Racing lines: Welcoming Dario Franchitti back to motor racing

Dario Franchitti prepares to race

Dario Franchitti will return to racing at the Goodwood Revival

While Sir Jackie Stewart chose when to retire, Franchitti was forced into an early exit. Happily, though, he’s back this weekend

Sir Jackie Stewart retired from motor racing in 1973 aged 34, after eight years in Formula 1: 99 starts, 27 wins, three world titles – and most vitally he was still alive.

Stewart was his generation’s benchmark, he had nothing else to prove and never raced again. Sure, he could have returned, but in a deadly era he’d made a promise to his family, and with that famously heightened awareness of his own worth out of the cockpit, he didn’t need to. 

Most racing drivers find it tougher to walk away, especially those who perhaps didn’t achieve all they aimed for. But what’s harder is being forced to quit early, not on your own terms – usually because of injury.

 In 2013 Dario Franchitti, three-time Indy 500 winner and four-time Indycar champion, flew into a fence with frightening force at a street race in Houston. The back and ankle injuries were bad enough, but it was the hit on the head that was most serious. Doctors said another impact would be life-changing, that the risk was now too great. A glittering career was over. 

For a man who truly loved being a racing driver, Franchitti came to terms with his ‘ex’ status better than perhaps predicted. But he openly admitted he missed being able to ‘play’. For insurance reasons as much as his health, even historic racing outings were out of the question. He became a commentator for Formula E, enjoyed his growing car collection and settled into family life. 

But now, out of the blue, Franchitti is back. Doctors (and insurers) don’t usually change their mind, but the Scot has been cleared for the Goodwood Revival this weekend and will return to his element, in a priceless Ferrari 250 SWB in the Kinrara Trophy on Friday and an AC Cobra for the RAC Tourist Trophy Celebration on Sunday. 

“I really thought my racing days were behind me, but it is tough to give up something that has been a part of my life for so long and that I love so much,” he said. “Of course, this won’t mean a return to front-line competition (so no Indy 500 or Le Mans), but simply enjoying the sport I love as an amateur.” 

What he didn’t say was Goodwood has bitten him before. In 2006 the Sussex circuit’s unforgiving banks put him in hospital when he crashed a Jaguar E-type. It’ll be great to have him back, to see that big smile and glint in the eye as he climbs into the Ferrari – but we’ll all be crossing our fingers for him.

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Source: Autocar Online

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