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Surtees Jr perishes chasing the dream

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Surtees Jr perishes chasing the dream
Jul 20, 2009, 10:22 AM

It is ironic that as one 19 year old is given his big break into Formula 1, news comes through of an 18 year old who died in pursuit of that same d...

It is ironic that as one 19 year old is given his big break into Formula 1, news comes through of an 18 year old who died in pursuit of that same dream, while racing in Formula 2.

The death of Henry Surtees, the son of 1964 world champion John, has rocked the motor sport community.

Surtees died on Sunday following a freak accident at Brands Hatch where he was hit on the head by a loose wheel, which had been knocked off the car of Jack Clarke, stepson of F1 racer Julian Bailey. Clarke  had spun and hit the barriers, causing the wheel to detach.

Loose wheels have been a hot safety topic in F1 for many years, with wheel tethers being used with varying degrees of success. F1 specification wheel tethers are used on the F2 cars, but the impact was high speed and at an angle.

F2 is essentially a new category with new cars this year. It has been revived by Jonathan Palmer  and the FIA, who got together with Williams F1, the designer and builder of the car.

The series features some exciting up and coming talents and is notable for a club of  "sons of" F1 drivers of the past, who have all been taking steps along the road to emulating their famous fathers.  Along with Surtees and Bailey, there is Alex Brundle, son of my  colleague Martin and Jolyon Palmer, son of series founder Jonathan.

One can only imagine what must be going through their and their families' minds. In their day motor sport was far more dangerous than today and many of them lost close friends during their careers.

Although the cars are faster now, the safety features built into them are massively superior. Many of these racing Dads got their sons through karting and felt comfortable with the idea of encouraging them to progress through single seaters, pursuing the dream of emulating them and becoming F1 drivers.

This incident is a tragic reminder that you can never make racing completely safe and never believe that you are close to doing so.

My thoughts are with the Surtees family and the F2 community.
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