Monthly Archives: September 2010

Battle at the Manor

European Ryder Cup player Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits off the tenth tee during practice ahead of the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in Newport, south Wales September 29, 2010.   REUTERS/Kieran Doherty (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT GOLF)

You can have your World Cup’s with the Argentina’s, Brazil’s and Uruguay’s. You can have your Formula 1 expanding into Asia. You can have your Olympic games with pretty much everyone.

But you know what, this weekend at least, I only care about one thing. Two teams. Rivals. Europe united, America determined. It can only mean the best team event in the world, the 2010 Ryder Cup.

The build-up started two years ago, after the USA regained the Ryder Cup after six years of European glory. A pretty flawless display, especially in the singles, saw them win 16 1/2 to 11 1/2. And all of this, without the then saint of the sport, Tiger Woods.

Things change, Woods is back. No longer a saint but a sinner. Jibed at by rookie Rory McIlroy, but don’t underestimate him. He isn’t a team player, the last time USA won with Woods in the team was at The Country Club in the controversial 1999 Ryder Cup. The crowd will be on his back for all 18 holes and more, his opening pairing against Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher will be lively. The big question for him is simple. Can he put it all behind him and help his team. He’s shown he can play well individually (as well as shockingly bad) this season, who is going to turn up?

The crowd will play a massive factor, Team Europe, all of them behind the twelve players. All of them against the other twelve. The noise will be crazy, and all behind what I think is one of the strongest European side in years.

Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington. All major winners, and two of them a winner in this current year. Sure, Harrington was a controversial selection, people saying he isn’t as good as he used to be, he’s not the right man when we have the likes of Paul Casey are missing out on the action. But I’m with Colin Montgomerie on this one, I’d have picked him as well. I have faith in him. Like with the selection of Ian Poulter in 2008, critisced left right and centre and turned out to be the best European golfer. Harrington has five Ryder Cups under his belt. He can give the boost to the young lads, give them the experience, and under pressure, on the final day, he has been there before. I don’t think I’d want anyone else.

Then there are my two favourite golfing brothers, Edoardo and Francesco Molinari. World Cup winners in 2009 for Italy and I must admit, I’m surprised Montgomerie won’t be using them for all four team events. There is that much faith in them as a team, they know each other inside out. What more can you ask for?

And then there are the many other rookies, the simply brilliant Rory McIlroy who’s 80 during The Open ruined his chance of winning it, and that has been his only fault all year. Ross Fisher and Peter Hanson are all solid golfers, perhaps not exceptional, but a welcome addition to the European team.

And the experienced. 46 year old Miguel Angel Jimenez, who has earned the right to be here and can give the experience. Lee Westwood, his seventh Ryder Cup, he’s seen it all before. Ian Poulter and Luke Donald also seeing a little return to form.

Twelve players I trust to help get Europe back into glory. And captained by Colin Montgomerie, excellent. Bring it on.

But despite all this bigging up, come on Europe and all that malarky. The USA will still want to retain what they hold, they don’t want to give the Ryder Cup back into the expecting arms of the Europeans. They’ve got a handy squad as well.

Along with the temperamental Tiger, there is the World number 2 and Masters winner Phil Mickleson, who has had about a dozen attempts to become the world number 1 and not taken one of them. Jim Furyk and Stewart Cink will also be there bringing in the experience.

There are a few rookies too, some that are still fairly unknown on the European scene, especially in the youngsters of Jeff Overton, Dustin Johnson and my personal favourite Rickie Fowler. With his, unusual, dress sense, especially with his favourite orange outfit and a too big for his head cap. I think he is a talented golfer as well, certainly capable of causing some big problems for Europe.

And it all starts tomorrow, 7:45 with Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer against Phil Mickleson and Dustin Johnson at the gorgeous Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales. First time the Cup has ever visited the land of the Dragons and all that. Are Newport ready? Probably not. But the golf course and that is, it looks stunning. The rain might put a damper on events (that was a pun, you can applaud that if you like) but this should be some event to watch.

Come on Europe, bring back the Ryder Cup. This might not be war, but its pretty close.

In Time

Terenzano, Italy. Second semi final of the Italian Speedway Grand Prix. On the inside in red, Chris Harris, on fire, only dropped a handful of points all night. Next to him in blue is Greg Hancock, the only rider to have raced in every single grand prix. In white was Hans Anderson, the underachiever of 2010, in battle to finish in the top 8 and automatic entry for the 2011 season. And on the outside, in yellow, Jaroslaw Hampel, second in the championship and chasing Tomasz Gollob.

