After this week’s article on Sergei Rachmaninoff and his connection to the world of automobiles, I thought it might make sense to look around to find other interesting music/auto combos. I ended up constructing a mental two-axis graph in my head, where X was musical ability and Y is driving talent. Some people, like Damon Hill, are close to the left side of X and pretty far up on Y; others, like noted collector and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, are the reverse. I think of myself as being more than halfway up Y but less than halfway along X; you can decide for yourself where the autojourno group Exhaust Tones would place.
Since this is a car blog and not MOJO magazine, however, we’ll focus on the best driver we can find with musical cred, and that is… Force India stalwart Adrian Sutil.
Sutil’s parents were professional musicians and he pursued the concert piano path until his fourteenth birthday or thereabouts. I have not been able to find any recordings of him playing “proper” music; in all the available YouTube and other vids, he’s goofing off in one manner or another. It’s clear, however, that he can operate a keyboard with reasonable facility.
As a driver, Adrian is perhaps a bit too cautious and methodical; just what you would expect from a child prodigy piano player. This season is his best yet and he’s made short work of his teammate, ol’ V. Liuzzi. Liuzzi personifies that old joke, “He’s the driver of the future… and he always will be.” He’s unlikely to ever sit atop the Formula One world, but make no mistake: just to get an F1 test drive requires talent, discipline, and development of almost unimaginable proportions, and Sutil’s well beyond test-driver status.
It’s reasonable that talented musicians would do well driving, and vice versa; they are both fine-motor activities which require a solid sense of timing and the ability to pick up subtle cues from the surrounding environment. There’s courage required for both, I suppose; I am far more nervous playing a small gig at a restaurant or bar than I am when racing. Unless you’re a recreational autocrosser or solo performer, chances are that you are part of a team in both activities, and your interactions with that team will determine how you fare. Imagine what the Beatles could have given the world if they’d been able to put up with each other for another decade; imagine what Fernando Alonso could have accomplished with McLaren had he not felt slighted in favor of the local boy.
It goes without saying that both musicians and drivers can be difficult, to put it mildly, and that both are prone to self-destructive behavior (Kurt Cobain, meet James Hunt). Still, there’s solid money to be made, and respect to be earned, if you show up every day and do your best for a long time (Pat Metheny, meet Mark Martin).
If I had the chance to have truly world-class talent in either activity, I think I’d pick driving. As wonderful as it is to stand in front of a crowd and play great music, there’s something majestic about winning a race that soars beyond any mere entertainment. Perhaps it’s competition, perhaps it’s mortality. Your mileage may vary.
The real question is this, however: What does it mean when you have three Godin Synth Access guitars (two LGX-SAs and an LGXT) but can’t afford to put new back tires on your Porsche? I’d better come up with a few more decent article ideas, pronto: