Monthly Archives: June 2009

Speed, Dust and Fighting

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A warm day in Cardiff, few clouds in the air and the temperature is high. Cardiff City Centre is littered with makeshift stores, selling flags, air horns and t-shirts. They were swarmed with crowds all heading to one destination, the Millennium Stadium, for the Speedway Grand Prix.

This year marks the 9th time the SGP has visited the wonderful city of Cardiff, but this year marked the first time that I had managed to make the trip down. The day started early and finished late, but that is not what I cared about. From mid-afternoon to late evening I got one hell of an entertainment show. Excluding Killer Queen, who were awful.

The seats we had were at the lower tier of the stadium, meaning we were one of the closest people to the track. And the referee, which allowed heckling to be a whole lot easier. Awesome seats still, though the television above us (as we couldn’t see the big screen) had to be the one that didn’t work. Typical luck.

The Parade starts, pretty sure the British drivers – Scotty Nicholls, Chris “Bomber” Harris, wildcard Edward Kennett and the two reserves in Tai Woffinden and Simon Stead. But they did bring out some snazzy tri-bikes to showcase the the drivers around the track.

P6270756 Scotty Nicholls Hiding From Me

The races had earlier started with some British Junior heats. However they were cut short due to a rather nasty looking crash involving one of the youngest riders. This required an ambulance to come on track to sort things out.

The Speedway Grand Prix started off, with Heat 1 consisting of the Russian sensation Emil Sayfutdinov, Nicki Pedersen, Kenneth Bjerre and Rune Holta. This also saw the first crash, Rune Holta losing control at turn three causing a red flag and his eventual exclusion. Impressively, it was Kenneth Bjerre who ended up managing to win the heat, starting off a fairly dismal night for Sayfutdinov and Pedersen.

Then came heat two and the first one involving British riders, my personal favourite, Scotty Nicholls. The reception of Nicholls coming on, as well as other Brits was unbelievable, the flags flying high, the air horns blasting, it was immense. Sadly, Nicholls could only replicate his current form and ended up last in the heat. And it relied on Chris ‘Bomber’ Harris to save the day for the Brits in the first round of heats. He duly delivered, with a lovely second place finish behind the unstoppable Jason Crump.

Every four heats there is a little break to allow the television companies an advertisement break. Normally, its just a good time to have a quick visit to the toilet or get yourself a quick drink (of coke, I’m not drinking. But the way some people were buying there beers, they would be drunk be heat 4). Can only describe how massively useful ad breaks can be sometimes.

Then the big drama. Heat 5. Fairly standard heat, Sebastian Ulameck edging out Chris Harris. But a late battle between Scotty Nicholls and Emil Sayfutdinov resulted in a fight at the track entrance. The way the crowd rose to their feet and cheered on Scotty was incredible. Watching replays of it, still unsure why Tai Woffinden got involved to stop them. If you haven’t seen it, look below. Would also recommend that you watch all the way through.

The reaction of that eventually died down and it was back down to the good reason I was there, speedway. The following heats were formulaic, Jason Crump showing he is the best rider out there and the popular Leigh Adams struggling to find anything at all.

Half time allowed me to stretch my legs for an even longer amount of time, whilst listening to hear some pretty dire music sung by someone I have never heard of before. This also allowed me to look at the number of different banners littered across the stadium. My personal favourite being in support of the ever lovable American, Greg Hancock.

P6270735 If you don’t understand the story, basically his new main sponsor for this season is the energy drink ‘Monster’ which also sponsored Jenson Button at Silverstone. There were loads for Scotty Nicholls and Chris Harris, even the odd one for Tai Woffinden.

The heats restarted, Rune Holta managed to crash out again in Heat 16 and the biggest shock in Heat 17 was Jason Crump slam into the comfortable air fence. However, he picked himself up and Swede Andreas Jonsson was excluded for an avoidable collision. He picked himself up, and inevitably won the re-run.

P6270830 Crump is down

But before that, Scotty Nicholls has managed to win his first heat of the season. And the reaction of the crowd was unbelievable. The stadium had absolutely erupted, flags at an even higher mast, air horns, somehow, louder. It was incredible.

