MotorSport and Tobacco Kill. Light up for Marco and Dan.

Dan Wheldon, God bless him. I wasn’t going to write about one little crash, which happened to claim the life of a great British pilot. Not 7 days later, Marco Simoncelli, God bless him. I wasn’t going to mention such a collision either. Often the riders walk away to a roar of applause and cheer from the crowd, but not this time.
Neither of these incidents differs from the hundreds of other deaths in motorsport. Often deaths are unnoticed, classed as ‘also-rans’ who probably made a mistake. Some deaths point the finger of blame, wrongly to a competitor involved. And sometimes it’s a mystery, no explanation; they just veer away from the pre-determined racing line and never return.
There are many incidents, horrific, sad, wasteful and from a critics view sometimes inevitable.
It is widely agreed that motorsport is dangerous, even at a go-karting level there is the risk something could possibly happen, which in that one to a thousand shot would result in the drivers untimely death.
To pre-empt the barrage of media coverage that will no doubt call for the banning of this sick suicidal sport in many ‘westernised’ countries, I hope to speak on behalf of the true motorsport enthuasiasts.
I hope to speak for the haters of DRS, the loathers of KERs, the fans that cry when they realise F1 is going green with 1.8l engines.
Death and Motorsport go hand in hand. It’s part of the attraction, in a highly modernised world or fast food and internet shopping, men and women alike will go in search of that thrill, primitively taking down a saber tooth tiger, modernly taming a 200 mph circuit, both with that risk of death and the payoff of survival and reward.
Motorsport kills. That’s why we never minded having tobacco sponsorship.
It’s a choice, the riders, the drivers know the risk and enjoy taking them. The fans understand this risk and take great joy from watching people survive.
Do fans care? Of course, why else is twitter and facebook full of heartfelt messages, why else are my eyes streaming as I watch the coverage? Of course we care, but come what may, no racing fan will ever say “enough is enough, stop” and for that reason, the race, just like the show, will go on.

The Silverstone Trio

The Old Afro

As the unnoticed figure turned away from the Lotus Renault GP truck, I track his movements and push through the crowd. Against the flow of movement, people are moving towards the revving F1 engine, I continue into the current chasing this ignored man. He’s behind the barrier; at the lucky side with freedom to roam, but he’s heading for the corner barrier to escape past a burly security bloke I quizzed earlier. The waves of people are holding me back but a fan asks for an autograph as my target edges closer to the crowd. In this moment people begin to notice him, not quite understanding why this request was made of a man in denim and converse. He’s past the security guard and I’m upon him, matching his stride pace for pace.

“Romain, Hello..”
“Hi there..” After a brief introduction he knows I’m not press and he lets me join him on his journey to the paddock.
“Ricciardo is here today, but is racing with HRT. What’s the best way to get into a top F1 team these days? Through your route of a third driver role, or his route of being on the track with a smaller team?”
“If I knew that it would be too easy.”

Serve and return, he bats my question aside with seeming ease, but undeterred I try again;
“These 3.5s have a lot of power…” I’d read this, more power even than Romain’s GP2 series car, from the credible MotorSport Magazine, “..would you like to have a go? Maybe show these guys how it’s really done?”
I see the beginning of a smile, maybe even a hint of light hearted laughter as he replies;
“No, I’m quite happy in GP2 and F1.”

With these deft answers I call it a day, wish him luck in Spa and leave him to pound along at a pace that honestly has me out of breath now entering the paddock. Our brief chat has covered nearly 500 yards. I tweet his replies as to remember them and begin to ponder his answers as I stroll through the paddock, open to all.

Romain showed true calm in a surprise situation, the sign of a seasoned pro and intelligent young man suddenly I have respect for him, he’s obviously handled far greater challenges than myself in ‘chat’ mode and I feel I did get some crumbs of knowledge out of the two lines I put to him.

Maybe I’m paying too much attention to the wording, but Grosjean left me with the impression that Formula Renault lacks credibility within the hierarchy of F1 when compared with GP2; which is odd given the amount of power and downforce the series spec chassis and engine combination provides.

What I do know is that GP2 shadows F1 around the world, often sharing the same pit and paddock all year long. Therefore Romain’s racing is in direct view of every F1 team boss first hand, not via a TV feed or recommendation. This combined with the odd demo and test day would be enough to stick in the mind of a team boss on the lookout for a new driver.

