The “Black Dog” races too

You might think race drivers, crew and officials are all super happy, outgoing and well-adjusted people, without a care in the world and loads of self-esteem. But what if I told you there are experienced drivers who have nerves so bad they will throw up before each meeting, and crew members who are so terrified of the media, they will hide in the trailer.

Ask a driver for their autograph or a photo, and they’ll be surprised you think they are worthy. Most competitors don’t see themselves as an attraction, they’re just going out there to have some fun.

But what if the “Black Dog” turns up at the race track?

Depression and anxiety, nicknamed the “Black Dog”, is an illness that doesn’t care if you have a car to tune, or a practice pass to get done. It doesn’t know if you’re a group one or group four racer. And it doesn’t check your race schedule before presenting you with an anxiety attack, that leaves you a quivering and shaking mess, unable to leave your trailer. I actually saw a driver have an attack while in the staging lanes, strapped into their high horsepower car, suddenly questioning why they were doing this crazy sport at all. I watched her crew continue to prep the car as though everything was normal, while I sat in her open door, talking to her calmly until she regained control. Even knowing she didn’t have to go out on track, deep down she still needed to, and had to fight through all the negative thoughts in her head, to do it.

The best thing about motorsport, is that we are a family. When we see someone struggling, whether it’s with an anxiety attack, simple nerves, or a broken engine, the community comes together to help out, support and encourage.

So next time you see your favourite race driver or engine tuner, give them a thumbs up. Wave to the whole team as they head back down the return road, and don’t be afraid to ask for an autograph. And if the driver is hiding in their trailer, or isn’t super friendly, just smile with some understanding that they might just be doing it a little tough, and try again later once they’ve put a leash on that “Black Dog”.