With four IndyCar Championships, three Indy 500 victories, 31 race wins and 32 pole position awards, Dario Franchitti’s name is rightly etched in the record books alongside the likes of Unser, Andretti, Foyt and Jones et al. Yet outside of the IndyCar community and his native Scottish home, his name will largely elicit blank stares. Because thanks to very poor media coverage here in Britain, Dario’s name has never become as renowned and revered as those of his own motor racing heroes, Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart.
Even compatriot David Coulthard became a household name during his long but largely under-achieving F1 career. Yet Dario’s wins have been woefully under reported and celebrated here in the UK. I understand and appreciate that Formula One will always be seen as the pinnacle of motorsport but the absence of an F1 drive from Dario’s CV doesn't diminish his achievements. It certainly doesn't warrant the rather contemptuous way the UK media have treated him. For example, the day after he won his third Indy500 my newspaper ran a two page spread about Australian Mark Webber winning the Monaco GP. Yet a British winner of the biggest motorsport spectacle in the world was given a tiny insert and blurred pictured in the bottom corner - which was in itself more than I expected. And while Dario did a huge week long media tour in the USA, he wasn’t even featured on UK television and not a single interview was performed.
Indeed the only time Dario has made mainstream UK news was following his horrendous, career ending crash in Houston. But rather typically these reports chose to totally ignore all he’d achieve and focused instead on repeated, sensationalised footage of the accident. Seemingly mixed with a competition to see how many different mispronunciations they could make of his name. Shockingly one channel even thought it was suitable to run footage of his close friend Dan Wheldon’s fatal crash at Las Vegas, barely a week before his memorial.
Thankfully, whilst the UK media may have overlooked Dario, in spite of the often poor coverage, a large core of IndyCar fans here in Blighty have acknowledged, celebrated and enjoyed Dario’s career - myself very much included.
During those early days in Indy/CART Dario would write a diary on his website following each race. As I didn’t have internet at home then, each post-race Wednesday I would visit my library’s swanky new tech centre to sneakily download Dario’s missives onto floppy disc for later perusal. And yes, I do re-read them even now, still laughing at tales of Zanardi’s Pasta parties and Montoya’s pink leather motorhome.
As well as satellite TV and internet, I also have Dario to thank for being able to combine my love of travel and motorsport too, attending the fabulous Surfers Paradise race in Australia twice. They certainly didn't call it the Indy-Carnival for nothing. I have such fantastic memories of both events, from sun, sea, sand and Mariachi Bands to Austin Powers, hugs from Barry Green, hiding from Bobby Rahal and an offer of a cigar I almost couldn't refuse…but that’s another story! All in all they were hugely enjoyable experiences that I will remember to my dying day.
I’ve continued to follow the many ups and downs throughout Dario’s career though. Celebrating the incredibly proud highs of close run, hard fought championships and Indy 500 wins. Enduring the tedious political turmoil and inevitable injury frustrations. And sadly coping with the soul crushing, heart-breaking lows of losing friends to this sometimes fickle sport we love…
It has certainly been quite a journey but one I wouldn’t have missed for the world. However, I’m just deeply saddened that it’s a journey so many people have missed out on. Britain should be ashamed of itself for how it’s shunned and overlooked Dario Franchitti.
Much of the UK media and general public may have missed your career Dario but the IndyCar community and fans didn't and we will greatly miss seeing you out on track at St Pete’s. Good luck in this new chapter of your career and above all…
Thank you from the people who always did know your name and always will.
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