Idle Thoughts, November 93

Idle Thoughts by Pat Childs

I was watching television the other night, just looking for something to hold my interest before calling it a night. As I scanned through the channels I came upon what appeared to be some kind of showroom stock race car, surprisingly on the USA Network. After a few seconds of viewing, it was clear that it was an episode of Macgyver. You know, he's the guy who can make nitroglycerin out of three baby aspirin and a cup of tap water, not to mention being handy with a Swiss Army knife.

Anyway, the scene is of some sort of wild pit lane thrashing, in the rain. While our hero is busily sticking what appears to be a piece of paper onto the brake reservoir, probably to stop the huge cloud of smoke pouring from the engine, another guy is reaching under the back fender and cutting the brake line with a pair of side cuts. As the car tears out of the pits the track announcer frantically informs me that only minutes are left for qualifying, but our hero's driver looks like he's going to set a new track record. (Which must mean he's really good, since it's raining and he's just come out of the pits.)

Now the car is heading down the straightaway, windshield wipers wiping, spray flying off the tires. As the car approaches the curve the driver tries to brake, but only the rears seem to be working. (Hmmm, must be because the rear brake lines have been cut.) The announcer shrieks that something is wrong with his brakes and he's headed for the tire wall. Suddenly, there at the edge of the track, looms the dreaded tire wall. (Not an SCCA tire wall, but what appears to be a line of three stacks of five tires each, quite obviously hiding the ramp.) At the last second the car swerves into the end of this man made car killer and is suddenly launched skyward, doing some pretty cool barrel rolls as it comes crashing down to earth, finally landing on it's wheels. The driver is struggling to extricate himself from the crumpled wreck, when without warning, the windshield explodes into flame.

This little scenario took less than five minutes, but the entire show was fraught with this type of action. You're probably asking yourself why I didn't just change the channel. I guess I was just too curious and had to see what else would happen.

Now I know it's just a television show and it doesn't really mean diddley squat, but this kind of garbage annoys me. Why? Because there are alot of folks who watch this type of stuff and think that it's true to life. The thing that ticked me off the most was the inference that tire walls were threatening obstacles which are placed dangerously close to the racing surface, rather than safety barriers which are designed to absorb impact.

Why is it that when a movie or television features legal or medical matters they bring in advisors with expertise in these particular fields to insure accuracy, but they seem to be oblivious to accurately portraying motorsports and cars in general. "Days of Thunder" was supposed to be a true to life portrayal of what goes on in big time stock car racing, but something went wrong and it turned into crash filled soap opera somewhere along the line

Unless Hollywood gets its act together, I wouldn't expect to see anything of the quality of "LeMans" or even "Winning" in the future.