Thursday, November 26, 2009

The 2009 Motorsport Awards...well, the ones that count anyway

Okey dokey, let's get this thing done...yeah, I know what you're thinking and trust me, I already know so here's the apology; I'm sorry for posting this before the final round of the V8 Supercars is raced.

Rookie of the Year -
a reasonably tough choice in the end to be honest as I'm not going to go with logic and, instead, give it to the man who won it last year (albeit in a lower category); Joey Logano. Not only did he have big shoes to fill by stepping into the car that Tony Stewart drove for a decade, he also had the weight of expectation resting on those young shoulders with all the whispers about him being 'the next great thing'. He got off to a slow start, but soon found his groove to put in several strong races, including his win at Loudon. A possible threat to make the Chase next year.

Best Race of the Year - the Indycars at Kentucky. A spine-tingling duel for the win between Ryan Briscoe and Ed Carpenter that lasted the final 10 laps fully justified the mid-season changes to make the oval races more exciting. The final F1 race along with the Bristol night race went close...but not quite close enough.

Qualifier of the Year - Sebastian Vettel knew he had to pull out all stops at Japan to keep his slim hopes alive for winning the championship. He didn't do a whole lot of laps since he was saving his engine but he still easily planted his Red Bull Renault on pole, then set about winning the race the next day.

Team of the Year -
Brawn GP for winning both the drivers' and constructors' title after only becoming a team a few weeks prior to the season starting.

Pit Crew of the Year - Brawn GP gets the nod for this as well. Many times Jenson found himself behind a driver, only for his crew to squeak him ahead at the pitstops. Often times it's those vital tenths of a second that win or lose you the championship.

Driver of the Year -
Dario Franchitti. Having spent a year trying to make it in NASCAR, he eventually went back to the thing he's best at; winning races, and the title, in Indycar.

Person of the Year
Rick Hendrick...1, 2 and 3 in the points, nuff said?

And now the fun ones -

Personality of the Year - Valentino Rossi. The charismatic Italian just keeps on keeping on in the MotoGP series. His sense of humour can be rather difficult to follow at times but no one can doubt that he is one of a kind.

Crash of the Year
- Nelson Phillipe and Will Power at the Sonoma Indycar race during practice. Yes, the Talladega crashes were more spectacular, but nowhere near as horrifying.

Surprise of the Year
that Marcos Ambrose didn't win my RotY award! No, seriously I am giving it to Marcos for his stunning drive at Bristol in March...the first glimpse we got that he was more than just a road course guy.

Miracle of the Year
- that, for the third straight year, winning the Daytona 500 seems to be a jinx on that driver. Do you think we could get a petition going demanding Jimmie win it next year just to see if it really is a jinx?

Worst Looking Car Livery of the Year
Jeff Gordon's 'Transformers 2' car at Lowe's. I'm sorry, but Jeff the decepticons...the evil guys? Come on, give me a break!

Bone-headed Overtaking Attempt of the Year
a tough category as there were a few good candidates (Hamlin wrecking both Reutimann and Ambrose on his way to winning at Pocono and Scott Dixon at the start of the Indycar race at Sonoma spring to mind) but it's going to Jarno Trulli. The Italian thought he'd take advantage of Adrian Sutil at the Brazilian GP when Sutil slowed as Kimi had no front wing in front of him. Alas, Jarno didn't get the memo about there being no vision out of the side and back of a F1 car as its mirrors are nothing more than token gestures. So it was no great surprise when he ended up on the grass before careering back on to the track, slamming into Sutil and taking them both out on turn 4...of lap 1. Trulli then had another brainfade as he proceeded to blame Sutil for the whole thing for the remainder of the season.

The Dental School Award (aka, the award that made the most jaws drop)
Matt Crafton decided the only way he could make points up on Ron Hornaday at Gateway was to barge his way to the front. First he took out Todd Bodine when Todd blocked on a restart, then, after I'm sure most people went "he won't do that again" did the same thing to Hornaday. NASCAR gave him a penalty for rough driving...possibly the easiest decision the officials made this year.

The 'Carved from Stone' Award (aka the person that stood up when the heat was on)
might be a touch early, but it's going to Jamie Whincup. Not only did he have to put up with all the talk about what he'd be doing in 2010, he also had to race with a team who knew they were switching manufacturers for the next season. Despite that, he looks set to repeat as V8 Supercar champion.

