I, for one, welcome our female driver overlords.
April 20, 2008 7:14 PM   Subscribe

 
I don't even really follow racing that much, but I thought this was really awesome (especially the video – can't help but feel super happy for her and her family) and well deserved being mentioned here in the blue. Congrats to her and the team!
posted by patr1ck at 7:17 PM on April 20, 2008


I'm glad someone posted this. Awesome achievement.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:20 PM on April 20, 2008


Racecar spelled backwards is racecar. That is all I know about motorsports. Grats for Ms. Patrick. It can not be easy to drive the same loop over and over again faster than everyone else.
posted by vrakatar at 7:29 PM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


stay classy, vrakatar.

I'm not a big fan of motorsports. I'll admit that. But I recognize that these sorts of races are the direct descendants of races that have been going on for thousands of years; the chariot races in ancient Roman hippodromes had the same sort of strategies.

So there is clearly something fundamentally human about racing.
posted by Justinian at 7:34 PM on April 20, 2008


There's no crying in Racing either.

Jimmy Dugan: Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There's no crying! THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!
Doris Murphy: Why don't you give her a break, Jimmy...
Jimmy Dugan: Oh, you zip it, Doris! Rogers Hornsby was my manager, and he called me a talking pile of pigshit. And that was when my parents drove all the way down from Michigan to see me play the game. And did I cry?
Evelyn Gardner: No, no, no.
Jimmy Dugan: Yeah! NO. And do you know why?
Evelyn Gardner: No...
Jimmy Dugan: Because there's no crying in baseball. THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL! No crying!
posted by Gungho at 7:37 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just kidding. I love Danica. I just wish some NASCAR team would give her a REAL shot.
posted by Gungho at 7:39 PM on April 20, 2008


Wait for the "she only won because of fuel management, not because she had the fastest car" justifications to start.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:41 PM on April 20, 2008


But nowadays it's so much less about the racer and more about the car, the pit crew, the sponsors, etc.
posted by emelenjr at 7:41 PM on April 20, 2008


You know who else was more about the car, the pit crew, and was the sponsor? yeah
posted by b1tr0t at 7:46 PM on April 20, 2008


first! oblig. eponysterical :P

second, the nytimes calls it an "american sport," but isn't racing more international?
posted by kliuless at 8:06 PM on April 20, 2008


Gungho, do you believe NASCAR is a more authentic venue to test her skill? Both series are highly competitive.
posted by Exchequer at 8:07 PM on April 20, 2008


I totally had no idea how freaking difficult it is to drive a Formula One car until I watched Richard Hammond, an extremely experienced driver, try to do it on a recent episode of Top Gear.

I won't even try to explain it all, but watch the video. There are things to think about that never even crossed my mind.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 8:10 PM on April 20, 2008 [14 favorites]


Wait for the "she only won because of fuel management, not because she had the fastest car" justifications to start.

The "she's only good because she's smaller than us" justifications have already begun:

Robby Gordon, a former open-wheel driver who is scuffling as a driver and owner in the Nextel Cup series, announced that he would not return to the I.R.L. until all cars carried the same weight, saying that Patrick had an unfair edge.

It takes a special kind of athlete to compete while breaking long-standing, controversial barriers. She has handled herself with class her entire career. Way to go, Danica.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:11 PM on April 20, 2008


oic, i guess i was thinking formula one...
posted by kliuless at 8:11 PM on April 20, 2008


Motherly pride makes me go a big rubbery one.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:13 PM on April 20, 2008


I don't care about car racing, but as a woman, that was an emotional video for me. Rock on Danica!
posted by agregoli at 8:14 PM on April 20, 2008


"she only won because of fuel management, not because she had the fastest car"

Yeah, that's getting a bit old already. I don't know open wheel racing for shit, but if someone who does can explain how fuel management is not somehow as much a part of the game as working a pitch count in baseball or play calling in football I'd be interested to hear why it's not.

It can not be easy to drive the same loop over and over again faster than everyone else.

I'm sure you meant to add "while going two-hundred-ish miles per hour." Because you'd sound awfully silly if you didn't.
posted by Cyrano at 8:15 PM on April 20, 2008


Female race car drivers are the future, and yes weight is definitely an advantage. I say so be it.

Want to keep competitive? Go on a diet fatty.
posted by gnash at 8:16 PM on April 20, 2008


Fuzzy Skinner, you got that right.

I've driven an open wheel car on a tri-oval...I can assure you that the outside concrete wall is VERY intimidating at speed.
posted by Exchequer at 8:17 PM on April 20, 2008


If Danica's weight is such an advantage why don't we see drivers looking more like jockeys? Optimizing for the perfect weight should have been an organic process just as it was in horse racing.
posted by Justinian at 8:21 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Another day, another race, another woman wins. This time it's Simona de Silvestro.
posted by wensink at 8:21 PM on April 20, 2008


Cool, congrats to her. :)

In terms of the weight issue, it's the same as applies to jockeys of horses: you're looking for maximum skill with minimum weight. AFAIK about 10% of jockeys are women, which is a lot higher percentage than motorsport drivers.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:23 PM on April 20, 2008


I saw Simona De Silvestro win down at the Long Beach Grand Prix today. Congratulations to both women. Great stuff.
posted by phaedon at 8:29 PM on April 20, 2008


If Danica's weight is such an advantage why don't we see drivers looking more like jockeys?

Take a look at Christiano da Matta, probably weighs less than Danica.

