THE EDITOR IS SPEED STILL RELEVANT?
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(ABOVE) Danny Thompson with his father, Mickey, at the
Bonneville Salt Flats in 1968. Almost 50 years later, Danny’s
tireless efforts have put the same Challenger 2 on the verge
of the wheel-driven land speed record that eluded Mickey.
In May 2015, the
likelihood of James
with RACER ’s Mark
(ABOVE) about his
to IndyCar in ’ 16
ust how important is speed?
For IndyCar and NASCAR, the official
line is that speed still has meaning and
relevance, but not to the detriment of the
quality of the racing, or safety.
Seems reasonable enough, and in the
case of the Verizon IndyCar Series and
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it doesn’t
close the door on someone finally
breaking Arie Luyendyk’s 237.498mph
single-lap record or 236.986mph
four-lap average, both set more than two
decades ago in May 1996. But as Mark
Glendenning notes in the cover feature of
RACER ’s Speed Issue, it’s not something
that’s being actively pursued. The bottom
line? If it happens, it happens.
Sure, the frisson of excitement that
comes from drivers genuinely tilting at
record speeds is part of IndyCar’s DNA,
but if the alternative is the caliber of
racing we’ve seen at the Indianapolis 500
in recent years, or Texas Motor
Speedway’s August re-run, trading in
10mph doesn’t seem such a bad deal.
Contrast that with Formula 1’s plan to
make its cars significantly faster next year
– as in, four to five seconds a lap faster.
It’s an impressive leap in performance
and yet, as Mark Hughes puts it in his
analysis of the 2017 technical changes,
isn’t it answering the wrong question?
Aren’t quicker lap times just smoke and
mirrors, while the real question remains
largely unanswered: how does F1
improve the racing and move beyond the
tire-conserving, strategy-thons that it’s
currently defined by?
But don’t get us wrong, we love speed
and the untrammeled pursuit of it, which
is why Bloodhound SSC and its target of
1,000mph – on the ground – resonates so
much. Same goes for Danny Thompson’s
single-minded pursuit of the wheel-driven
land speed record his father, Mickey, came
tantalizingly close to almost 50 years ago.
So just how important is speed? Ask
Danny. For him, it’s everything.
“How important is speed?
Ask Danny Thompson.
For him, it’s everything”