Dan Wheldon

I was very shocked and upset to learn about the death of Dan Wheldon.

I don’t watch IndyCar for a variety of reasons. Chief among them is the fact that I don’t have Sky. If I did have Sky, I probably would watch, and I certainly keep up-to-date with the news from IndyCar in general.

Nothing qualifies me to say anything about Dan Wheldon, as I have never watched him race. But I was fully aware of what he achieved in IndyCar. With 16 IndyCar race victories — two of which were the Indianapolis 500, arguably the most prestigious race in the world — and an IndyCar championship under his belt, it is clear that Dan Wheldon was a class act.

It is difficult to escape the impression that IndyCar is a particularly dangerous category in motorsport. There are some horrendous incidents in IndyCar with high-speed cars, narrow oval circuits and inexperienced drivers. All of these are currently being pinpointed as contributory factors towards Dan Wheldon’s death.

But it would be naive to imagine that accidents like this won’t happen in any form of motorsport. I don’t know how it would affect me if I were to watch a fatal accident unfold before my eyes live on television. It has never happened before to me. With drivers and riders that I know of and follow, in categories that I enjoy, it is difficult enough just to hear the news from a secondary source.

As fans of motorsport, we sit down to watch a race in anticipation of being entertained. Usually it delivers. But instead, it sometimes presents this.

I have heard it said that one reason we love motorsport is because it can cover the full spectrum of human emotions. If only that wasn’t true.


  1. Very true about how motorsport can cover the full spectrum of human emotion, agreed with the sentiment about wishing it weren’t true.

    I have not followed Indycar closely since Montoya took the title in 1999 (another season marred by tragedy at the end with the death of Greg Moore), but I do make special effort to watch races such as the Indy 500 because of guys like Wheldon, Franchitti and other similar talents, as the Indy 500 being the only IndyCar Series race some drivers compete in some seasons.

  2. I watched it live, as I’m sure you realised. I don’t have Sky but have so far always managed to find a stream of the American coverage. It was just the most awful thing to experience those two hours unfolding.

    And it wasn’t just Wheldon – there were drivers in the
    field like Jay Howard and Alex Lloyd with whom I’ve exchanged friendly Tweets, and I’ve done a phone interview with Pippa Mann and consider her a valued contact. She ended up in hospital overnight and could so easily have had worse happen.

    The tipping point for me, and I think for other people including Keith C, was a couple of Tweets from Tomas Scheckter that could only really be read one way, given the silence from the circuit. But there was still a long, long time to wait for the news to be official.

    Shortly before it was announced, the TV cameras began to pick up shots of crew members from his previous teams with their heads in their hands, in tears. You had no excuse from there on for not realising what was coming. I sat here and felt physically sick.

    And then the news came and I was pitched into an immediate battle to keep our webserver up under the ghoulish traffic. I wrote a story, because when you’re a journalist by training all you can do is be professional in circumstances like these. But I had to post it as a flat text file and redirect all traffic to it via htaccess, before the server would stay up.

    I checked today. 16,000 hits on it. Sixteen thousand. Sometimes I hate people so much…