I will never ever be able to get excited about IRL racing. Maybe I'm biased but the clunky barn-door-equipped IRL cars of the late 90s have coloured my perception of the series forever, and I just can't really ever respect anyone's achievements in that series. Milka Duno's performance in sports car racing still strikes me as more impressive than this.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:30 PM on April 20, 2008


Female race car drivers are the future

women are also better at driving monster trucks :P

cheers!
posted by kliuless at 8:33 PM on April 20, 2008


I guess I haven't watched an IndyCar race in a while... when did Jack Arute grow that awful beard?
posted by evilcolonel at 8:36 PM on April 20, 2008


Very exciting if you're into that sort of thing. But how much longer can this kind of sport go on when the world is growing more and more environmentally conscious and the cost of oil keeps climbing? I can't think of a sport with a bigger carbon footprint, though golf might be up there. I'm happy for this woman, but the sport itself seems to be some pretty conspicuous energy over-consumption.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:39 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


solar racing? fuel-efficiency (MPG) racing?
posted by kliuless at 8:42 PM on April 20, 2008


Ashely Force is most likely to be the next female driver to win a big race ('07Rookie-of-the Year in her series).

Irrespective of their gender, anyone who can manhandle nearly 8,000 horsepower has enourmous balls.
posted by Exchequer at 8:45 PM on April 20, 2008


"She'll never be called the Anna Kournikova of open wheel racing."
posted by Poolio at 8:46 PM on April 20, 2008


Robby Gordon, a former open-wheel driver who is scuffling as a driver and owner in the Nextel Cup series, announced that he would not return to the I.R.L. until all cars carried the same weight, saying that Patrick had an unfair edge.

Yeah, Robby Gordon is kind of the class clown of auto racing; frankly I find his act tiring. And to be honest, I find IRL tiring as well. Nevertheless, I think we can safely judge Danica Patrick as a driver instead of as a woman, and props on her first win.
posted by davejay at 9:06 PM on April 20, 2008


Very exciting if you're into that sort of thing. But how much longer can this kind of sport go on when the world is growing more and more environmentally conscious and the cost of oil keeps climbing? I can't think of a sport with a bigger carbon footprint, though golf might be up there. I'm happy for this woman, but the sport itself seems to be some pretty conspicuous energy over-consumption.

I think the nice thing about sports, even the ones I don't like, is that you can collect a small number of people together for a small amount of time who will do things that we, collectively, simply cannot do on a day-to-day basis.

Having said that, Radio Controlled Auto Racing (with battery-powered cars) has a pretty good formula: you get a fixed amount of time, and have to complete as many laps as possible. However, you have to do this on one battery pack, which is the equivalent of doing it on one tank of fuel -- which means using appropriate gearing and maximizing the use of the power you have. The goal is to get to the end of the race having completed more laps than anyone else, *and* run out of battery power as you cross the line -- that's how you know you got all the power that the car had to offer. That's really not all that different from endurance racing and some other motorsports.
posted by davejay at 9:11 PM on April 20, 2008


quick clarification on the RC racing thing: it has to be fixed time as well as most laps, because if it were just most laps the person running the longest gear with the most patience and consistency would always win -- but with fixed time on the menu, you have to use the power effectively within that window, and so you can't lay back.
posted by davejay at 9:13 PM on April 20, 2008


But how much longer can this kind of sport go on when the world is growing more and more environmentally conscious and the cost of oil keeps climbing? I can't think of a sport with a bigger carbon footprint

I defer you to a previous comment I made.
posted by spiderskull at 9:21 PM on April 20, 2008


Yay!
posted by caddis at 9:23 PM on April 20, 2008


I forsee the day when women will also be able to participate in the roles of waiters, and of butlers, perhaps even teach our children, but honestly, a woman driving a horse-less carriage? Unthinkable!

Also, I believe it was Plato that said, over two thousand years ago, that women can do a lot of things better than men, you should probably just get out of their way and let them do it.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:24 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Female race car drivers are the future

I'm afraid that is not at all true. It is not coincidence that there have been only a handful of women in formula one or any major racing series. In twenty years of racing, the only two woman driver that that I have seen that deserves to be there on merit alone, not just as the novelty girl, is Simona de Silvestro and (to a lesser extent) Katherine Legge. Simona is genuinely quick and doesn't rely on any 'I'm a girl in a man's world' horse shit, with glitzy airline magazine commercials. Nor, in fact, does Katherine. She just gets on and does it.

It has nothing at all to do with size. Weight, yes to an extent and you can usually ballast most of that out, but not size. But regardless, weight/size is not a factor if the skill isn't there. Justin Wilson is well over 6 foot, and possibly twice the weight of Danica and is a far more effective driver (albeit in Champ Car up until now). However, certain race series have less of an emphasis on skill than others - in IRL the set up and fuel strategy is a massive variable, and yes, for a reasonable level race driver driving around in circles REALLY isn't that hard. I'm pretty pleased Danica has done so well since saw her race first hand (1999/2000 in FVauxhall in the UK), but winning an IRL event has a LOT to do with which team you are with, and which strategy you run. Sooner or later, she was going to be in the right place at the right time - god knows she's not been short of opportunity.

However, the truth is she was never a particularly good racing driver when she was 16. Maybe she has learnt a lot, maybe she's just been in the right car at the right time. I hope it is the former. I certainly never saw a driver slightly better than average when she drove, and it is usually the natural talent that gets built on at that level. It'd be more than unusual to not show speed at that age yet work out how to drive fast later in life. It leads me to suspect that someone got lucky in IRL. It's just a shame that this whole 'FIRST WOMAN' business is clouding it. Danica did a great job of winning when the pressure was on. Who cares she is a girl? I think she did well, considering she's not exactly a stellar driver.