And when Chris Harris won his heat, I think we managed to deafen the whole of Cardiff.

Due to the fact Chris Harris had managed to get into the top 8, he was in the semi finals. And was involved in the second semi, a close tussle with the Brit, Nicki Pedersen, Greg Hancock and another Dane, Hans Andersen. Then this is where being close to the referees helped. At the second corner, Hans Andersen lost control of his bike, Harris, who had a bad start himself barely touched Andersen as he fell to the ground. Everyone expected Andersen to be excluded, but when the light flashed Blue, it was instead Chris Harris excluded. And how the crowd booed that decision. And it wasn’t just to the referee, Hans Andersen got a full boo for when he came out for the re run. Second attempt, the same thing happened. But this time, replace Andersen with Pedersen and Harris with Andersen. Pedersen was excluded. Whilst this was still good, with everyone hating him after the events of last year, the real decision was that it should have been Andersen excluded. More boos followed. This left the third re run with just two riders, Hancock and Andersen and they finished in that order.

So the final arrived, the so far unstoppable Jason Crump on course for a 100% record. Then was the loveable Greg Hancock and the hateable Hans Andersen. Finally, there was the quiet and unfancied Swede Fredrik Lindgren, who I decided to tip for a surprise win.

There was no surprises. Despite disappointment on the last lap with Hancock losing third to Andersen, it was a comfortable victory for Jason Crump. He finished ahead of Fredrik Lindgren easily.

When the interviews took place, the crowd deafened Jason Crump with blasts of the air horns. We appreciated his victory, show how much we really do like him. Lindgren and Hancock got a similar response. Andersen, unsurprisingly, didn’t

And with the events coming to a conclusion, a fireworks display celebrating the events, I decided that it was a fantastic day out in the Millennium Stadium. I loved the out of this world atmosphere that would be unachievable without a roof. It is a great place for this event, wouldn’t want to see it anywhere else. I want to go again for 2010. The 10th anniversary of the event at Cardiff, and I’m sure it will be even better than 2009.

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A Grand North Yorkshire Day Out

The BTCC headed to Croft Circuit this weekend, and I managed to head out on the Sunday down to the race circuit to watch some racing. Whilst the weather looked grand in the morning, no clouds in the sky. How things can quickly change and it turned out all 2008 with torrential downpour at the end of the race. Obviously I took my camera and here are a few of my favourite ones.

Pre-Race

P6140402Ex ITV F1 anchor Steve Ryder. Managed to get him just after I had finished walking the pits. Got to admit, he looked relaxed. Managed to see Louise Goodman in the pits, but she was getting all fitted up with the gadgets required.

BTCC – 1st Race

P6140419  This is Team Aon’s Tom Chilton chasing down Sunshine.co.uk’s Martin Bell. Quite hard early on to get decent ones of moving cars, this the best of them I reckon. Nice to get two in a shot. If it wasn’t for that pesky railing of course.

Porsche Carrera’s – 1st Race

P6140447This one is of Oliver Jackson in the Motorbase Performance car. Nice shot (minus the railing)

Ginetta G50’s 

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This is the only one I have with a driver celebrating. No idea who though.

Formula Renault

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I have nothing much to say on this one but I did find somewhere to get a bit of height and stop that stupid railings hogging the photo. Nice and central, it is of Fortec Motorsports Oli Webb.

BTCC – 2nd Race

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The Cartridge World Seat in front of the Cartridge World VIP’s. That lot were opposite me for the whole race and whenever that car passed, they cheered and applauded, even though most of the time he was stone dead last. I get the impression they don’t watch racing much then.

Renault Clio

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After a quick trip to have a bit of a rubbish filled lunch, hence why this is from the other side of the track. I still managed to catch up with a massive crash, that wheel lasted there for an entire lap and provided some rather exciting off track excursions for the on coming cars. Amazing how no one hit the debris.

Ginetta Junior 

P6140672This is Sarah Moore. For no other reason than it took about five attempts to get a good shot of this car. Still too blurry for my liking, but it is the best one I have.

