Brendan RodgersI am a Liverpool Football Club supporter and quite vociferous in my support. I am also an Australian. My family originated in England, some generations ago, although I have never visited there myself. I have no knowledge of where my family are from, something I am slowly rectifying, I only know that my surname first appeared somewhere in Northern England.

If you asked me why I support Liverpool, and people do, I will tell you that I truly have no idea. I grew up in a small country town in Regional Victoria that only had two television channels and football did not feature on either of them. In truth I had no real knowledge the English Football League system existed until my early teens. Once a year our National Broadcaster televised the FA Cup final. This was my introduction to the game. In those years, more often than not, Liverpool were playing and I had a chance to glimpse the South African born Australian Craig Johnston plying his trade.

This probably all had an effect. I will tell you now though, I hold a suspicion that sometimes the club chooses the supporter. Liverpool has always felt right. Like an old friend that has come back into your life. I now sport a Liver Bird tattoo on my wrist and the letters L.F.C. proudly displayed beneath it. But enough about me, I want to talk about the Club and its current Manager.

When King Kenny Dalglish was appointed Manager for the second time it became painfully obvious, very quickly, that the game had passed him by. I’d like it put on record that when Fenway Sports Group went calling for a new manager I, like many, didn’t want Brendan Rodgers to take the job. I mean who was he? He left Watford to become sacked at Reading. He successfully guided Swansea into the Premier League and, more importantly, kept them there but really, what else had he achieved?

At the time Liverpool were a club in turmoil. It had been twenty two years since they had last won the title. Sure, there had been success in Champions League and the FA Cup but the Domestic title was what the fans demanded. There had been financial and Board troubles with Gillet and Hicks forced out of the club, paving the way for Fenway Sports Group. No, Brendan was not who I wanted. Other names were being mentioned. Houllier. Benitez. Van Gaal. Martinez. O’Neill.

Neither Martinez nor O’Neill had achieved much either, but at least they were known quantities and more palatable than the appointment of Rodgers. How soon things changed. The first half of the season was awful. The players looked confused. Mistakes were made, over and over again. Then, slowly, it all started to go to plan. Passes were strung together and Liverpool were once again playing free flowing football. In January the addition of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge meant that Luis Suarez had better service and in the back half of the 2012 – 13 season Liverpool outscored the rest of the league.

It was still only enough for seventh in the league, which simply put, wasn’t good enough for us long suffering fans. I wasn’t completely sold on Rodgers methods. There were the Suarez incidents at the end of that season and then the beginning of the next. The transfer window came and I watched as, one by one, supposed targets decided on clubs other than Liverpool. We got players on loan from other clubs to fill gaps. All other transfers were kids, players for the future. This was not a way to run the biggest clubs in the world. As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. As I write we are currently on top of the league, three games and seven points away from winning title number nineteen.

Rodgers has been a breath of fresh air to the club. A master tactician, he has shown the world that it’s not only a healthy transfer budget that makes a successful team. He has cultivated a champion team rather than a team of champions. He has worked with the players under his control, transforming them into what appears to be one of the tightest knit groups in Europe. When Raheem Sterling signed a new contract his form almost immediately dipped. There were reports of domestic problems for the youngster. Rodgers and his team got him in, helped him sort it all out, got his head straight and then unleashed him back on the Premier League. Then there’s Henderson. Oh, how many times I read of a fan asking for him to be sold.

Many historically successful clubs will happily point to the trophies in the cabinet and then use this as a form of collateral. In the here and now, however, you are only as good as your last result. Brendan appears to understand this, after failing to land any number of transfer targets, but has also embraced the history of the club and used it to good effect.

“Why aren’t the goal nets red?” he asked, when he first arrived. “I alway remember Anfield having red goal nets.” So he fixed it, got red nets in. The club’s oldest ‘This Is Anfield’ sign was restored and returned to its rightful place above the players tunnel. He brought Steven McManaman and Robbie Fowler into Melwood to mentor the youth players and instill into them what it means to wear the Liverpool shirt. Rather than simply hanging onto history, he used it, to cajole, inspire and restore pride. Not just to the players, but also the supporters. Now Anfield is many steps closer to becoming the fortress it once was, a place that other teams fear to come.