I can't think of a sport with a bigger carbon footprint

Oh please. The same sport is responsible for most of the fuel efficiency technology that powers your nice efficient road car. Nothing creates a development budget like racing, and your own car is exactly the thing benefiting. Golf has done nothing for anyone, save introduce a lot of alien species and fake looking grassy areas. At least racing gives something back (not including, oddly, any american racing series - they don't use any applicable technology in any cutting edge sense).
posted by Brockles at 9:28 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


She has handled herself with class her entire career. Way to go, Danica.

Oh my word. Publicly, yes. Mostly publicly, anyway. Man, the press doesn't seem to be all that interested in scandal about racing drivers in the US. I'm shocked.

/opens can of worms
posted by Brockles at 9:33 PM on April 20, 2008


I don't really watch any type of racing, so can someone please explain to me why the guy from ESPN is in a racing suit?
posted by Poolio at 10:01 PM on April 20, 2008


I assume because he reports from pit lane during and after the race, and you have to have a flameproof suit on to access some areas (due to the fuel present). I don't think it is an actual race suit as such, just a nomex suit that looks like one.

That or he's a vain dick that wants to pretend to be a racing driver...
posted by Brockles at 10:05 PM on April 20, 2008


umm let's not forget about this lady. She is, after all, a member of the international motor sports hall of fame
posted by HappyHippo at 10:27 PM on April 20, 2008


Congrats!

I bet the Fark thread has better pictures.
posted by furtive at 10:32 PM on April 20, 2008


Robby Gordon, a former open-wheel driver who is scuffling as a driver and owner in the Nextel Cup series, announced that he would not return to the I.R.L. until all cars carried the same weight, saying that Patrick had an unfair edge.

Hope he's not still complaining (the linked article was from 2005) because the IRL instituted new weight regulations designed to cancel out differences in driver weight, starting with this season.

It is not coincidence that there have been only a handful of women in formula one or any major racing series.

You can't make a statement like that and then not qualify it somehow. What's keeping women out of top-flight racing? Is it skill or ability or instinct? Or are there artificial structural barriers? If the IRL isn't good enough for you (and fair enough regarding team tactics, but then that should apply for all the drivers) how about the Dakar rally or Group B WRC (which was eventually banned for being too dangerous)? Once it happens often enough, women winning races in major racing series can't just be passed off as flukes.
posted by chrominance at 10:38 PM on April 20, 2008


Hildegarde:

Both Audi and Peugeot are going to be racing in LeMans this year with bio-diesel powered racecars. Auto racing has always been a platform for manufacturers to innovate, and I dont' see why auto racing cannot be used to perfect motors that use clean, renewable energy.
posted by gyc at 10:50 PM on April 20, 2008


And just to comment about the Danica hype. I imagine the hype around her is kind of like what the people in the UK felt with Lewis Hamilton last year.
posted by gyc at 10:54 PM on April 20, 2008


HappyHippo: umm let's not forget about this lady. She is, after all, a member of the international motor sports hall of fame

The first thing I thought of after hearing this was the quote in the middle of L7's Shirley:

"What's a beautiful girl like you doing racing in a place like this?"

"Winning."
posted by thanotopsis at 1:07 AM on April 21, 2008


second, the nytimes calls it an "american sport," but isn't racing more international?

Yes, but not IRL. It is an American racing league, little of which is ever seen or heard of outside the US. Europe has various other racing formulae that are more prominent. Hell, we even see far more about closed wheel racing like DTM and such than any of the US open wheel stuff.
Has to be said, IRL interests me less than Champ Car did before it's demise, as I prefer road tracks rather than ovals.

That said, heartiest congratulations to the woman. Great drive and well played team tactics.
posted by opsin at 3:35 AM on April 21, 2008


Having once again watched the above-linked video of Richard Hammond trying to drive a Formula One car, the other thing that struck me (besides the sheer physical and mental power needed to do so) is how tight that cockpit is! Hammond is a tiny dude (his nickname is Hamster) and he says in the video that it's very tight. Just the claustrophobia factor is enough to earn my respect, let alone trying to be focused and agile.

Also, when the crew looked over Hammond's info readout, they told him he was way too slow going from brake to throttle. It has to be instantaneous. "Too slow" meant he was taking a half-second.

I'm not a race fan by any means. But I am a fan of anyone who commits to their passion to succeed. From the stands, and the comfort of the living room, it's hard to appreciate how much skill it really takes.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 5:59 AM on April 21, 2008


I can't think of a sport with a bigger carbon footprint

That's ridiculous on two fronts.

First, IRL cars burn ethanol. Grow crops, extract sugar, ferment sugar. That ethanol.

Second, even if they did burn gasoline or petroleum-derived methanol, if you added up all of the fuel burned over the course of a race weekend it would be dwarfed, completely and utterly dwarfed, by fuel burned just by vehicles idling at stop lights while taking kids to play soccer that weekend.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:25 AM on April 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


1) w00t! Go Danica!
2) Driver skill and team management are at least equally important in winning races.
3) w00t!
4) Yay someone mentioned Michele Mouton!
5) w00t!
posted by Skorgu at 7:20 AM on April 21, 2008


Good for Danica, she finally got it right.

And as far as a few issues mentioned above ...

First off, weight is a huge issue in race cars, but since the IRL now weighs the driver with the car, Danica's weight advantage is no longer that. Ironically, Danica finally won after her weight advantage was removed.

