09.08.2016

Manthey column: respect, respect, respect

There is this old saying, typical British and forthright: When the flag drops, the bullshit stops. If you want to translate this in a reasonable and elegant way, it would mean something like: When the flag drops, all theories and speculations have an end. Yet, there are not many races left for which the start signal is given with the flag. This particular wisdom, however, has still universal validity in motorsport. The only thing that matters is the sporting competition on the race track.

Over a period of time, I have now nevertheless noticed a phenomenon which should not at all happen on the race track. And in particular not at the Nordschleife. What I mean is that the manner in which certain race drivers from time to time behave in their race cars towards others out on the track does not comply with the standards and rules which stand for good and fair motorsport; morals decay – more and more.

There are drivers who deliberately block a faster competitor. Drivers who are pushing a slower competitor off the track. Drivers who just throw a competitor out. The methods used vary from doing so discretely and efficiently up to dirty and violently.

This phenomenon can also be observed in the VLN. It appears not only in situations where the drivers of faster cars approach cars from the smaller classes but also in the action within certain classes. In classes in which the cars have a rather balanced or even identical performance, like in the Cup classes.
To avoid any misunderstandings: Duels, battles amongst three or four cars … this is part of motorsport action; nobody wants to miss them, neither the fans nor the drivers. Nor me. Anybody who knows me will remember that I was none too squeamish during my time as active race driver. I did not evade any fight, I had wheel-to-wheel duels with my rivals, I rubbed off the stickers from their cars. We were pushing, shoving, jostling past each other; and when the action was heating up, there were collisions. But one thing never happened, despite all the toughness and pressure: We never pushed a competitor deliberately out of the race. We left them the room they needed to continue their race. Always following the motto: live and let live.

Okay, an out-braking manoeuvre may go wrong, an overtaking manoeuvre may fail and the rival ends up beside the track. Things which may happen and which happened to us as well. But in our time this was an exception and not the rule. But today it seems to be common practice for certain drivers to try squeezing into a space when there is no space, to push the car driving ahead into the meadow when there is none (and this is the case almost all over the Nordschleife). Always following the motto: Here I am coming and if you don’t pull off, I will force you off; I don’t mind where you will be landing, whether in the guardrails or, if things get really bad, beyond the guardrails.

I do not understand why the behaviour on the track has become so bad. Sure, engineering nowadays is more complicated, the cars are more powerful, the races have become more complex – and more transparent. The stress, whether external or internal, is high. And it is always about a lot of money. But these situations have always been existing, in each period of motorsport and for each race driver. What is clearly lacking today are three things: respect, respect, respect.

Each race driver in the VLN should show respect towards his competitors, respect towards the Nordschleife, respect towards motorsport. And he should always respect one golden rule: Always treat others as you would like to be treated. This traditional and common principle must be the underlying principle. Including the VLN series. In particular at the Nordschleife. We will then come back to a reasonable and fair behaviour on the race track. The hard-line, rude, dangerous fights, this bullshit, will then come to an end.