So on this same basis, Ricciardo has done well in Formula Renault 3.5, but has always been in a different country, therefore running him in a HRT is not only a test of his racecraft but puts him in direct view of Christian Horner and other teams.

The Magic of Twitter

Off the back of my musings with Romain’s comments I continue my stroll into the paddock and browse twitter to see if anyone of note has an interest in the weekend.

@PeterDWindsor: Amazing Atmosphere at WSR Silverstone. Posted 20 minutes ago.

I cheekily reply in hope that the great man may wave whilst on the big screen but I’m interrupted by noise from a nearby tented garage. The noise isn’t excessive but noticeable, like a party beginning to get into its stride. As it turns out its a few old friends; after having caught up bidding a fond farewell again, until next time. The man leaving is slim and lean, with a weighty looking sports bag in one hand he bounds down between the two cars now in parts flanking him.

His face is that of pure joy, his mind still reliving memories just discussed, but a man who is enjoying where he is and what he is doing, like a school boy fresh from the summer break eager to catch up with friends and tell tales, bright eyed and bushy tailed, with a brand new blazer. A SpeedTV jacket to be precise.

After a brief double take and rub of my eyes, I’ve found my second catch of the day, I clear my throat and lock eyes, thrusting my arm forward for a handshake before I’ve even begun a conversation.
“Peter? Peter Windsor?! Wow, Sorry, Hi…”

With a look of alarm Peter knew he wasn’t going to dodge me as Romain had managed, but as I introduced myself, he relaxed and his charming, enlightening and engaging conversation engulfed the next 5 minutes as the highlight of my weekend. We discussed the upcoming Speed.com programmes (available worldwide), the action happening round us, the hot shoes tipped for future stardom and the growing credibility Formula Renault 3.5 is gaining as a cost-effective, alternative route to F1 for young chargers!

I’m sure Peter made little hints at wanting to get on with his job, and I’m pretty sure i missed them all and held him up far too long (And if you read this Peter, I’m very sorry) but meeting such an open free-talking expert made my birthday trip to Silverstone well worthwhile.

Foot in Mouth over Hill.

Formula Renault 2.0 UK book ended the days and a portion of fans hadn’t arrived or had gone home early and therefore missed some great races and character building charges. Of note I was watching Oliver Rowland who is attached to McLaren but a certain helmet caught my eye as it flashed past. Hill, car 3. Very apt for the third generation of the Hill family, young Josh.

My talk with Josh was brief, I began by asking how his year had gone, Silverstone is third from last on the calendar and Josh seemed downbeat about the rest of the year. He was mature enough to itemise his weaknesses from the year and expressed that an improvement in qualifying was needed for next year along with general building of experience.

I was impressed with his maturity still further as I watched his races on Sunday. Unfortunately Josh had a string of bad luck, being pushed to the rear of the field on lap 1 of both races, but he had the grit and tenacity to pull back over 15 seconds (from my rough calculations with a wristwatch) to climb back up the grid and circulate the 6th fastest lap time.

If he can improve his qualifying and stay out of trouble on lap 1, Josh would be Top 5 material very quickly and with experience podiums would be more and more likely, definitely my one to watch from the weekend.

Unfortunately I end on a bit of a balls up. I was trying to convey to Josh that with Lewis and Button around doing so well, along with competition from fellow Brits doing well in the lower formula, he needn’t feel the pressure to graduate to F1 and emulate his forefathers success.

On a weekend that wasn’t going well, I really should have left that subject alone, and yet again in the aftermath of excitement should you bother to glance at this one day, Josh, I’m sorry, I do hope your silence was out of bemusement with my line of questioning and not me affecting your mindset.

Formula Renault Silverstone

The weekend for starters is free access to all.Just ask for tickets and they will be sent to you, then all you need to do is fill up your car, and your wallet, because by the time you return home, they’ll both be empty.

As a weekend of sport goes, with 6 series running on track there is little time to get away from your seat to wonder round the Renault Roadshow of new, classic, trucks, vans, rally and sport cars. However if you can peel yourself away from the constant barrage of noise, the Renault circus awaiting you does not disappoint. Driving Demo’s, driving experiences, full size simulators of F1-2011, Clio Cup simulators, Photo’s in an F1 car, free posters, merchandise stands, beer stands, ice-cream vans.