Also, if you want to look at the environmental impact of sports look at football, for starters.

It takes more fuel to fly an NFL team from new York to LA than it takes for all 33 cars to compete in the Indy 500 - and that includes all practice & qualifying laps as well.

As a matter of fact, since car racing is THE R & D test bed for the direct applications of new technologies, car racing is the perfect arena to work out more efficient, less polluting forms of transportation.

The race commentator was wearing a "driver's suit" because they were in the pits, and the rules require that everyone in that area wear fire retardant suits for safety reasons.

Anyway, back to Danica ... Now that she's done it once, she needs to start winning a bunch and really starts scaring the boys, we can elevate her into Michele Mouton territory.
posted by Relay at 8:16 AM on April 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


The fact that everyone here knew, by name, and went off to hunt for links hardly defends the notion that women aren't good at racing. Being able to name most of the exceptional female drivers off the top of my head is great, but they are ALL of the exceptional women drivers. Michel Mouton was possibly the most impressive, but her achievements were only spectacular because it was a 'she'. Her results wouldn't even have caused comment if she was male, and you'd certainly not be remembering the name now. This doesn't make her a superb driver, it just makes her a superb female driver. And she's one example in 30 years in rallying. It's the same (but with less notable examples) in every other form of racing.

You can't make a statement like that and then not qualify it somehow. What's keeping women out of top-flight racing? Is it skill or ability or instinct?

Women simply aren't very good at it. Or, at least, the ones that try it aren't. It's not a case of being 'kept out of top flight racing' it's that there aren't any good female drivers out of the 10 (or less) currently in the ladder. They don't get to the top, or even the levels you see on the TV, because they suck - same as thousands of other male drivers. Throwing out one or two (even 20) examples from the last 30 years doesn't alter that. The percentage of good women drivers is miniscule to negligible.

As to why they aren't very many, I can only really comment on the ones that have tried. There may be good women drivers out there (although I doubt there are massive quantities), but nowhere near enough of them compete to be able to have a large enough catchment to let the really good ones be seen. It is a combination of desire (not enough women try it) and percentages. Many hundreds and thousands of boys do karting and lower formulae racing and work their arses off. Most go absolutely nowhere, many very talented drivers (much quicker than Danica Patrick, that's for sure) fall by the wayside due to lack of financial support before they get high enough to sustain themselves. The percentages may be the same - 2.5% of drivers are good enough to make it. Something of that ilk. But when only 3 women are driving in the lower ranks, that percentage suggests none of them are any good, which is usually the case.

The women drivers I have seen compare to drivers as a whole as follows:
Less aggression. Less focus. Not fit enough. Not enough desire to win. They lack sufficient strength to maintain delicacy of control when they are in the more physically demanding cars (ie anything much above karting and open wheel). They lack, like most of the male drivers it has to be said, that fine edge of instinct and talent that the truly good drivers have. This may be just the same style of step difference between all athletes, and why they continue to compete in different categories. I suspect it is. Racing drivers have to be athletes, and until women compete with men equally on that score, there will never be a significant number of good women drivers.


Also, when the crew looked over Hammond's info readout, they told him he was way too slow going from brake to throttle. It has to be instantaneous. "Too slow" meant he was taking a half-second.


Half a second is a chasm. It's the following day, in racing terms. I'd be slapping my drivers around for taking that long for that transition, and they are 15-17 years old. They need to go from full throttle to full brake within 0.2 seconds or they're losing time. Half a second is too long in ANY racing vehicle (from karts upwards).

And just to comment about the Danica hype. I imagine the hype around her is kind of like what the people in the UK felt with Lewis Hamilton last year.

No. Not at all. The hype around Danica is because she is a woman. The hype around Hamilton is not only because he is immensely talented, it is because he is British, and we get behind our drivers - sometimes not in a good way, but it is because he is good. Yes, there is a little bit of fuss about his skin colour, but it by no means has any bearing on anything for true racing fans - he is bloody quick in his own right. Danica isn't. She is an average racing driver for the level that has had immense opportunity to win (best team, best equipment, massive budgets) for a long time, and has finally managed to do it on a lucky/inspired/genius fuel strategy. With the kit she has, she should be winning every other week. All the hype around Danica is because she is a girl, unfortunately. Winning one race in three seasons in top equipment is not all that spectacular an achievement for a driver. It's only noteworthy because she is a girl, and so this "So, women CAN do it" hype is utterly misguided. I can think of many, many drivers that would have done more or better given the same seat Danica has had.
posted by Brockles at 8:21 AM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


It takes more fuel to fly an NFL team from new York to LA than it takes for all 33 cars to compete in the Indy 500 - and that includes all practice & qualifying laps as well.

That really doesn't work when you consider how many airmiles all the driver, mechanics and engineers (and families) have accrued getting to and from each race and test event, though. I'd quietly drop that analogy, if I was you!
posted by Brockles at 8:24 AM on April 21, 2008


Michel Mouton was possibly the most impressive, but her achievements were only spectacular because it was a 'she'. Her results wouldn't even have caused comment if she was male, and you'd certainly not be remembering the name now.

Yeah, cause beating guys like Walter Rohrl was so easy ...

Speaking of being out of your depth, Brockles ...
posted by Relay at 8:53 AM on April 21, 2008


Yeah, cause beating guys like Walter Rohrl was so easy ...

Well, plenty of people did it. The guy wasn't a god, he was just very very good. And she didn't beat him - he got the 1982 championship over her. That counts as 'lost' to me.