The facts were simple, Hampel must finish in the top two or Gollob would win his first world title.

And off, tapes up, Greg Hancock storms in the lead, Harris second with Anderson and Hampel fighting out for third, Hampel gets by on the second bend. Its all action from then on in.

The Pole sets his sights on Harris, the golden prize, keep the title bid alive, runs wide to gain extra speed at the last turn, not good enough. Lap 2, Hampel gets speed down the back straight, just not enough, Harris defends inside line down 3 and 4 but Hampel still has the more speed, attacking right into lap 3.

Loses focus into turn 2, but catches back up to the Cornish rider soon enough, goes wide into the start finish straight, one lap, just one lap to determine the future of the 2010 Grand Prix Championship.

Wide gain at the start of lap 4 and then his best and last chance, down the back, gaining ground, and coming in for the move. Goes around the outside, Harris the inside. ‘Bomber’ looks to have got it and then the back steps out, advantage Hampel into the finishing line. Hancock wins, Hampel gains ground on Harris, they reach the finish line together, as one. Who’s second? Is Gollob world champion?

And the waiting begins. Tick tock. Race referee over viewing the two camera angles. Side on is too blurry, impossible to call, something that is pointless for anything faster than 5 mp/h. The blimp cam is clearer, but not going to give a call. Did Hampel have the advantage? Did Harris just do enough? Tick tock, tick tock.

A few minutes, still no clearer, a dead heat unavailabe, and then the graphic comes up. Tomasz Gollob – 2010 Speedway World Champion.

About time too, sixteen years of trying. 3rd in 1997, 1998, 2001 and 2008. 2nd in 1999 and 2009 and now 1st in 2010. Its taken its time, but he is there, eventually.

He ended up doing it in style, winning his fourth meeting of the season in Italy in what was an equally thrilling final as well. And he has deserved it as well, despite the seasonal challenge between Jaroslaw Hampel, and the late season push from Jason Crump as well.

The lad done good and all that, fantastic stuff and from a man who is all set to be turning 40 next season. Its showing the so called old dogs still have got it, and same with Greg Hancock, sure, someone who isn’t the same as he was a few seasons back, but still wins, as shown in Croatia. And in a way its a lesson, you can be good despite your age, you can win something, can’t you Michael Schumacher?

Well done Tomasz Gollob, and despite the fact I’d have loved to have seen the title go down to the wire. There is no doubt that Bydgoszcz will be rocking on October 9th.

Blaze of Glory

SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 25: Lucas Di Grassi of Brazil and Virgin GP drives during qualifying for the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 25, 2010 in Singapore. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Singapore Grand Prix

Under the bright lights in the city of Singapore, 24 men drove round and round a long street circuit and sometimes things happened. Yes, it wasn’t the greatest race of all time, I think earning the right to be below average at best. Not as bad as Bahrain at least.

Before the race Christian Klien became the fourth man to drive for Hispania this season, replacing Sakon Yamamoto who was reported to be suffering from ‘food poisoning’. Despite also being in the Hispania garage looking fit during qualifying and races. What ever you say Colin Kolles…

Qualifying looked good for Virgin Racing, with Felipe Massa unable to set a lap time, Timo Glock ended up in 18th, ahead of Kovalainen, di Grassi and Trulli. In his first outing since 2006, Klien was a second quicker than his team mate Bruno Senna.

Lotus got off to the best start, with Kovalainen and Trulli jumping Glock. But during the first safety car period Glock stayed out, while all the other new teams pitted. This put him up to 10th for a while, and for a good 15 laps he was 11th ahead of the likes of Sutil, Hulkenberg, Massa and a few other drivers.

It sadly ended when Hulkenberg forced Glock wide, ruining his diffuser and dropping all the way down to 17th, 13 seconds ahead of Kovalainen and still 1 pit stop required.

Meanwhile Jarno Trulli was having a nightmare of the race. First suffering from a puncture early on, he retired due to hydraulics. He came out a few laps later but returned to the garage for the final time.