When Rodgers interviewed for the job he brought with him a one hundred and eighty page dossier. It was the Rodgers’ philosophy. A document he had been working on before his managerial career had even started. Over the years he had revised it, cut from it, added to it and made it what it is today. No doubt it is still being worked on, enriched with his personal experience. Gone was the concept of buying players by committee. He would decide on whom he wanted, who best fit into what he was trying to achieve. It’s just one part of his philosophy and it appears to be working just fine.

He has his critics. Too many press appearances, too much talking. Just get the job done. Well, he can say without a question of doubt, that he is. Modern football means that the Manager is the face of the club. Football is a business as much as it is a sport and the Manager is the salesman, the spokesman. You want those commercial dollars? Well you better get out there and sell the brand. There aren’t too many bigger brands in modern football than Liverpool, just look at their pre-season Australasian tour. I was at the Melbourne Cricket Ground that saw at least 20,000 people turn up to watch them train. 95,000 people turned up the following night to watch them play.

With Champions League returning to Anfield next year there has been much speculation on who to bring in to strengthen the playing squad. I’m actually wondering if we need to spend that much at all. Yes, squads need to be continually improved and although national pride means I probably hold Brad Jones at a higher level than he realistically is, better cover for Simon Mignolet must be a priority.

I look at the players returning from loan spells. Are the players being considered for purchase going to be that much better than Assaidi, Borini, Suso, Ilori, Wisdom and Coady? What of Yesil, Aspas and Alberto? Then there’s the youth academy where we have the likes of Ibe, Teixeira, Rossiter and Smith (another Australian), all of who had first team exposure this year (Rossiter as a sub only) and performed reasonably well, Teixeira and Ibe in particular. Nearly all of these players are young and hungry and Brendan has a great track record with bringing players of this ilk on.

For the moment though, Liverpool sits on top of the table, not through luck, but hard work and determination. While the success this year is not the work of one man, but a team effort; it’s Brendan Rodgers’ philosophy that underpins the improvement. I am relishing the team’s current position. Recently while talking to a workmate, Chelsea fan mind, about Liverpool’s current season I felt Goosebumps rise. Tears of pride started to well in my eyes and I suddenly found it difficult to speak. He placed a hand on my shoulder. “It’s alright mate, I understand, I’ll get back to you later.”

If the unthinkable happens and we fail to finally win that nineteenth title I won’t be upset. We have already achieved the goals we set this year. It will be disappointing to again come so close, but we’re poised, ready to fight next year. Put simply in the words of our talisman Steven Gerard,

“We Go Again!”

Well It’s Come To This……

“OH MY GOD!!”

The cry from beloved was so full of anguish that it made me look around for attacking ninja, the kids to run for cover and for the fish to continue swimming unconcernedly. What the hell?

I ask what is wrong and got an answer I could never have been ready for: “I’ve just agreed with a Robyn Riley article.” No, I could never be ready for that.

I read the article shortly after this and found that I too also agreed with it. The world will never be the same. Ms. Riley has written about the recent ban on jumps racing, and how it will mean the death of thousands of perfectly healthy horses.

I think I have worked out how to influence policy in this state. What you need to do is find a small number of like-minded individuals and start writing letters to various people in a position of influence. Find people who disagree with you and try to change their opinions. If they start providing intelligent answers to your questions then shout at them, long and loud, until they simply walk away, unable to put up with your shrill, adenoidal voice any longer. Find facts that back up your story, if you can’t find any just make them up and pretend they’re true. Everyone will be so impressed by your conviction that they won’t bother checking your “facts”, mainly because they will have all walked away, shaking their heads and trying to clear the echoes of said shrill voice.