At WRC level she never won a championship. She won only one 4 events. She was on the podium 9 times in 50 events. That is (at best) 'pretty good'. Name me one male driver in all of rallying history that is famous for that kind of record.

Not got one?

There's a surprise. So all the hype is clearly about her talent, and not her sex, then. Don't get me wrong, Mouton was good (and I didn't suggest otherwise), and deserved to be there on talent alone (unlike some people mentioned in this thread) but she was certainly not a stunning rally driver in the Juha Kankunnen, Stig Blomqvist, Ari Vatanen, Walter Rorhl (and many others) vein. You probably only know of her because she is female, unless you are a serious die hard rally fan that has all the results memorised. Maybe if she'd driven longer she would have done better, but hell, she was in the dominant car of the era...

You were saying something about depth?
posted by Brockles at 9:21 AM on April 21, 2008


I'm not going to feed the discussion much more than this because I don't think either of us is going to change our minds, but essentially: the fact that there are so few female drivers in the sport, and yet there are a number who've been quite successful, is not to me an indication that women will never make it in the sport, but quite the opposite. Actually, it sounds a bit like we're making the same points but then making different arguments—I'd agree with you that we don't see a whole lot of good female drivers now because so few women bother to compete that the pool of talent is extremely small. But that's sort of like saying, well, fifty years ago there were practically no black men playing major league baseball, and so Jackie Robinson's performance was a fluke. Turned out it wasn't—you just had to get more black men in the sport to show they could play just as well as everyone else.

Michele Mouton isn't supposed to be proof that women are equals in the sport, because that's obviously untrue. She's supposed to be proof that women can compete on that level and have a decent amount of success, and that if more women take part in the sport, it isn't necessarily the case that they won't be as ambitious, or won't have the endurance to stay in the driver's seat for long races, or won't be as focused as men. Same thing with Danica Patrick—okay, she's not an amazing driver. But the flip side to that argument, or the argument that Mouton never won a WRC championship and therefore "lost," is why is it that because she's the most prominent woman in IRL, she has to be absolutely perfect in order to convince you that yeah, actually women can do it? Clearly lots of men have careers that are about as successful as hers, and yet no one questions their ability to be IRL drivers.
posted by chrominance at 10:29 AM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd agree with you that we don't see a whole lot of good female drivers now because so few women bother to compete that the pool of talent is extremely small. But that's sort of like saying, well, fifty years ago there were practically no black men playing major league baseball, and so Jackie Robinson's performance was a fluke.

I nearly made the analogy to black people in racing actually - they are astonishingly poorly represented, both in drivers and in personnel in the teams. There just seems to be no interest (I have no idea why) from black people in driving racing cars, even down at the karting level where there really are no limits as to who can compete (apart from money, as always). There are very few black race fans, and I can only think of a handful of black guys working in the teams that I can recall in twenty years of racing, and there really is no racist element or suggestion in the sort of racing I have done (European and US open wheel and sportscars). For some reason, there seems to be almost no interest in the sport for black people, but perhaps it is the same thing as soccer in the States - their national team sucked because no-one wanted to do it. Now the hype and interest is generated, more kids will (from a younger age) be wanting to play soccer, and so better soccer players will be found and the US will start to field a more competitive international side. At the moment, and in the past, the pool of soccer players was just too small to catch the true talent, as is the pool of female/black/asian/Arab racing drivers. I don't at all think that there are any racial influences on driving talent (other than cultural), but there may be some physical (again with the athletic analogy) issue that stop women competing equally in a very physical sport. Perhaps the importance of the physical element isn't apparent to people outside the industry, and so they discount the importance of it.

The difference between the race angle and the women angle is (and I didn't want it to look like I was making this a race issue) no-one is going gaga over Lewis Hamilton because he is coloured. They are going crazy over him because he is extremely good.

That is not the same thing with women racing drivers. In the greater scheme of things, there hasn't really been any good open wheel drivers, and only one good rally driver. Any achievement a woman makes in racing is instantly over-hyped when, from the position of someone who trains and assesses racing drivers for a living, they really aren't that good. I'd happily support a driver (ANY driver) that showed promise, and I'd happily run a female driver in one of my cars, but there just aren't any that are any good.

why is it that because she's the most prominent woman in IRL, she has to be absolutely perfect in order to convince you that yeah, actually women can do it?

I've never said they can't do it, just that they are not as good as the hype. They really aren't very good at racing cars - by which I mean the ones that have done it. If a male had the same chances as Danica Patrick (the same budget, team and equipment) no-one would give a shit that they won that race. In fact, they'd probably have hit an awful lot of bad press for taking so damn long, considering the potential around them.

There is every chance that, if they massively increased the amount of women drivers that enter motor racing, that there may be a notable proportion that can compete on equal terms. But the fact is, Danica is really not a spectacular driver, and I find it extremely unfair to the genuinely talented alternative drivers that haven't had the chances she has, when she only got those chances just because she's a girl. I get irritated when rich boys blow chances that could have made the career of better drivers, just because they could buy their way in to the seat. I get irritated that David Coulthard is still in a Formula one car when he is so rubbish - he couldn't even win any significant races when he was in a stunningly better car than the competition (the Williams). Yet he continues to get drives over much, much better drivers.