The 'Red Bull' Award (since it gives you wings) - Quite a few people clearly wanted to win this award but it came down to three (sorry Matt Kenseth but you missed out); Joey Logano, Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman. In the end, I went with Mr Newman for his acrobatics at Talladega. hopefully the US Army will redeem him some frequent flyer points :)

The Lucky Bugger Award -
Carl Edwards for being in the right place at the right time when Marcos Ambrose made his one and only mistake at Montreal.

And that's all she wrote for 2009...let me know of any candidates I may have missed :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

New Zealand to take on the World...Cup

Until this weekend, never in the history of the FIFA World Cup have both Australia and New Zealand qualified.

The main reason is that both those countries were in the Oceania group and therefore had to battle each other before getting to a two-game playoff with either a team from Asia or a team from South America.

Up until 2005, there had only been two times in the Cups' history that either team made it; 1974 in Germany for the Aussies and 1982 in Spain for the Kiwis. However, the goalposts got moved a little after Australia broke ranks from Oceania and were allowed to be included under Asia. This left the reputation of Oceania's incredible 2005/2006 (Australia's qualification and subsequent performance at the World Cup is one of Australia's greatest sporting memories) squarely on the shoulders of New Zealand's 'All Whites'.

They didn't disappoint.

Facing off against Bahrain, they were able to keep the score to 0-0 in the desert before the return leg in Wellington this weekend. It took a strong header from Rory Fallon and a brilliant performance by goalkeeper Mark Paston, but it was enough to send the Kiwis into a similar euphoria that Australian football had in 2005 after pipping Uruguay in a penalty shoot-out.

The hero of the night; keeper, Mark Paston, saves a penalty shot in the second half.

While the chances are pretty slim, I dream of being able to post an article called 'The (formerly known) Trans-Tasman Traveller presents a Trans-Tasman Battle!'...we can only wait until the draw is done I guess. One thing is for sure though; if Australia were the underdogs in 2006, New Zealand will have that title this time around.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Aussie is staying!

At least, for a little while. This is straight from the article on Yahoo! Australia:

Australian driver Marcos Ambrose has cemented his place in the competitive US NASCAR series with a new two-year deal. Ambrose, who was at the centre of a controversial and spectacular multi-car collision last weekend, is secure after an agreement between his JTG Daugherty Racing outfit and the Michael Waltrip Racing stable.

The two companies agreed that they would operate in partnership under a technical alliance for 2010-11. Ambrose said he was encouraged by the continuity that this deal brings to his racing program. He said he had already gained a lot from the relationship as part of an impressive first season in the top-flight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

JTG Daugherty Racing operates out of the Michael Waltrip Racing facility in Cornelius, North Carolina, with engineering and mechanical responsibilities all fully-integrated into the MWR operation.

"It's great news that we have realigned with MWR," Ambrose said. "We've been very successful this year and we even came close to winning a race or two. We've been solid in the points all season long and this was just our first year working together as a full-time Cup operation. We are really looking forward to 2010 and continuing our work with MWR."

This is great news and I hope that Marcos escapes the dreaded 'sophomore slump' next year :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

10 years on...

While today doesn't mark it to the date, it does mark it to the day for me; the first Tuesday morning in November holds a fair bit of memories for me. It's the day of the Melbourne cup (arguably the most famous horse race in the Southern Hemisphere) and it's also the day that I saw the crash that claimed the life of Greg Moore, my racing idol.

Greg drove for the Forsythe team in, back then, the CART series. He was but 20 when he made his debut at Homestead in 1996, took his first podium a few weeks later at the Gold Coast (the first openwheel race I'd seen live...well, I went for qualifying, not the race but you know what I mean). He lost out on RotY honours to some bloke called Alex Zanardi...who went on to win the next two championships before a failed move to F1 in 1999.

Moore didn't capture his first win until 1997 at the famed Milwaukee Mile, holding off a fast finishing Michael Andretti and becoming the, then, youngest race winner in a major racing series. He backed it up a week later around the streets of Detroit when the guys running 1-2 ran out of fuel on the final lap. He wound up seventh at years end, an improvement from ninth in his rookie year. He bettered that in 1998 when he finished fifth...but 1999 wasn't going to continue that trend.

Greg Moore in his 'office'.

