Life is measured in achievement, not in years alone.
Some of you who are reading this may not know who Dan Wheldon is. For those of you who do, you are the true motorsport fans.
Dan was an English motorsport racer who was sadly killed in a crash at IndyCar’s final event of the season in Las Vegas yesterday at the age of 33, leaving behind his wife and two sons, aged 2 and 7 months.
He was a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 - considered one of the three biggest races in the world, alongside the Formula One Monaco GP and the Le Mans 24 Hour Race. He first won that race in 2005, the same year he would go on to win the championship in IndyCar. Bigger racing series wanted him, including Formula One.
He elected to stay where he was for the remainder of his career - in IndyCar. He turned down the chance to be one of the biggest names in the World, to become one of the biggest stars, to earn the biggest bucks, to stay where his friends were. That tells you a little about his personality.
Such can life be cruel, that Wheldon - despite being one of the most successful IndyCar drivers in the past few years - did not have a full-time race seat for this year because he was unable to get the backing and sponsors he needed. The race in Las Vegas was only his third of the season.
And yet, despite this, he still won this year’s Indianapolis 500 too. Albeit in freak circumstances, but he did the job.
Dan Wheldon could’ve been a superstar in the biggest of all leagues, fighting alongside the likes of Jenson Button like he did in their early days - and he elected to stay amongst friends and family, which you can only give the ultimate respect for. Dan is easily the greatest Englishman in motorsport to have never gone to Formula One. And it was by choice.
And today, a community from around the World has come together to mourn the loss of such a great talent. Through the advancements of technology, we are all able to share our own thoughts, opinions and memories in such a difficult time.
We didn’t have Twitter in ‘94. Today it is helping us cope with this tragic loss. Together. Everywhere.
@charlie_whiting (Fake Charlie Whiting) on Twitter
It serves as a very true fact however. The World mourned the loss of Ayrton Senna, separated. We couldn’t come together then through mediums like Twitter or Facebook, but now we can.
Dan Wheldon was the top trend in the UK on Twitter following his death. A man in a racing league which doesn’t even get aired on mainstream TV in this country, respected by so many.
Hope that what happened in Vegas today becomes IRL’s “Senna” watershed. Technology, tracks & reprioritising what’s important worked in #F1
@MarkGallagher62 on Twitter
Many people - myself included - will see the likes of IRL and NASCAR and say “Oh, it’s just racing in ovals”. In reality, it is. But the data from the crash shows how these tracks too can do with improving and making them safer. Wheldon made contact with the car that launched him in the air at 222MPH. This was going round the corner. Not even F1 can pull cornering speeds like that. His car’s roll hoop wasn’t even on the car when marshalls got to him - without that, a car upside down or flipping can seriously injure a driver’s head/neck. One can’t naturally presume this was the cause of his death, but it sure won’t have helped.
When Senna died in 1994, changes were made in F1 instantly. Chicanes were instantly put in place in San Marino to slow cars down (the first of which where Senna ultimately died), and the Spanish GP that followed Formula One’s darkest weekend made changes to the circuit before the paddock could even make it there. With pushes for safety in F1 by Max Mosley and Michael Schumacher, injuries happened, but no driver fatalities have ever occurred since the Brazilian’s death at Imola nearly 20 years ago.
For IndyCar, this is the first driver fatality in five years. In a sport where safety has improved leaps and bounds over the last few decades, things like this shouldn’t still be happening, but sadly yesterday, another star talent was lost.
May Dan Wheldon rest in peace.
Dan Wheldon reminds us that motor racing remains almost the only sport in which death is the highest price.
@easonF1 (Kevin Eason) on Twitter