Porsche Carrera’s – 2nd Race

P6140686All my dad’s fault for getting his hand in the way. This sums up the race and the last BTCC race. Safety Car after Safety Car. Coming in and out one lap of the time ruining the flow of the race.

And here is the bit where the camera battery dies and I realise that I have none spare. I suspect I didn’t miss much in the BTCC race three photo wise. Still, enjoyable day out all the same. If you want all of my photos, check out my new flickr place which will be uploading all shortly.

Putting Me Through Nightmares

It has only taken seven races, but finally, Robert Kubica has scored his first points of the 2009 season. This is after three retirements, albeit he was still classified in Australia and three non point finishes. Qualifying was a similar story, only getting into Q3 twice, a promising fourth in Australia and tenth in Spain. And whilst Nick Heidfeld has scored a podium, the half points awarded mean he lies on just six points. BMW are eighth in the standings, only ahead of Toro Rosso and Force India.

Every F1 fan expected more from BMW Sauber this year. Slowing down development on the 2008 car to focus on the 2009 and be even better for this year, just after the teams first win in Canada. Who knows what would have happened if the team had continued on with the 2008 car,  Kubica could have been a factor for the World Championship in Brazil.

The team are believed to be the second one to start designs and focus on the new regs for 2009, after Honda/Brawn GP. But the year has been miserable, this time last year, the team were challenging McLaren and Ferrari, a win under the belt and Kubica at the top of the Drivers Championship.

Fast forward 12 months, only eight points, just one podium and both drivers in the bottom half of the standings. The team with more retirements as well, including the first non-accident at Monaco since China 2007 with brake failure.

Australia brought false optimism, Robert Kubica powered his way to fourth on the grid, helped by both Toyota’s times being wiped out. The team were competitive in the race, battling with Sebastian Vettel for second, on the optimum tyre compared to Vettel. A slim chance to catch Jenson Button. And then they crashed, the sight of the BMW slam into the wall and the tyre bouncing down the track made me realise, this was not going to be easy.

Malaysia was even more false optimism, the torrential monsoon weather and good strategy calls meant that Nick Heidfeld scored a second place. Unfortunately, the clever planning of Bernie meant only half points were awarded. Heidfeld had got off the mark, but only with four points.

China started the misery, Kubica failing to get out of Q1, qualifying 17th. The race was also painful to watch, the Pole involved in a massive crash with Trulli, but still managed to survive. But even in the rain, there was no pace, Heidfeld coming home 12th, Kubica 13th.

Bahrain was a similar story, a start line tangle meant the aerodynamics were all off, but it still ended up with both drivers finishing last of the finishers. Possibly the worst performance since BMW took the team over.

Spain finally saw some pace, Heidfeld scoring a seventh place. But Monaco saw neither driver get out of Q1. Even being beaten by Lewis Hamilton, who had crashed out half way through that session. The race seemed pointless, sending the drivers on a heavy fuel load they failed to make any impressions and generally looked painfully slow.

Then, the introduction of the infamous Double Decker Diffuser in Turkey. Then we saw some pace from the BMW cars. Easing through Q1, Kubica getting into Q2 and with the heaviest fuel load, qualified 10th. A mixed start, Heidfeld getting ahead of Kubica at the start before falling back. But Robert Kubica managed to get ahead of Raikkonen and Alonso before the first pitstop. Then ahead of Timo Glock to finish seventh, after months of whining about an awful car, Kubica finally has two points.

But why has it taken until June, Round 7, for the BMW to finally looking lively? The first reason is the failure to recognise the possibility of the Double Decker Diffuser. If the team had that from the start, they could have possibly shown similar pace to that of Toyota or Red Bull and at least be competitive.

Also, spending too much time on the development of KERS, which was an ultimately flawed product created by the team. The team used it for two races, it failed to help the team in anyway, and was as quickly scrapped as soon as it began.

The team however can look forward to a hopeful few months, with more points gradually appearing on the board and the odd podium will surely make the team owners happy especially after the diabolical start to the season.

In my eyes, I still want a win, but I’m beginning to recognise that it will require a downpour at some race. But I still will be happy if the team show 100% in the remaining ten races of the season, get more points and at least have a single digit on at least one of their cars next year.

That is if they are still in it of course.