When the silence does eventually dull down for an hour each day, the pit lane gates crash open and throngs of people invade the hallowed ground. Pit wall are abandoned and barriers are erected to hold back the hordes of autograph and memento hunters. Several drivers are happy to sit and sign endless autographs for countless fans including young stars such as Ricciardo, Vergne, Hartley, Rossi, and Wickens.

As weekends go, this beats 3 hours of F1 and an hour of interviews on my 19” TV; from 9 am to gone 6pm on Sunday, the great Silverstone track was alive with noise, action and burning rubber.

Clio Cup/Cross Channel Challenge
Dutch Clio’s crossed the channel to race their British counterparts and where found wanting as the Brits held two of the top three podium positions as fierce wheel to wheel battles raged up and down the field.

Formula Renault 2.0 UK
Hosting a young dozen of Drivers, both male and female, majoritively British, a national series that allows young chargers the chance to hone skills; before graduating to the Euro series.

Formula Renault 2.0 Euro
With use of the same car and engine as the UK series this larger grid has a representative from most competitive nations across the globe, but was lost in amongst the running of a UK series and its big-brother 3.5 series running more established drivers. Given that, the racing; if you cared to watch, showed drivers of sublime skill and consistency with only 2 years of full size racing behind them.

Formula Renault 3.5
By far the Jewel in the crown of the weekend. The Dallara chassis and Renault engine equalises the entire grid allowing true skill and knowledge of set up to shine. It’s no surprise that Wickens’ and the Red Bull duo are consistently ahead of the field, the big surprise of 2011 is Alex Rossi, who as a rookie to the series is constantly hounding and mixing it with these leading three.

Megane Trophy
The surprise of the weekend. How such a lumbering crate of a car, built more for off road rallying can become sleeked down fitted with a 3.5 series engine and tune into a true blue hot hatch complete with rear wing and began to look like the most exciting car on track, and best looking car off track.

Formula Hollywood

Well the title says it all; with a little collaboration on twitter, thetyrewall community compiled some historic race drivers to be played by Hollywood stars, in what would be a dream ‘History of F1’ movie.
Obviously it’s difficult to pin everyone down, or include all the key players, so I’ve condensed it down to the main players, the Champions and the colourful characters.

Champions

Marlon Brando as Juan Fangio
Steve McQueen as John Surtees
Tom Hanks as Phil Hill
Colin Firth as Graham Hill
Bill Nighy as Jackie Stewart
Sean Connery as Jimmy Clark
James Dean as James Hunt
Patrick Stewart as Niki Lauda
Dustin Hoffman as Keke Rosberg
Mel Gibson as Jack Brabham
Johnny Depp as Ayrton Senna
Al Pacino as Alain Prost
Robert Downey Jnr as Nigel Mansell
Jim Carrey as Nelson Piquet (Snr)
Tommy Lee Jones as Mika Hakkinen
Macauley Culkin as Kimi Raikkonnen

The Colourful Characters

Michael Caine as Stirling Moss
Liam Neeson as Gilles Villeneuve
Vin Deisel as Juan Montoya
Jack Nicholson as Gerhard Berger
Helena Bonham-Carter as Jarno Trulli

2011 Racers

Matt Damon as Michael Schumacher
Russell Crowe as Fernando Alonso
James Garner as Jenson Button
Jackie Chan as Kamui Kobyashi
Will Smith as Lewis Hamilton
Daniel Radcliffe as Seb Vettel

F1; Go to Bahrain

There’s a huge amount of traffic on Twitter conversing about the ethical and political repercussions of hosting a race in Bahrain in 2011.

After having watched the Senna movie and taken many a beautiful phrase; one of which “F1 is too much politics”, I have to wonder where the ‘real racing’ is? Is it in go karts like Senna suggests? And are we resigned to this fact? Or as a fan base could we unite and keep the ‘real racing’ in the pinnacle of the sport?

Bahrain has had a lot of media coverage of late, since its rise from a dusty oil town, to a financial meltdown, and now it seems the entire nation rioting in the capital city clambering for equality or democracy or something, reportedly.

Ok, so ‘civil unrest’ is the big term thrown around. Well, we’ve encountered this before; does South Africa ring any bells? Well it shouldn’t, as its far removed from this scenario.

South Africa had an issue with Racism, on mass. This was rightly tackled head on at the time and later resolved. Bahrain’s wish for a regime change isn’t a global issue. The apparent wish reported by ‘media sources’ is based upon the Western belief that all Middle Eastern countries are backwards, neglected and dumb, oppressed by rich Sheikhs .

