Life lessons racing has taught me #1 Risk & Reward

Yes, well, after last week’s – in retrospect – rather self-indulgent rant about the state of Motorsport NZ’s media awards programme and examples drawn from my own experience, some of you are no doubt thinking (indeed, wishing!) that I’d run out of anecdotes.

To which all I can say is a passionate ‘Pah!

I was just thinking the other day, for instance, about the number of ‘life lessons’ I have learned over the years ‘at the track’ and when I had fairly easily got to 10 figured that there was a ‘column in it.’

This time though – rather than simply letting the yarn run on (and on) I’m going to try and keep it to 750 words – the de facto ‘international standard, apparently, for ‘opinion’ pieces like this one.

So here goes.

1/ Risk and Reward.

If there is one key tenet by which I now live my life by – and which I would never have got even close to working out had I not started car racing, and specifically joined the Protect South Island Mazda RX7 Series when I did – it is this one. 

South Island Mazda RX7 field

Despite starting racing in the Enduro class at local Motocross meetings in and around my hometown of Gore in – let’s see I was in the 7th form (Yr. 13 as it is known nowadays) so that means it was – 1977 and the meeting was at Arthurton near Pukerau the weekend before Labour Weekend, I can’t say I ever put much – any really! – thought into what I was doing,

All I knew was that I loved everything about motorcycles and motorcycling and that racing the things was more an extension of the other riding I was doing at the time. Which – when I wasn’t hacking around on eh farms of school mates – was hacking around the practise tracks on Gore’s Riverbank Reserve.

There were definitely risks involved but as a typical teenager at the time all I was interested in were the rewards.

Fast forward to Auckland in the mid-to-late 1990s and my mind-set was very different.

While it was obvious that I wasn’t the world’s greatest risk taker I started to get an idea that risk and reward may well be related as I morphed (and don’t laugh please, because I’m trying to make a point here) from a social runner into a fairly serious triathlete.

Looking back at this period of my life I still find it hard to believe that is me in the pictures – but there you go.

And the thing I remember most liking about the ‘triathlon lifestyle’ I ended up living for 3-4 years was that like US Movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn once famously said,’ the harder I work, the luckier I get.’ 

Seriously. If you want to become a better runner, you run. A Lot. And the same goes for riding a bike. You want to ride your pushbike faster for longer, then really, that’s all you had to do – more kms on the bike.

Initially swimming was my bogie, the activity I was ‘least’ good at but again I found that it was all a matter of mindset – and pretty soon I was down at my local swimming pool churning out the laps to the point where I could (and did!) enter Half Ironman events, where the swim is 2km in open water, confident not only that I could ‘go the distance but that I could do so in a half decent time.

Which, of course, is all very well but where is the risk in that? And again, you’d be correct. Even as I transitioned into Karts the concept of risk was almost completely foreign to me.

It was only when, in fact, that I found dealing with a new life insurance rep at the time that I was forced to confront the risky business I worked in (Specialty Magazines) as well as some of the riskier activities I, apparently, got up to of a weekend.

‘What do you mean you take these bikes to a track to test?’ I remember the rep asking me as she went back through her notes.

And it would be fair to say that the conversation went fairly quickly downhill from that point.

Some people you see have a heightened aptitude for risk. Others have no appetite for it at all.


Thanks to the racing I’ve done, I’m somewhere in-between.

Ross MacKay is an award-winning journalist, author and publicist with first-hand experience of motorsport from a lifetime competing on two and four wheels. He currently combines contract media work with weekend Mountain Bike missions and trips to grassroots drift days.

Related Stories

Join in the conversation!


Leave a Reply