The bit that offends me about all this is using external hype (sex, skin colour, outside fame - non-talent related elements) that take away opportunities for genuinely good drivers. I don't give a rats arse what colour, gender, sexual persuasion they are, but I DO care that they got there on merit. Based on the results, there are possibly 10-20 better drivers that deserve Danica's seat more than she does. But she has got it because she is a girl. That's what bothers me. If she was genuinely fast, I'd be delighted. I'm pretty pleased for her anyway (she's a nice girl, after all) but the level of hype and ensuing "Women CAN be better than men at racing" bullshit just isn't deserved or warranted. Perhaps it isn't warranted yet, but regardless, there is a long, long way to go before there is any danger of women kicking men's arses with any sort of regularity in racing.
posted by Brockles at 11:03 AM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Clearly lots of men have careers that are about as successful as hers, and yet no one questions their ability to be IRL drivers.

But they do. Frequently. It just doesn't get in the mainstream press, so perhaps you just don't hear about it? '"So and so" of no particular note (just another guy, after all) not doing as well as perhaps he might in a good situation' isn't a good story. Those people exist all the time in racing and generally drift into the background and out of the sport. If they're not good enough, they deserve to.

To clarify, as I may be perhaps be looking harsh on her, Danica drove a good race. She did well on a very favourable fuel strategy that only one other front running driver was running. She did well, but that doesn't mean she is in any way a spectacular driver, and so is only getting the hype because she is a girl. That is not 'competing on equal terms'. If she was faster than the other guys, regularly beating her team mate and winning without a favourable strategy, then I'd join everyone crowing about her from the rooftops. Until then, she is just (to me) one more driver that was in the right place at the right time. It's more a statement about the competitiveness of IRL than any statement about women, from my perspective.
posted by Brockles at 11:10 AM on April 21, 2008


so is only getting the hype because she is a girl.

No, she is getting this hype because she won. She's the first woman to do so, which makes it a landmark win. That is how news works.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:50 PM on April 21, 2008


Yet you can't see the irony in your post.

No, she is getting this hype because she won. She's the first woman to do so

So every first time winner gets that sort of coverage, do they? Talk about completely missing the point...

Besides, I am also talking about the hype surrounding drivers like Danica generally. Yes, she is the first woman to win an IRL race, but all the rest of it as the Great Women's Hope is laughably not appropriate.
posted by Brockles at 2:05 PM on April 21, 2008


Watching huge packs of drivers run around like rats in a treadmill is only a little less boring than watching two drivers run in a straight line. American motor racing is as dumb as a sack of rocks and the only way they can juice it up is to inject a melodramatic narrative like professional wrestling does.

Thanks, Brockles for adding more useful light than waste heat to the discussion.
posted by Huplescat at 3:18 PM on April 21, 2008


How does a race held in Japan indict American motor racing?
posted by Exchequer at 3:48 PM on April 21, 2008


It was and IRL race. Last I heard Indiannapolis is not a city in Japan.
posted by Huplescat at 3:59 PM on April 21, 2008


Interesting perspective from Brockles. He is making an argument so un-sexist (based solely on 'objective' merit) that it comes off as exactly the opposite. While I admittedly don't know anything about racing, I don't find anything in Brockles' points to disagree with. However, I think it still stands that within the context of women's sports, it's still a worthy achievement to be recognized. Just because a man who won that race wouldn't have been recognized in a similar fashion is besides the point. The story is that this is the first woman to win an IRL event: no more no less. I don't think anyone is saying she's the best racer out there or this signals the beginning of her reign of dominance, just that she's the first woman to do something.

Put it another way Brockles, if she were the first woman to climb Everest or do something in some other sport you weren't so invested in, wouldn't you agree it was worthy of some coverage? I agree it's a little out of proportion to the achievement in this case, but isn't everything on the news nowadays?
posted by rooftop secrets at 5:34 PM on April 21, 2008


ack, should have proofread. sorry for some awkward sentences there.
posted by rooftop secrets at 5:35 PM on April 21, 2008


It's absolutely worthy. I don't think someone of the dominant sex class in the world could understand enough how deeply these victories matter. If only because women long for the day when "the first woman to do blank" ISN'T news. Here's another one knocked out, thanks, Danica!
posted by agregoli at 5:53 PM on April 21, 2008


Huplescat, what's your favorite racing series? Formula 1? How much passing is there in Formula 1? Doesn't the pole sitter almost always win the race, unless he/she screws up?
posted by netbros at 6:43 PM on April 21, 2008


Put it another way Brockles, if she were the first woman to climb Everest or do something in some other sport you weren't so invested in, wouldn't you agree it was worthy of some coverage? I agree it's a little out of proportion to the achievement in this case,

Some, yes, but as you say, not to this extent. Besides, that is someone primarily beating the elements - a purely physical challenge from the position of one who is not as effective physically as the person that did it before. Not directly beating men. Only if they had climbed Everest first, perhaps, would there be any suggestion of potential equality. But in this instance, it is totally overplaying the issue. Especially when that coverage, and the ensuing reaction (including here) stems from "look a WOMAN did it! NOW they're equal to the men!!!" when that is patently not reflected in reality just hits up my equality-alarm. Either people accept it IS an achievement for a woman to win in an utterly male dominated sport (through perhaps nothing other than physical superiority alone), or they should shut up and stick to the 'we can compete as equals' mantra and not make such a fuss about the occasion. You can't have both being true, and the hype that has surrounded Danica in particular (and I have followed her career for nigh on ten years) always does exactly that. One minute it is "Look! A GIRL! In a RACING car!!!!!!!11111", then there is complaining that she doesn't get treated equally - sometimes in the same month as she has a Sports Illustrated photo shoot in her under-crackers... Talk about playing both sides of the coin.