Jumps Racing is banned from the end of 2010. The animal activists have got together and all twenty of them have forced the Victorian Racing Club to end an industry that employs thousands of people, and cares for (yes, that’s right: cares for) the animals involved.

The original complaint came from the fact that several horses had died while racing in Jumps events. The VRC initially had a think about it and came up with brush top jumps. Rather than save the horse it had the reverse effect. More horses died, the shouting only got louder, more people got headaches and paracetamol sales went up.

Beloved and I are horse people, insofar as, well, we own one. Our boy Jet is a bay thoroughbred gelding and is a marvelous example of how beautiful these creatures can be. Beloved does light work with him on weekends while I walk around his paddock picking up poo. The sight of him jumping for joy (not a euphemism) at the sight of his feed bucket always makes me smile. He is extremely placid and appears to love us as much as we love him. This is the point that the shouty people don’t seem to get. Everyone who works with horses by choice loves their animals. This also goes for the horse racing industry.

Beloved used to work in the industry, I have no such experience. So the next bit will have to be taken with a fair bit of salt as I didn’t check with her to see if I was right; if you all assume that I am, it will go a bit smoother.

The life of a race horse starts off pretty well standard: live in a paddock eat, drink and run around like a loon for about twelve months. Then training starts, this basically consists of living in a paddock, eating, drinking and running around in a more controlled fashion. At two years of age, racing beckons, and this consists of eating, drinking and running around with a little person on your back in a more tightly controlled fashion. This will continue until the horse is about four or five years of age. A decision is then made, based on ability and soundnesss, as to whether racing continues or other options are presented.

A horse that is no longer fit for racing, whether through health or ability, can go onto become a dressage/equestrian horse, a pleasure horse (like our Jet), a jumps horse (until recently), or they can go off to the knackery where they will be turned into glue, dog food and cheap sustenance for detained refugees.

I have had many conversations about horse racing with uneducated types who simply spout the mistruth that it’s animal cruelty. If you are someone who thinks this way I urge you to head out to the Flemington stables and look at how these animals live and are treated. They are given the very best in food, care and shelter. It is so good in fact that even the ancient pharaohs would have had the decency to look around their surroundings and whisper, “Don’t you think this is a bit much?” The simple fact is there is no benefit to the stables to mistreat their charges. Spending the money on care is more likely to net them money on the track.

So we come to Jumps racing. I mentioned above that the VRC installed brush top jumps to combat horse falls and it appears to have failed miserably. All evidence points to the fact that horses aren’t stupid. They soon worked out that the top of the jumps weren’t solid and they could run right through them. This, coupled with the innate desire of the thoroughbred to run and run, meant that the general speed of jumps racing increased dramatically. More falls were inevitable, which unfortunately, meant more horses were injured and had to be put down.

We’re still talking about just over ten horses over the jumps racing season and, while it is very sad that it occurs at all, it is still better to provide many horses with an alternative career to what will happen when jumps racing ceases to be. As Ms. Riley pointed out in her article, stables aren’t charities, and no racing stable is going to hang onto a horse that can’t race. Feeding, vet bills and general stabling costs make hanging onto uncompetitive horses unprofitable and therefore unlikely to happen.

As I write this I still can’t fathom what the activists were trying to achieve here. Animal cruelty? Not really a factor. I do know that they have managed to put trainers, strappers, jockeys and other associated people out of work not to mention punch massive budgetary holes in regional centres like Warrnambool, often regarded as one of the premier jump locations in not only Victoria but Australia, but all this pales into comparison when compared to what will now happen to the horses.

So, I say this to anyone who has worked with the activists, signed a petition or in any other way performed to achieve the ban on jumps racing. Well done. The blood is on your hands. To save a dozen horses a year you have condemned hundreds to death. Sleep well.

This article was first published in the December 2009 issue of The King’s Tribune.

Yeah, okay it’s been awhile since I wrote here. I have been doing a fair amount of writing at my job, and to be honest, the last thing I want to do when I get home is write another thousand or so words. However, the time is now right for me to update my blog. There is a growing scourge of stupidity that has me concerned. Actually, it’s not really stupidity; it’s more anti-stupidity whose implications may not be known for some time to come. I’m talking at the evolutionary level here.

