The little girl you see in the picture is eight-year-old Anita Board. She raced a Junior Dragster, and on November 12th, 2017, was involved in an incident on-track at Perth Motorplex that claimed her life. Per the rules in Australia, she was to be limited to a top speed of about sixty miles an hour, and as of press time, there is an investigation ongoing into what caused her dragster to go into the wall as she was qualifying for her license. The racing community as a whole is mourning the loss of a young girl who was chasing a dream, and feel for the parents who are undoubtedly shattered by what has happened. On behalf of BangShift.com, I extend our condolences to the Board family.
I’m honestly not comfortable bringing up the question that I’m posing to you, readers, but because of this incident, the question will be posed regardless. Safety groups, child advocate groups, and many others who I cannot view without derision of some kind will say that she was too young, that she, or any other child under the legal driving age, have no business piloting anything faster than a bicycle and even then, only with the prescribed safety gear on. Anita was under ANDRA rules for her licensing pass, which meant that she had a helmet, arm restraints, neck collar, and a five-point harness as prescribed by the rule book. But that doesn’t mean that racing will be 100% safe…look at some of the losses the racing community has endured in the adult leagues in several different disciplines. Formula 1, NASCAR, NHRA and others have all seen racers who had up-to-date gear and plenty of seat time lose their lives in accidents.
Here’s where I’m not comfortable bringing this up: I grew up as that kid who was dying to get competitive in motorsports. I was racing the motorcycles and ATVs and wheeling whatever I could get my hands on in far less safe terms than what a Junior Dragster driver has to tolerate. What will you say to a ten year old who is staring at a go-kart track if it’s determined that only licensed drivers should operate a vehicle, period? “Sorry, kid, you’re just not mentally developed enough?” I’m already seeing opinions flying that age is playing a factor in what took place. Child prodigies develop into professional drivers and the earlier they start learning skills and responsibilities, the better off they are in the long term. I’m sure there are plenty of you that raced go-karts, motorcycles, bicycles, ATVs, or maybe even Junior Dragsters yourself. Remember what it was like back then, when you were young and you got cut loose for your first taste of speed. Remember that euphoria? Remember the excitement? What about the thrill of the competition?
What happened to Anita Board appears to be an accident, but that will ultimately be determined at the end of an investigation by both Western Australia police and the ANDRA. And I highly doubt that it will stop the Safety Brigade from howling something along the lines of “Think of the children!” as they protest anything that looks faster than a Radio Flyer being pulled along behind a parent. Am I biased? F yes, I am. Look at that picture of Anita again. That is a little girl who is excited at the opportunity to do what she wants to do. Maybe I’m wrong…wouldn’t be the first time.
What do you think…is there such a thing as being too young to race?