Yes, it's an achievement. But making it so, when there is no barrier other than ability to getting in a racing car, implicitly suggests that women are not equal to men in that regard. Women find it much easier to get financial support for racing, which is the main hurdle (after ability and talent) to getting in. I suspect that the physical element of racing will mean that a disproportionately small percentage of women will be able to compete equally - much as is reflected in other physical sports. It's just, maybe, that a lot of people have no idea at all how physical racing actually is. That isn't (thank you for acknowledging that) any more sexist than saying Male and Female decathletes cannot compete equally.

I don't think someone of the dominant sex class in the world could understand enough how deeply these victories matter.

It's not, as I say, that it doesn't matter so much. It's when it is then used to suggest "Now we're on a level playing field!" bit, with absolutely no evidence to support that that bothers me. We have two different sides here, I think - one I am annoyed with (the 'we're equal' crowd), and the other that is defending (the 'against the odds' crowd), I guess.

So, yeah. It's the duality of the coverage that offends me. And (as rooftop secrets suspects) I can't see past an average driver winning a race through inspired strategy, long after any decent driver would have won in the same car and team on purely their own merits. But hey, I just see a driver, I think. One getting massive amounts of coverage and lauding that is way more than they deserve in a purely analytical sense.
posted by Brockles at 6:48 PM on April 21, 2008


How much passing is there in Formula 1? Doesn't the pole sitter almost always win the race, unless he/she screws up?

Some years, yes. Some years very much not. It depends on the relative strength of the teams for that year/period. I know where you are going, but F1 is significantly more demanding in every respect (many times over) than IRL. IRL falls just inside the 'racing as purely entertainment' category (with some tech included). The fact that fuel is such a massive window - and development to make more fuel efficient engines is essentially prevented - means that it moves to the position of being an artificial wild card designed to produce precisely the 'excitement' you see referred to here.

Limiting development is one thing in racing. Stopping it and adding 'random factors' that stop drivers and cars pushing themselves to the limit dilutes the sport, for me and many others. Lots of cars driving past each other at different points in their fuel window are essentially running different races - they are competing against a mathematical model, not the other driver.
posted by Brockles at 6:54 PM on April 21, 2008


Brockles, your comments seem a little misplaced, perhaps even pointlessly mean-spirited, in a thread that aims to discuss a race that Danica actually won.

You write: Based on the results, there are possibly 10-20 better drivers that deserve Danica's seat more than she does. So you would prefer her not to race, in favor of any of a number of male drivers. You also suggest, however dubiously, that you would be happy to support a female driver who ranks with the best of the men, but that she doesn't currently exist, and possibly never will. How do you suppose such a fully-formed female driver would come to exist? What could we do to enable her future existence? Conversely, what could we do to prevent it? To discourage it, in large and small ways? To make it seem, to any girl who lays eyes on your comments, like a goal not even worth pursuing?
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 7:29 PM on April 21, 2008


a thread that aims to discuss a race that Danica actually won.

My comments are meant to cast an element of realism on some of the reaction, both here and in the press, that has been around this driver and this event.

So you would prefer her not to race, in favor of any of a number of male drivers.

This is NOT about gender. I'd prefer her to race, of course, but not necessarily at the expense of better drivers who would have made better use of the resources she had at her disposal. The concept of racing is about putting the best possible package together - best team, best fuel, best engine, best chassis, best mechanics, best engineer... and best driver. In this instance the fact that the driver is female (and the media coverage available from that fact) has trumped the core point of racing. Put the best driver in the car - I don't care if they are female, blue, black, white, hispanic, single cell organisms, alien, or disabled. I do object to so much lauding and fuss over a driver without perspective - she has done very well for herself, but is no superstar (as a driver) and I object to some of the extraneous noise around that fact - that she is the new breed of female super-driver. She isn't.

You also suggest, however dubiously, that you would be happy to support a female driver who ranks with the best of the men,

I don't really care how dubious you think it is. I speak honestly. I supported Danica when she was much younger. But I didn't blow smoke up her backside and suggest she was the second coming. I think it's great she's done so well, especially considering her level of talent. It was only when that talent is being exaggerated that I felt the need to comment.

What could we do to enable her future existence?

Get more women to drive racing cars, Then let the good ones shine through. With a greater field of women drivers there is more chance of finding a genuinely talented one. Then make a fuss of THEM. Not just the first one to be in the right place at the right time.

Conversely, what could we do to prevent it? To discourage it, in large and small ways? To make it seem, to any girl who lays eyes on your comments, like a goal not even worth pursuing?

Is that all you see? Oh well. Maybe try reading again, and perhaps learning about the psyche of a successful racing driver. It's really hard for women to succeed in racing. Mainly because they usually aren't good enough (those that have tried). The sort of determination that will see that and go "FUCK YOU! I'll show you" is precisely the sort of character that has a chance of shaking that particular tree. If a driver needs a little encouragement, or positive reinforcement, then they've already lost. They're already too weak.
posted by Brockles at 8:08 PM on April 21, 2008


My comments are meant to cast an element of realism on some of the reaction, both here and in the press, that has been around this driver and this event.

I do object to so much lauding and fuss over a driver without perspective - she has done very well for herself, but is no superstar (as a driver) and I object to some of the extraneous noise around that fact - that she is the new breed of female super-driver. She isn't.


The thing is, I don't see many wild claims about Danica's gifts being thrown around in this thread at all. I see a number of people who are happy for her, who are glad to see her finally win a race. Maybe you can point to a few of the comments that you took particular issue with?
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 8:19 PM on April 21, 2008


P.S. I think you misread my "dubiously" comment--I wasn't casting aspersions on your own honesty, I was saying that you yourself seemed to be dubious about the eventual possibility of female racers who rank with men.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 8:26 PM on April 21, 2008


The thing is, I don't see many wild claims about Danica's gifts being thrown around in this thread at all.