He started off that season with a bang, winning the season opener at Homestead but that was as good as it got. The Mercedes-Benz engine that powered his #99 Players Reynard was past its prime and Greg struggled with trying to compensate for it. He ended up finishing the year in tenth and was set to join Penske Racing for 2000, partnering Gil deFerren.

But it never happened.

Going into lap 10 of the final race at Fontana, Greg lost control of his car and as it hit the access road, rolled upsidedown and smashed into the concrete wall without scrubbing off much speed. The commentators knew the accident was a bad one and didn't show any replays of it. Upon impact he suffered massive head, brain, neck, and other internal injuries. He was extricated by the medical team, and airlifted to a hospital nearby. All efforts to resuscitate him failed and, at the age of just 24, Greg Moore was pronounced dead while the race was still on. The Forsythe team retired their second car, driven by Patrick Carpentier, mid-race on finding out while all other drivers were unaware of Greg's death until the end of the race. The track put all flags at half mast, and CART ordered that there would be no victory celebrations for either the race, or the newly-decided championship.

CART retired his car number (although since the merger, the number is not retired by the Indy Racing League. The Atlantic Championship, which is still owned and operated by the former Champ Car organisation, has kept the number retired), and presented a trophy annually called the Greg Moore Legacy Award. It is given every year to a driver who best typifies Moore's legacy of outstanding talent on track, as well as displaying a dynamic personality with fans, media, and within the CART community. Since Greg was a product of the CART ladder system, having competed in the Indy Lights Championship from 1993-95 and won the series title in 1995 (winning 10 of the 12 races), drivers from the Atlantic Championship series were also eligible for the award. Moore was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2000.

To this day, I have only ever watched the crash twice; the first being when I saw the race on that Tuesday morning. I live, not even half an hour from where Greg grew up...but I'm not sure I could go there without breaking down. Moore was a well liked guy, who all of his competitors agreed that he'd probably go on to win multiple titles. He was also one hell of a race car driver and I will remember him for the move he made on Zanardi to win at Rio in 1998.

Thank you for reading.

Greg Moore (April 22, 1975 - October 31, 1999)
Nationality - Canadian
Team(s) - Player's Forsythe Racing
Race starts - 72
Championships - 0
Wins - 5
Podium finishes - 17
Pole positions - 5
First race - 1996 Grand Prix of Miami
First win - 1997 Milwaukee 200
Last win - 1999 Grand Prix of Miami

Monday, November 2, 2009

Does parity produce better racing?

**please note this is not about yesterdays Cup race, it is more about the racing in general. I'm refraining from saying anything about yesterday since I never saw the race**

It's an interesting question. Most of us believe that seeing the entire field being covered by the blink of an eye in qualifying should lead to a cracker of a race, yes?

But why?

When you really sit down and think about it, parity means equality...equality means the better drivers should be able to work their way through the 'lesser' drivers...but equality also means you have virtually no chance of passing the guy in front as they're, theoretically at least, spitting out identical lap times to you.

The only way any overtaking happens is when the guy behind is significantly faster than the guy in front, yes? So how can that happen when the cars are equal? Different tyre compounds has been used in F1 and Indycar the last few years and has been a hit or miss deal but it's not practical for NASCAR. Slipsteaming/drafting can work...except that the guy you've just passed can also use the same tactic. Outbraking also works...provided you don't overshoot and let them by on the exit. What about that 'push to pass' button then? Given that a similar system is being scrapped in F1 for next year and NASCAR refuses to be dragged into the 21st century with technology, that means the Indycars can keep that idea to themselves.

Besides, it's not like their championships ever go down to the wire or anything *rolls eyes*

So to answer the question, does it?

In the lower formulae, certainly (watch a formula ford race and you'll see what I mean). But it doesn't work at the highest level of the sport. So where does it all go wrong? Personally, I think it is the tyres...the lower classes don't have as wide a tyre yet provide amazing racing (as does the motorcyle racing now i think about it...same thing though, very small contact patch between the rubber and the road).

Perhaps it's time to trial a narrower wheel. Yes, the teams and drivers will whinge and complain about having less grip and how the car is undriveable but hey, they are supposed to be the elite so they'll adjust given enough time.

Besides, a narrower tyre may not work and it'd be a moot point anyway...only one way to find out though *shrugs*