Ayrton Senna once said “And suddenly I realized that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension.”
Through modern history we are all to familiar with the allure of cars and the status they provide. We are sold the idea of there is nothing between me and the open road; usually it’s a mountain pass in a far off idyllic land. Your car is sleek, high status and your woman beautiful. The soundtrack is determined.
Then there’s the independence it brings. I remember being 17 years old and passing my test. All of a sudden the world was my oyster. A recent University of Minnesota study found that men in particular crave ‘car time’ because of “the appeal of asserting masculinity through technology, and through being in control of their own destiny.” Well I suppose you are in control if you know where your going!
Driving a car is an emotional experience. Think of all the emotions it evokes; passion, fear, exhilaration, road rage to name just a few. It is amazing to think that in one car journey we go through a whole emotional experience. Car manufacturers spend millions on marketing to arouse our emotions but vehicle design also plays a huge role too. Even the smell of a new interior can evoke a powerful set of emotions in us.
The primary factor, at least for me, is the speed and the adrenaline rush associated with Motorsport. But why is this aspect of driving so addictive.
Fear triggers the “fight or flight” response—heart and respiration rate increases, muscles tense, and attention focus heightens for rapid and effective response to threats. If, however, the brain perceives no real risk of harm, it experiences the adrenaline rush as enjoyable. The key to enjoying such thrills lies in knowing how to properly gauge the risk of harm.
This phenomenon explains why we love speed. When engaging in a high risk activity, such as Motorsport, it is usually coupled with experience and training. Those engaging in high-risk activities will often tell you that the risk is lowered by their training and precautions, allowing them to enjoy the experience. The key structure in the brain responsible for this effect is the amygdala and is likely responsible for forming and storing memories linked with emotions.
The ability to enjoy fear makes evolutionary sense, said environmental psychologist Frank McAndrew at Knox College . “We’re motivated to seek out this kind of stimulation to explore new possibilities” McAndrew said. “People enjoy deviations from the norm—a change of pace, within limits.”
In the book “Hard Driving,” a biography about NASCAR’s first black driver, Wendell Scott. Scott and his fellow drivers discuss their passion for speed. Scott talks about his obsessive desire to race and the experience of driving was not only something he loved but also craved. Lewis Hamilton Formula One ‘s 2008, 2014, & 2015 World Champion said in an interview with CBS news “Formula One is still a dangerous sport. But the danger factor is also the exciting part”
Many drivers claim to find an alternative mental platform through motor racing where adrenaline and deep concentration combined brings about a profound and altered state. Lewis Hamilton likened it to a rocket: “Yeah, It’s like you’re – strapped to a rocket. I mean it’s like how do you– how do you control this rocket? It’s like a raging bull. It’s wild. It’s sexy. It’s fast”.
The experience, some drivers say, is highly addictive. Wendell Scott put it this way: ‘Racing cars gets to be about like being a drug addict or an alcoholic. The more you do it, the more you like to do it.’
Pedro Ferreira, Managing Director at Speed Factor talked about his passion for racing as a teenager; “The passion started early and in-between tinkering with my mum’s car at age of 10 and riding my bike as hard and fast as possible down the big hill close to our home, I followed every motor sport event on TV and consumed every line of the weekly racing paper. That’s where I wanted to be! Karting was the big attraction as a pre-teenager. All the greats I followed on TV and in the paper started there.
Coming from a non-engineering family and with no race or karting tracks nearby, it all seemed a too distant prospect. But my enthusiasm and persistence led me to a ASN organized kart summer school. From there the same adrenalin I felt karting and racing spread to others around me and soon it became a family affair. Mostly, it came at a time where, given the high level of dedication and commitment, mopeds and then motorbikes were off the table.”
With this new found love of motorsport he never developed the all too familiar youthful temptation to drive recklessly. He too had found a sort of mental transcendence that only this adrenaline rich sport brings. The excitement sits in unity with the training; the safety harness, fire retardant race suit and the helmet. The car is kitted out with a roll cage and fire extinguisher. Every race includes a safety briefing and circuits have a marshall at every turn. Your fellow drivers are experienced and mobile phone, drink and drug free.
With young people making up only 1.5% of driving licence holders but 12% more likely to be involved in a fatal collision. Research shows that a combination of youth and inexperience is a deadly cocktail for our young drivers. Their inexperience means they are less likely to spot a hazard, and their youth means that they like to take risks.
Therefore it makes sense that if you have a teenager with a dream for speed then Motorsport especially Karting may be the solution. Whilst it may sound counter intuitive it probably will be the outlet their looking for and the skills learnt on the track should put them in good stead on the modern road.
As a veteran motorsport enthusiast Pedro Ferreira said it isn’t just for young people though. Many older people join the sport and most of clubman racing, for example series such as Monoposto where he has raced in the past, is geared to a mix of ages and abilities. There is also the benefit that being a little bit older you already have the funds to finance this endeavour.
So there you have it acknowledge and rejoice in your need for speed I know we do!