By Dick Stark
This weekend’s Baltimore Grand Prix Formula 1 race reminded me of Garth Stein’s novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain. Even if you are not crazy about dogs or auto racing, the short time it takes to get through the book is highly worth it.
This is the first book I’ve read that’s narrated by a dog—in this case, Enzo, a shepherd, terrier, poodle mix. Enzo has spent years watching daytime television, mostly documentaries and the Weather Channel. Because its owner Denny is an auto mechanic and aspiring auto racer, they watch countless hours of race footage.
That which you manifest is before you. “Drivers are afraid of the rain,” said Denny. “Rain amplifies your mistakes, and water on the track can make your car handle unpredictably. When something unpredictable happens you have to react to it. If you’re reacting at speed, you’re reacting too late. And so you should be afraid.”
By pushing the limits, Denny initiated the action and was able to react before even the car knew a spin was coming. Thus, that which you manifest is before you. We are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by ourselves.
Racing is about intelligence and discipline, not about who has the heavier foot. Denny explains that with experience a driver adjusts his understanding of how a car feels when it is near its limits. A driver becomes comfortable driving on the edge, so he can easily correct, pause, and recover. Sometimes the smarter move is to yield from behind and let the other driver pass. Relieved of this burden, the driver can tuck in behind and make the new leader drive in his mirrors.
Denny’s dog Enzo also loves all things racing, including famous races and drivers. Among them is Ayrton Senna. Ayrton was admired, loved, cheered, honored, and respected. He met his end in May of 1994 at the San Marino Grand Prix when his car failed to turn at the fabled Tamburello corner, known for its excessive danger. Like Denny, Ayrton believed that with “your mind power, determination, instinct, and experience, one can fly very high.” Although Ayrton died at age thirty-four, his death was a turning point in the safety of Formula 1 racing.
Enzo also learns that a driver must have faith in his talent, his judgment, the judgment of those around him, and physics. Even more important, a driver must accept his fate. He must accept that mistakes and poor decisions will be made. One result: a pit-stop that allows his competitors to pass him by. A winner will accept his fate. He will continue on and get back into the race. Enzo tells us, “It is better to finish the race behind the others than drive too hard and crash.”
Of course the book is about more than auto racing and Enzo; it’s an inspiring story about Denny’s life and family including love, devotion, betrayal, and hope. I hope everyone can find the time to read the book and that you enjoy it as much as I did. When life rains on your day, how do you drive?