It was all set for a tedious end to a long race, but then Kamui Kobayashi lost his rear on lap 32, Bruno Senna then went to quick into the corner, taking himself out of the race. It was the end of the race two laps later for his team mate as well, pulling into the garage after what was a decent return to Formula 1. Certainly better than Senna all weekend.

The safety car which resulted because of the crash helped Kovalainen massively, with Glock and di Grassi finding themselves a lap down. Glock would soon retire due to unconfirmed issues, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it was hydraulics.

Kovalainen had the win in the bag, but he ended up colliding with Buemi which was to spark a fire on the back of the Lotus. The smart thinking saw him pull up next to the pitlane and instead of waiting for the marshals (who were lacklustre all weekend) pulled out the fire extinguisher to set it out.

Despite not being the best, far from it, Lucas di Grassi was the only car to reach the chequered flag and won the new teams race.

  Driver Team Race Pos. Points
1 Lucas di Grassi Virgin Racing 15th 10
2 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 16th 6
3 Timo Glock Virgin Racing Ret. 0
4 Christian Klien Hispania Ret. 0
5 Bruno Senna Hispania Ret. 0
6 Jarno Trulli Lotus Ret. 0

 

Standings

Drivers Championship

If Kovalainen doesn’t win it now he will be kicking himself, 4 races to go and he is 23 points clear of second place. Lucas di Grassi is the most improved driver of the week, taking advantage of the other retirements and moving from 5th up to 2nd, ahead of his team mate. Glock, Trulli and Chandhok move down. Senna has now not finished in three races and seems stuck on 22 points. Klien failed to get off the mark.

  Driver Team Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 78
2 Lucas di Grassi Virgin Racing 55
3 Timo Glock Virgin Racing 52
4 Jarno Trulli Hispania 46
5 Karun Chandhok Virgin Racing 45
6 Bruno Senna Hispania 22
7 Sakon Yamamoto Hispania 9
8 Christian Klien Hispania 0

 

Teams Championship

Virgin Racing are now four points closer to Lotus, just 17 points between them now, just more than a 1-2.

  Team Points
1 Lotus 124
2 Virgin Racing 107
3 Hispania 76

 

Title Permutations

It all depends on whether Korea goes ahead or not. If it does, there is four races left and if not, only three. If Kovalainen wins in Japan, Lucas di Grassi finishes lower than 4th and Timo Glock lower than 2nd, then he will be champion. It depends on a lot of things, but if Kovalainen and the two Virgins don’t finish, he also wins the championship. In theory, if Korea doesn’t happen, only three drivers are in with a shout of winning it.

Of course if it does happen, or there is a replacement, then totally ignore the last five lines of text.

Glock Enters Championship Battle

MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 10: Timo Glock of Germany and Virgin GP drives during practice for the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza on September 10, 2010 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Italian Grand Prix

Look towards the front of the grid and you’d presume it was never the most interesting race. But with the three new teams it was a close affair with a few surprises along the way.

Qualifying favoured Lotus massively, the broken car of Vitantonio Liuzzi early on in Q1 allowed both Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli above them. The penalty of Vitaly Petrov for blocking Timo Glock helped Lotus even more, allowing them to start in 17th and 18th. Glock was slightly quicker than di Grassi, but a gearbox change forced him to start in 24th. The usual case applied for Hispania, with Bruno Senna faster than Sakon Yamamoto.

As usual the start of the race changed everything, Trulli and Glock got off to the best start, while Kovalainen moved down behind his team mate and the two Virgins. Even stranger was that Sakon Yamamoto, in a car with high downforce setting and something that has barely been modified with until Bahrain, was at one point quicker than not only Bruno Senna, but Lucas di Grassi.

The first was Bruno Senna, who pulled up early on with as yet unknown reasons. Elsewhere Kovalainen passed di Grassi and was now hunting down Glock. The pitstops offered little change, but of note was Yamamoto’s stop. It is believed that during his stop, a mechanic who was leaning into his cockpit to change settings on the steering wheel was run over by Sakon driving off too soon. He was taken to hospital but no serious injury occurred.

Jarno Trulli soon lost 2nd gear, which allowed Glock, Kovalainen and di Grassi to pass him and ultimately put him out of the race. The Finn was also unable to make a pass on Glock meaning that he took another win in the New Teams Championship. Lucas di Grassi retired with three laps to go but was still classified.

