I have to admit, I am fascinated at why so many nice people are attracted to a sport that brings such great risk, and the answers like I am reading in this thread are what keeps me coming back as a spectator, photographer, and member of the community...
A little Googling of "basic human needs" resulted in a list of motivations that the club racing experience meets almost 100%...albeit there are variances in levels of maturity to which the sport and the community provides a venue for personal growth. It's no wonder the sport evokes so much passion.
1. The need to give and receive attention
2. Taking heed of the mind and body connection - turning strategies and lessons learned into faster lap times
3. The need for purpose, goals and meaning - if not winning races, then challenging yourself to exceed your personal best
4. A sense of community and making a contribution
5. The need for challenge and creativity
6. The need for intimacy - tying in with the need for attention, is the need to share your personal hopes, dreams and ambitions with someone who is "on your level".
7. The need to feel a sense of control
8. The need for a sense of status recognition
9. The need for a sense of safety and security (hence the heated discussions about incidents, maturity, etc.)
Of course, a little more Googling also came up with this little tidbit:
Cars make the man manly
WE’VE ALL HEARD the stereotype about sports cars: sure, they’re fun to drive, but their main function is to help men show off to women. Researchers have now confirmed that men’s bodies seem to agree. More than 30 heterosexual men were asked to drive two cars: a 2006 Porsche 911 from an exotic car dealer, and a 1990 Toyota Camry wagon with over 186,000 miles. Testosterone levels - as measured in saliva samples - rose significantly after men drove the former, but not the latter.
Saad, G. & Vongas, J., “The Effect of Conspicuous Consumption on Men’s Testosterone Levels,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (forthcoming).
...I wonder how the study would have turned out had the subjects been racing motorcycles....