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.

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?

Bernie, Murdoch, Poker, Freud and “improving the show”

Twitter is fast becoming my source of general F1 opinion. So far today, I’ve heard that F1’s audience is getting older, and that a much of media types want to buy the sport and undo all of Mr E’s hard work.

Now first off let’s give credit where it due, F1 has come a long way since Bernie took over. Safety has improved, trackside barriers have learnt to stop car parts from hitting fans, and fans themselves have access to all the drivers, engineers and pitlanes. OK Bernie takes a slice of the pie and theres some bumper prices on the extras, but it works, and has done for 30 years, ever improving and always bringing in new young fans.

And so the media corporation, through a link or chain of ownership come back around to Sky’s Rupert Murdoch plan to take over the commercial rights of F1 which in a money-driven sport equates to total ownership.

Fans in the ‘Pro’ camp claim the investment from a huge company would do wonders to attract new younger fans, and help development of the smaller teams with more funding, and of course help “improve the show”.

Fans in the “Get the hell away from my sport Mr. Murdoch” camp, which obviously includes myself, have one simple argument. If Murdoch buys F1 and puts the sport on Sky Sports, there will be no coverage for fans to watch, and with ticket prices as high as they are, suddenly F1 loses all the day dreaming, speed chasing, petrol head fans that work for minimum wage and hail Hamilton, Button, Di Resta and especially the ballsy Kobaybashi as Gods.

Smaller teams may need more funding, but I don’t want to prop up HRT, Virgin and unhappily, Williams by paying £40 a month to watch my beloved sport. I want there to be a full grid sure, but I want the teams there on merit, not because Sky Sports has masses more subscribers from all over the globe. And if “improving the show” with Ecclestone brought us KERs and DRS, then I shudder to think what could happen with Murdoch.

As for “F1 fans are getting older”. It’s difficult to gauge this quote. Am I a fan? Yes? Have I gotten older in the past ten years? Of course. Has my 14yr old nephew taken to F1? Yes. Will he be older in ten years time? Sure.

So in that sense, I understand this statement, but with common sense applied its total rubbish. Ask any blogger why they like motorsports and I bet it comes back round to one simple sentence “My dad watched it when I was a kid”.

As long as Freud’s theories of childhood development continue to hold, F1 will have plenty more fans in the next decade or so.

Luckily I found that history could well be on the day dreamers side. BskyB another tentacle that reaches back to Murdoch, once attempted to buy a large football club by the name of Manchester Utd. and where blocked by the competition committee. So my only hope can be this interpretation. If buy owning one team of 24 got the veto from the committee, how can owning and controlling the entire grid be deemed fair competition?

In conclusion, this argument has a shelf life, and I have been waiting for something to replace the Lotus debate in my midday musings at work. There are a few major players who have to show their cards yet, but if Bernie and CVC have nothing but a pair of ducks, it could well be their time to fold.

Battle of the Papercuts

So I put the phone down and yelled. “How on earth can they charge that much? It’s rather silly!” Okay, there were probably a few more words in there but I can’t write them down in a blog. I’m trying to get more racing in my life, short of reading the internet all day, and spending a fortune at the local kart track. So aside from the insane prices of £30 a month I’ve just been quoted for Satellite TV there’s only one option left.

Of this option, the old trusty hand held store bought magazine, are a few leading competitors. F1Racing, Autosport and MotorSport.

Autosport for my money seems a bit out of place. It holds a good cross section of news across most motorsports and is good for referencing or broadening the mind. But if you have the internet and access to autosport.com then the magazine falls flat, and the moment it rolls off the production line it’s out of date.

F1Racing is monthly with plenty of news, interviews, brief technical analysis and high quality photographs that many close followers of F1 already have a wide understanding and knowledge of. However for the more casual viewer who has no time to read blogs such as this, or much better ones, the magazine is a great break-time filler and supplement to their limited Sunday afternoon viewing.

MotorSport on the other hand, holds the main positive of Autosport, covering that wide cross section of motorsport. But instead of trying to give out news, bringing itself directly into competition with websites that are updated hourly, it focuses mainly on the opinion of high profile motorsport personalities.

Currently there roster includes Gordon Kirby, Rob Widdows, Patrick Head, and of course Nigel Roebuck; All of which have an uncanny way of seeing through the press releases, or explaining the true goings on in the background of various scenarios. Obviously opinion, is no good without supporting facts, and often leads to nostalgic tales from interviews with great historic figures such as Stirling Moss.

So, let’s have a run down.

If you’re well off, get the Satellite TV, Eurosport, MotorsTV, Sky Sports News should all keep you up to date.

If you don’t have internet and need to know everything about racing, get Autosport, it’s your bible.

If your casual you don’t really care about racing, you love the crashes, the DRS, KERs and you hate Alonso and glossy pictures, then F1Racing is your monthly one off buy.

If [like me] your totally hooked on racing, you read news websites and share opinion all day but you’ve got a few spare pounds at the end of a long month at work. Grab Motorsport, you might just learn something new.