This belief is where the illusion falls flat, the people of Bahrain aren’t dissimilar from myself writing this on a second hand laptop or you reading this on a brand new iPad. We work long hours and pay bills and complain about the government, heck sometimes we even let the students riot to keep Cameron & co on their toes. But F1 never tells Silverstone it isn’t visiting this year, in fact it gave it a 20 year contract!

The Bahraini’s similarly have done all the same, paid taxes, worked hard, let a minority kick up some dust on Capitol Hill, and suddenly its “unstable” because the foreign reporters based there have got all excited over a few tanks rolling around the street. Throwing the words ‘warzone’ and ‘gunshots’ into a report; email to New York, and suddenly the big ‘S’ word comes into play, Safety.

Okay, I’m drifting, but let me put it very simply. What Bahrain is going through right now is no global issue when you compare other countries that hold races without any raised eyebrows or calls for F1 to make a “political statement”.

In 2001, America was unforgettably attacked and thousands murdered. Did we cancel their race? Nope.

Korea, is a country so messed up that its actually split in two and has extreme military presence along its entire “Berlin Wall”, do we cancel a race there? Nope, we build a brand new track and gleefully embrace it.

And China. Who for reasons you all know, I cannot accuse of anything. But there’s a heavy veil over China’s billion-strong population and every year this veil is lifted to allow in the world to see in a carefully controlled demonstration that it’s not all bad, and they are a jolly bunch capable of hosting an exciting race for the world to watch and admire.

So why are we making an example of Bahrain? Is it a warning shot to the bigger fish out there that F1 needs to fry?

Senna says F1 is too much politics. And here we are, 17 years on, and nothing has changed. How has F1 become this political tool? And how can we wrench our beloved sport from the hands of money grabbing politicians?

The answer, from what I know, is Go to Bahrain. Race, and show that nothing is wrong at all.

In the words of the over dramatic, the show must go on, so, ON WITH THE SHOW!

Senna Movie; Not Good, But Great.

It is with great joy and sorrow that I bring you this review of Senna. After a year of build up and guarded, slow releases around the world Senna arrived in a town 50 miles from home and I duly took the trip to be the first of my motor-racing fanatical family to watch it.

The year of build up and rave reviews had be totally drawn in, as the miles passed by i got more and more excited. I began to put my foot harder to the fllor, extracting all the power from my Corsa’s little 1.4 engine hoping to get to the cinema even a few minutes quicker and be the first in line for a prime seat.

Rarely do I go to the cinema, but this was worth the ticket price, and the popcorn, and the giant gulp. I got my seat pretty quickly, and as the lights went down, and they began with the ‘pure driving pure racing’ quote I’d had my moneys’ worth already and with a dry throat sat back to enjoy.

Unfortunately the film skips over a lot of the detail of Senna’s life that I was hoping to learn, they mention fleetingly the charities he donated to before setting up his own foundation. The backdrop of chaotic and desperate Brazil is not played upon as much as it could’ve to produce a better contrast to his achievements globally.

As a piece of documentary making, the film is exquisite. With no narrator and carefully selected quotes from Senna, he tells his own story from beyond the grave, with only a little help from his friends.

Luckily the film saves this with some great onboard footage and clips from archives never seen, at a guess 70% of this film cannot be found online, I know because I’ve tried.

Racing fans will love the epic. The retelling of the tale, the greatest duel in history, Senna/Prost of 88-91 and if they like history and nostalgia this film will be at the top of many a Christmas list, until the last twenty minutes anyway.

Personally being a young age of 22, I can only find one comparison to the last twenty minutes of the film. Imagine following a 9/11 bomber through a training camp, building up a family man of strong religious beliefs and then watching his final moments into the side of a tower. The worlds blackest day, no one would want to see that surely, even his own family who thought he was righteous. Why then would F1 fans want to watch their blackest weekend played out in such a slow torturous pace?

As a fan I took no pleasure in this last part of the story, I know what happens. There were also shots of some huge crashes of the era, seeing Ratzenberger die was gobsmacking, or Martin Donnelly bent triple after his 1990 smash. These are images I would’ve hated viewing at the time, far removed from the makings of a ‘amazing film’.

This also seemed to cause disillusion upon the non-racing fans present [who were easy to spot given they had no sign of a logo on either there baseball cap or shirt]. Many began to visibly wonder why is F1 being celebrated in a film that shows its favourite son, among others, dying? And one, although admittedly young viewer questioning his father, “Why did they kill him off? He was cool.”

