I have deliberately waited until all the hubris has settled down on this matter as I wanted to see where we, as the motor racing community, and the world, ended up, after some serious knee jerk statements and noises appeared from across the spectrum.
What, or who, am I talking about? – Bill Monger and his life changing accident of course.
Unless you happened to be a short holiday to the other side of the galaxy then you will know that Billy Monger, a tipped 17 year old superstar in the making, had a monster crash on 16th April in the F4 race at Donington. After being trapped for 90 minutes before being released and then spending 3 weeks in hospital he unfortunately lost part of his lower legs.
During the time Billy was in an induced coma and also whilst still unaware of the seriousness of his injuries, the team he drove for, amongst many others, put up a Just Giving page looking to raise a sum for his rehabilitation after he left hospital. The aimed for figure was £260,000 – at the time of writing this the raised figure was a massive £823,743.
On the way to that huge number there has been worldwide media interest and many of his peers, F1 drivers and other motorsport participants along with 18000+ ordinary motorsport fans and general public, touched by his plight have donated; some large, some small, but all with heartfelt wishes.
In waiting to write about this I have seen calls for the banning of motorsport; anger that a “rich motor racing brat” has “picked up nearly a mill”, disabled groups hail Billy Whizz (for that is his nickname and twitter hashtag) for his courage and for raising disabled persons profiles and F1 change their rear safety light structure as a result of the investigation into Billy’s shunt. I have also heard of other charities wondering why they cant raise money at the same rate his JustGiving page did.
Let us take a look at these points; some controversial some less so but all relevant since Billy Monger was thrust into everyone’s living room by the “Evening News” but before we do I am really pleased to tell you that Billy is determined to race again and is out there, thanking all his supporters, both financial and just well wishers by getting out to events in a wheelchair and even driving a hand control Pit Buggy whilst there
Banning Motorsport – well, as ideas go it ranks alongside legislating that we should not drive on the roads or walk too close to the kerb so I don’t think that one needs any more discussion except to acknowledge that the insurance issue I keep rattling on about might have changed the profile of this case; Imagine if the poor chap whose car Billy hit, which was as close to static as makes no difference, had been held to blame for the accident and his insurance (if he had any) was required to pay out. Or worse, if he had no insurance, he would now be staring down the barrel of bankruptcy.
On the insurance subject – I wonder how many racers hold personal insurance for their sport or profession if the worst happens?
A “rich racing brat picking up a mill” – Billy has wonderful parents and sponsors who have seen talent, personality and the ability to go places and have worked tirelessly to start a career. A career that could have been cut short and left him in a difficult place but because of his determination, courage and upbringing will not be and that is why they have invested in him. No, this lad was not a monied brat but an ordinary lad with drive and skill and should be supported even more so now.
Whilst it is hugely unfortunate that Billy has been so badly hurt, the world is not fair and sh** happens. It is how one deals with adversity that is the mark of the person – and in this case, now that Billy is going to be considered disabled I would have thought, the various groups are rightly hailing him as an ambassador. It is my hope that BMSAD (British Motorsport Association for the Disabled) and Billy work together to raise the profile even higher for our great sport.
Often F1 and FIA seem to be heading in all directions but the sensible ones and for that they have been criticised in the past. On this occasion however, after reviewing a report of the accident (which I have yet to see but assume that in good time we will all have access to it), they immediately mandated a change to the rear light structures on F1 cars in the name of safety. A decision to be applauded and considered a little bit of good to come out of a bad situation.
Finally, certain charities and representatives of those charities, made comment that they would love to have giving at the same rate as the Billy Monger Just Giving page. There were also comments that this amount of money could help so many more people than just the one if it were shared around. What they failed to realise, or perhaps refuse to accept, is that the givers feel an affinity, an attachment and a warmth for the lad. Individually they have paid their £10, £5 or whatever they can afford or wish to give but as a whole it adds up to a considerable sum. The same happens with Children in Need or Red Nose Day – people feel empathy and need a focus before they will channel their giving into a particular pot – perhaps if they didn’t know this they could learn from it; or if they did then perhaps they should consider how it would work for them.
On the same subject, we are seeing many more charitable “sponsors” or reverse sponsors with space on our race cars – mine had a large local charity back in 2009 – How are they benefitting? Is it going well for them? Are they “earning” from the space given to them? I know that we worked very hard with events and launches and publicity at the race tracks and local areas for our charity and they came out of the year with us well ahead but it wasn’t a golden ticket for them and I wonder with so many more on car now whether everyone is doing as well as ours did?
Roger Grimshaw - NMA Tutor