  Driver Team Race Pos. Points
1 Timo Glock Virgin Racing 17th 10
2 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 18th 6
3 Sakon Yamamoto Hispania 19th 4
4 Lucas di Grassi Virgin Racing 20th 3
5 Jarno Trulli Lotus Ret. 0
6 Bruno Senna Hispania Ret. 0

 

Standings

Drivers Championship

Heikki Kovalainen remains 20 points in front, but now it is ahead of Timo Glock, who after a horrible start to the season is now in 2nd. Jarno Trulli’s non-finish sees him fall and now Lucas di Grassi is just one point behind him. A solid race for Yamamoto sees him start to catch up to Bruno Senna.

  Driver Team Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 72
2 Timo Glock Virgin Racing 52
3 Jarno Trulli Lotus 46
4 Karun Chandhok Hispania 45
  Lucas di Grassi Virgin Racing 45
6 Bruno Senna Hispania 22
7 Sakon Yamamoto Hispania 9

 

Teams Championship

A good result for Virgin now sees the gap to Lotus just 19 points. Hispania are now well behind.

  Team Points
1 Lotus 118
2 Virgin Racing 97
3 Hispania 76

Better Than Babel In His Helicopter

Netherlands' Rafael van der Vaart stands on the pitch at their 2010 World Cup final soccer match against Spain at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg July 11, 2010.  REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)

5:45, a disappointing transfer window. The promise of a big name transfer seemed dead in the water. Fans on the back of Daniel Levy and Harry Redknapp for failing to do any major business, for neglecting to bring in replacements and not selling any of the dead wood.

As ever there was the strange rumours, my favourite being the underrated Liverpool player Ryan Babel heading down to London on his helicopter. First he was off to Spurs, mixed reactions, then a change of mind, West Ham. It was never really happening and his helicopter was more than likely still in his back garden.

Then like a hammer, the ever excitable Jim White reveals a Dutch international could be making it to White Hart Lane. Suddenly everyone shuffles forward on their seats, who could it be? Has Harry pulled off a coup. But we have to wait, Sky Sports News heads off for a few adverts, and what feels like the longest ad break of all time.

Rafael van der Vaart. World Cup runner up. Surely not, we were after a big name star after all. Could we do it in time?

Hours, and hours, and hours of waiting. News dripping in. Harry reports the deal is at £8 million, Bayern Munich even had a deal collapsed at £18 million, a steal. It was all down to the Premier League now, all they need to do is ratify the transfer.

We find out the deal was done after the window was slammed shut, computing errors delayed the deal. But Wednesday comes, no news from the Premier League. Still waiting, waiting. Rumours from one side saying it was all set to be confirmed, the other side saying it was pretty much dead in the water.

And then, 3:16, the immortal words on the website ‘Van der Vaart Deal Confirmed’. Brilliant.

Cue going crazy for about five minutes, we have signed a world class player. Rafael van der Vaart, formally of Ajax, Hamburg and Real Madrid.

But after it sinking in, the heroics of signing a big name, there is considering the reality of this transfer.

Realistically, this isn’t down to the genius of Redknapp or Levy. This is a deal that was first heard of at 4pm, this was literally last minute. Daniel Levy hadn’t negotiated a beauty, Real Madrid were selling him on the cheap, no one else had moved in for him. Fair play, might as well have a go, and it indeed paid off in the end.

Secondly, do we really need another midfielder? In midfield we already have the option of Tom Huddlestone, Wilson Palacios, Luka Modric, Aaron Lennon, Niko Kranjcar, Jermaine Jenas, Gareth Bale and new signing Sandro. Where does he fit in? As far as I know he is an attacking midfield, someone in the mould of lets say, Niko Kranjcar. Both of who are bargains of the last two years, but is this making Kranjcar more of a backup rather than a rotated figure in the team?

But one thing is for certain is the legitimacy of the deal. Okay it was done after the window closed, but there was good reason. And the fact Arsenal fans are whining on their radio shows appear to be suffering from collective amnesia from the Andrei Arshavin deal a few years back. Did they forget the Premier League allowed them special dispensation to sign because all of that snow. I’ll let you answer that one.

Despite all my thoughts about it, I love the signing. Rafael van der Vaart at White Hart Lane in a Spurs shirt is just a brilliant thought.

And to think hours before we were all thinking we might have to settle with Ryan Babel.