Originally posted by TrackDog
After reading this post, I'm reminded of something I read several years ago in a magazine regarding watching a race live versus viewing it on television. It holds true in my experience, as well. I haven't seen the film in question, but I feel I have to offer a couple of caveats.
Television, or any film media, film, videoptape, etc..; has a tendency to flatten perspective. From the perch of a camera stationed above or away from the action, nobody really sees the half-shafts bouncing up and down, they don't see the exhaust smoke or the dripping oil...unless there's an in-car camera; and sometimes even they don't capture all the action. What we see, due to the limits of our technology, is always a somewhat sterile image.
I remember seeing Dave MacDonald's qualifying run on local TV, and it seemed to be as ordinary as any other run...if there were any handling problems, I couldn't detect them. Of course, I was only 9 years old, and I didn't know what to look for; but his run looked just like the others to me. There was no obvious handling difficulty visible to me in my living room.
The point I'm trying to make is that as viewers, we're not at eye level with the action we're seeing. We don't know what to look for to determine just how much difficulty a driver might be having with a car. There might be subtle clues that an experienced driver would pick up on that we'd just never see. Just how hard was Dave working to control that car? Were his arms flailing about in the cockpit? I v'e seen pictures of him in stock cars that show him moving around in the car quite a bit...that was evidently his style; but did it foreshadow a struggle to hold the car on the racing line, or was it just his way? Dave was an unknown at Indy, not many drivers knew what to make of his manner behind the wheel.
He was evidently drifting through the turns, and the camera might not have been able to pick this up, at least not to the degree of which it might have been happening. He was at least 10 mph faster coming off the fourth turn on that fateful lap as Walt Hansgen; to the camera, this speed difference might not look like much... it depends on angle and perspective.
Several drivers who were there, who were passed by MacDonald, have stated that he was driving too aggressively, and that the car was not handling properly. Dick Rathmann stated that Dave "cut him off"; Johnny Rutherford has stated many times that Dave's car was very skittish and that he was driving very aggressively; Len Sutton commented on how MacDonald cut in front of him in the short chute between turns three and four just before the crash, and how he dove underneath Walt Hansgen coming off the fourth turn, evidently in Hansgen's blind spot. Other reports have MacDonald banging wheels with another car on the first lap. Even Peter Bryant stated in his book that Dave was too impatient, too anxious to lead the race, and that led to his death. This was the prevailing opinion of the other drivers, as well.
These men were all professionals; their standards were very high, margin for error was nil...no place for emotions. Their reflexes and visual acuity are phenomenal. They drive with an eye on what's happening far ahead of them, and they have to be able to anticipate any potential trauma that might happen in front of them; so they were very observant...and they were probably picking up on things that we, or even the camera might not be able to ever notice.
Racing can be a game of fractions of a second and inches...Art Pollard was apparently about six inches off his apex in the first turn at Indy in 1973, and it killed him. At least, that's what I read another driver who was behind him say...the camera can't pick that up.
I'm sorry, but I remain unconvinced that Dave MacDonald wasn't driving over his head that day...there's just too much evidence to the contrary. He was probably driving his heart out; to the best of his ability[which was considerable...]. The car was a mess, the track unfamiliar and his career was on the line. He was trying to make the best of a nearly impossible situation.
Maybe he was just trying too hard.
The problem with the statements made by drivers about what happened is that (as is natable within this thread already) they made statements that were taken for granted ever since eventhough the facts proved them to be wrong: the 100 gallon fuel capacity that the cars involved were supposed to have being the most upsetting one.
Now I don't believe in a conspiracy that all drivers involved decided on putting the blame altogheter on Dave for whatever reason. But it is indeed telling that almost everyone isn't too positive on Dave's race as long at it lasted. On purpose, or simply because it is was indeed the undeniable reality.
Another point may well be how much press and what kind of press coverage there was before the accident. Was a lot about what happened before already being printed before the accident or not? For example, had Masten Gregory's comments being published before the accident? How many negative comments about what happened before the race were known and public before? These give, in my opinion a more objective view on the situation then the things told/written after may 30, 1964. By then it is always something of an afterthought, brought up because of....
By the way, this is no attack on everyone who critisized Dave after the accident. But Historic Mustang asks for objective research on this subject and I hereby give an idea about what I think to be more objective if it comes to negative comments about Dave by who-ever.
Many outspoken negative comments in print before the race carry much more credibility then when made after the race.
But it looks to me that in the aftermath too less of the truth has been published and made publc so the "legends" around the accident could live on. Probably because nobody cared too much about it, it didn't bring Eddie and/or Dave back, and their careers could not be resued anymore to their benefits, save for their memories. And the sooner this drama was forgotten or not mentioned anymore, the better. Now this additute may well have worked very much against, in particularly Dave.
I haven't seen the film mentioned by Russ, would like to see it. From the more unfamililar films I only saw the release by First Turn Productions. And somewhere, buried with this thread (when discussing the footage of this film) is my observation that, in one frame, as far as I can see, you can see a car almost breaking out and loose control. And when I have counted correctly, that was Dave's car that made the sidestep. And in that case...
I could not read the book but Pete Bryants but I finally saw it and flipped throught the section. I was surprised to see a picture of Dave's car after the accident and on first sight it appeared to be not is such a terrible shape for a car being T-boned by another car at high speed. I had expected much worse than that.