I didn't realise that discussions and opinions needed to be restricted solely to involving the content of the post on metafilter. I thought I made it clear I was referring to the hype around Danica in general, although "Female drivers are the future' is the comment I was initially provoked into responding to. I even quoted it. I'm happy for her, too. I have even said as such repeatedly. The hype in the press about her is that which offends me, as is the nature of her retaining a drive when much more suitable candidates fall by the wayside. It's not a perfect world - there are only so many seats to go around - but I'd like the fastest and best drivers to be rewarded first, Irrespective of gender.

P.S. I think you misread my "dubiously" comment

Hmmm.

"You also suggest, however dubiously, that..."

I think it is more a case of bad syntax or phrasing on your part, actually, if that was not your intended inference. Perhaps you meant to use another word, as the direct indication in your statement is that my suggestion is dubious, not some extrapolated meaning within it. Hence my rebuttal. Putting 'dubiously' after 'support' would have worked for your intended meaning, I guess.

But yes, based on my experience, I do doubt that women can compete equally with men in motor racing. There is a hope that my experience is not representative of the capability of women in competitive driving, but that is pretty unlikely in my mind. I'm open to the possibility though. 'Dubious' is not the word best used to describe my position at all. Perhaps 'pessimistic' is closer.
posted by Brockles at 8:46 PM on April 21, 2008


I'm employing the second meaning in your linked definition. Try substituting the word "doubtful" in my sentence; it might parse better for you. "Doubtfully" modifies "suggest."
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 8:59 PM on April 21, 2008


The fark thread just reconfirms to me why I don't read fark anymore.

I've got my own issues and gender-stereotyping problems, but some of those guys are just mindblowingly disturbing.

I like to imagine that things aren't like that for women on a daily basis, but then I read things like that comments page and I feel really icky inside. is it always like that? I mean, holy shit.

Is that what all those guys are thinking all the time, just not *saying* ? is that at all representative of the whole gender? I hope not.
posted by EricGjerde at 10:55 PM on April 21, 2008


I'd prefer her to race, of course, but not necessarily at the expense of better drivers who would have made better use of the resources she had at her disposal.

Yeah it would have been cool to see someone do better than first place!
posted by subclub at 8:39 AM on April 22, 2008


Like winning a championship? Or perhaps not taking several years to get that win?
posted by Brockles at 10:04 AM on April 22, 2008


I (I'm a woman) roadraced motorcycles in WERA for several years. I was never stunningly good - a midpacker, usually, but I did well enough to get some sponsorships and to be taken seriously by the men. At the time, I was the only woman racing in any of my classes in my region. I don't have numbers on this, I'd be surprised of 1% of WERA racers are women.

Nobody knows for sure why women are so underrepresented, but I've always thought that it's sort of like the sales funnel. A store sends out 1000 direct mail flyers. From that, 50 people come in the store. From that, 10 people are serious about buying. From that, 1 person has the money or credit to actually buy. Now imagine that we're talking about motorcyclists (or sports car enthusiasts). There just aren't that many women in the funnel to start with, so the odds of finding the one who is a female Michael Schumacher are astronomical.
posted by workerant at 4:51 PM on April 22, 2008


Justinian writes "If Danica's weight is such an advantage why don't we see drivers looking more like jockeys? Optimizing for the perfect weight should have been an organic process just as it was in horse racing."

Both mass and physical size are selected for in racing. Take a look at the drivers in any top series that doesn't weigh the cars with the driver; the average driver is noticeably below average in mass and dimensions. It goes all the way back to karting where a few pounds make a big difference. The smaller kids are successful and therefor keep with it.

Powerful Religious Baby writes "I was saying that you yourself seemed to be dubious about the eventual possibility of female racers who rank with men."

I know I am in the same way I'm dubious of Women ranking with Men in the Olympic 100m Dash, Decathlon or Singles Skating because contrary to popular belief racing is physically demanding.
posted by Mitheral at 7:01 PM on April 23, 2008


Both mass and physical size are selected for in racing.

This is not in any way true. It is never a consideration.

Besides, which 'top series' can you name where there is no ballast contingent in the regulation?

The smaller kids are successful...

This advantage is eroded the second they step out of karts. All the ladder formulae above karts have significant ballast available to reduce weight advantage.
posted by Brockles at 7:08 PM on April 23, 2008


I didn't mean selected as in managers are checking a box, rather a more evolutionary selection pressure. I think it's self evident that guys with stature like William "the Fridge" Perry or Shaquille O'Neal, both probably at least above average fitness wise, aren't going to driving a F1 car anytime soon. If only because of the need to fit in the seat.

And WRC, the only motorsport whose rules I know even a smidge about, doesn't make any allowance for the mass of the driver or the codriver. With a minimum car mass of only 1230 Kg a portly driver team could add up to 1% to the mass of the car relative to other teams.
posted by Mitheral at 1:27 PM on April 24, 2008


Rallying is, incidentally, one of the sports where weight is less critical (within racing). The variable from driving style is significantly higher.

Justin Wilson has no trouble driving a Champ Car (although, admittedly, he was too tall for formula one). Williams even made a larger chassis to accommodate Nigel Mansell's fat arse at one stage.

But yes, most drivers are smaller. I've not seen many that try it that are big, actually. One of my current drivers is 6 foot (and 17) so we'll see how that goes...
posted by Brockles at 2:52 PM on April 24, 2008


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