So lets not get this honest reviewer wrong, it does show the true nature of racing; dangerous and fast. It shows 1988-91 some of the best years of F1 ever, held both of these elements equally. But I like my history through rose tinted glass, that’s why I’m a fan and not Chairman of the FIA.

I feel I’m being harsh. I’ve read interviews stating that the first cut of this film was 5 hours long. Well I have some advice, throw this commercialised 1 ½ hour footnote at the cinema’s, but when you bring out the DVD, give me and the rest of the world those 5 hours, and a purer look at Senna.

So let’s not finish on a negative, this after all is a great film, showing truly that Ayrton; who may be one of the greatest drivers ever, was easily the greatest man to ever step on a Formula One grid.
I tweeted immediately afterwards saying “Ayrton Senna, Not quite god-like, but an Angel of the racetrack. Died doing what he did best, his destiny.”

My moment of the film comes at the very last. A golden nugget from a press conference. Fullerton,. The Question ‘Who has been your greatest rival, past or present?” You can bet your life’s savings this interview was setting up a follow on question about Alain Prost. Ayrton pauses, as I paraphrase from memory. “I would have to go back to the 70’s” “When I first came to Europe, Go Karting against Teryy Fullerton.” I could sense the atmosphere change there, not only in the cinema, but in the press conference, Ayrton was giving a real answer no one had expected. “No politics, no money, it was Pure Driving, Pure Racing.”

God Bless you Ayrton Senna, Angel of the Racetrack.

F1 may be the sport of glamour, playboys, millionaires and Champions but if you’ll excuse I’m going Karting, the sport of legends.

Senna & Barcelona; Cheat to Win

If I’m honest, I’m just not a big football fan anymore. Ever since Ronaldo started diving for penalties I’ve just lost interest.
So, when the family headed out to the pub to watch Barcelona and Man U in the grand champions league finale, I reluctantly went along.

What I saw epitomised everything that is wrong with football. Barcelona was easily the better team on the night. Their passing was sublime, and the goals were downright fantastic. ManU were a shadow of their past glory, and being from the better side of the Pennines I enjoyed this fact.

Being from Britain however, I’m distraught at the way the game went in the latter stages. As ManU began to close players down and harass for possession the great Barcelona’s men of skill began collapsing to floor with acting and screaming that wouldn’t be out of place on stage, or a comedy performance.

I’m told this is ‘playing for time’ breaking up the flow of an oppositions attack, frustrating them into making heavier challenges and eventually being cautioned or sent off. “It’s ok, they all do it” my cousin assures me.

Barcelona of 2011 is for me, the Senna of Football.

Senna was great yes. The best? Probably. But ruthless and cutthroat? Definitely. When Senna rammed Prost off the track in 1990 he inspired generations who idolised him to do the same. Michael Schumacher’s famous ‘chops’ blocking any over taking move were the first inspired result of Senna’s classic move. And the now similarly accepted ‘one move to defend’ can be source back to Senna’s battles with faster rivals.

Senna like Barcelona could never accept losing, win at all cost, even if you have to cheat to get there. What kind of message are we sending to the next generation?

Since 2006 I’ve been watching the lower leagues of Football. I have seen men punched in the face, I have seen players rugby tackled as they approached the opposition’s goal, and I have seen these instances go unnoticed from short sighted or bias referees.

This has rarely resulted in arm waving or the victimised player rolling around on the floor exclaiming his leg is badly bruised and it must be amputated at once to spare any pain. More often than not the player would jump back up and sprint at full pace to chase the possession back down.

Even the lower Formulae of racing have this determination. Formula Renault is a fantastic series to watch. Unfortunately its likewise dominated by Red Bull, however the young Toro’s need not ram there opposition out of the way, they merely continue to lap faster, apply pressure and watch the youthful opposition crack and make a mistake or take a chance, go for a big overtake and risk finishing in the gravel trap.

Senna Movie is due out this week. And I look forward to it. Senna is one of the greatest, but because of his ‘dark side’ he’ll never be THE greatest. As a human being, Senna straddled the line of insanity and godlike greatness, but that’s another review.

Senna cheated, and when you consider the crime rates in Brazil, he’s a product of his upbringing. Barcelona, full of pick pockets, cheating their way through life. So to the next millionaire, who wants to start a team, find somewhere full of honest people to base them, whatever the sport, maybe Kenya?