While at a relative’s house for the holidays, I was up late and heard the pitter patter of little feet. I would go downstairs to notice that my 4-year-old nephew had turned on every light in the house and was running and playing. I began to scold him and tell him to turn the lights off. Then I asked a simple question: “Are you afraid of the dark?” He dropped his head and said “Yes”. I sympathized with his fear, remembering my own, settled him down and we both went to bed.
There is a fear and mystery in darkness that totally petrified some of us in our formative years. Even the most intrepid individuals still have an uncertainty when confronting whatever lies under the cover of darkness.
So it is in Motorsports – blasting around a race course at dusk with nothing but the faint trail of a car’s brake lights in front of you to be your guide. Having to accurately remember the turns you made seven hours ago with landmarks and undulations in the road serving as markers. You drive on the very tips of your senses, hoping those around you are as alert and attentive as you are trying to be. The slightest bump could tangle fenders and even a momentary lapse of focus could result in a disorienting collision. It is said by experts that racing at dusk at 50 mph is more dangerous than racing at 200 mph in daylight.
Millions upon millions have been spent at various facilities to allow night racing to be done under the lights. Many tracks only offer daytime racing and will wave a red flag in foggy or ill-lit conditions. Formula One, Le Mans and several forms of Road and Rally Racing have gone for years without even a slight hint of additional lighting.
Our brothers in racing, Memo Gidley (who has already had surgery on his left arm and leg with one still to go on a fracture to his back) and Matteo Malucelli (who lies in a state of concussion) remind us of the cruel possibilities of night racing. Our prayers and thoughts go out to them for full recovery. My nephew reminded me of the innocence of youth and the simple fear of the dark. As we grow older, we mostly conquer that fear. The Malucelli -Gidley accident is a lesson that my nephew has taught me, one that Racing Drivers and little children know all too well. Walking around in the dark is disconcerting, but it is definitely dangerous to go running in the dark.