jim Clark, Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio or Tazio Nuvolari, who also rate as heroes of the sport in my book. I have often watched Moss driving historic machinery, but sadly never saw any of the others driving in their heyday.

I do remember Clark though, from watching races on television and from reading reports. And the trouble that sticks in my child's memory was that Clark was simply 'too good'. If he was in a race, then the others didn't get a look in. It took away some of the unpredictability of a race. And surely that is a sign of a true great.

Senna was similar. Put him in a race, and likely as not, he would win. His talent was matched by a commitment, a self-belief, a 'drive', if you will, that stood him head and shoulders above the rest. He also had a marvellous way of expressing himself. In many ways, he was a very emotional, open character.

However... (there had to be a 'however', didn't there?) in my view, by his very commitment he damaged motor sport irrevocably through the flaws in his character that introduced the current 'win at all costs' mentality.