I am oft ranting about road works and the way they inconvenience road users of all varieties. Road works are a necessary evil. They are supposed to keep road maintenance up to date and make sure our journeys are smooth and hassle free. More often than not the reverse is true. I cannot remember a time in the last ten years that there were no works being conducted on the Western Ring Road. Monash Freeway, same problem. Surely by now there is someone who understands the, seemingly, vague notion that road works should be done quickly and quietly with the least amount of fuss caused to all. Alas, it appears that this is not the case and I lay most of the blame at the feet of Occupational Health and Safety.

Recently I commented to friends that, as a species, the human race peaked sometime in the 70’s. Now, for the most part, we seem to be just getting fatter, stupider and spend most of our time complaining about the weather. Recent observations have done nothing but confirm my thinking. For example, I live near a couple of sets of railroad tracks. A little while ago the people who are in charge of the railroads decided that work needed to be done.

The works were being conducted about 300 to 400 metres away from the nearest stretch of road which crossed the tracks in the form of a level crossing. Surely the reasonable person would look at the situation and ask themselves, “Is the location of these works likely to place the workers in danger?” The answer should really have been, “No, the workers are far enough from the actual roadway that any risk of danger is minimal at worst”, and then gotten on with the job. But, no, what they had to do was lower the speed limit to 40km/h in both directions for about 500 metres and make a man, who held up one of those ‘Stop’ and ‘Slow’ signs, stand on the footpath.

I asked one of the guys what the deal with the lower speed limit was and he said that because they were ‘near’ the road that the speed limit signs had to go up. Also, because they had to stop the traffic to let trucks in and out the men had to be there with their rotating signs. “How many trucks do they let in and out?” I asked. “Oh about three or four a day”, he replied. “Are they often standing on the road?” I asked. “No, not really. Probably only twenty minutes a day. They’re normally standing on what would be the footpath if one was there.” So why are we slowing down to 40 km/h for almost a kilometre? These workers spent most of their time holding signs for trucks that were rarely there, and, for most of that they were on the ‘footpath’. What makes them different from ordinary pedestrians? Reflective vests aside.

Another act of recent anti-stupidity is the area surrounding the, ‘currently under construction’, Point Cook train station. Running alongside the construction site is the Princes Freeway, which has been lowered to 80/h in the affected area despite no construction being done near or on the affected road. It matters little though because it appears that everyone is of similar thinking to me and refusing to slow down. So, what’s the point of it? Apart from the black plastic that, for some unknown reason, has been put up on the roadway shoulder there is no change to the actual road conditions. It all comes down to well-meaning but practically stupid Work Safety laws.

Now to the crux of the matter and I ask you to hang on here because I may touch a few nerves. Work Safety laws are essentially in place to stop stupid people dying in avoidable accidents. Have you seen the latest commercial where two blokes are on the roof without scaffolding and safety harnesses and everyone gets upset? Then the smartest bloke there says something similar to, “But it’s only a twenty minute job!” Fair point, right? Then the Work Safe lady gets angry, feels the need to justify her position and asserts her authority. The end result is that scaffolding gets erected. Now I don’t know anything about scaffolding and how long it takes to put up and bring down but I’m pretty sure that it takes longer than twenty minutes. A twenty minute job suddenly turns into a half, or even full, day. That time is never coming back, it’s gone forever. Safety is becoming an ever increasing scourge on our lives. It’s not just for construction sites anymore. There are warning labels on everything, including the Nintendo Wii for frig’s sake.

Now, if you’re too stupid to pay attention to what you are doing when working on a roof, then maybe, life is not for you. Over the last several billion years evolution has done a really good job of making sure that only the strongest genetic lines survived. I wonder now whether we’re working hard to undermine the good work evolution has done. The human race has done a great many things to be rid of other things which could be viewed as a natural enemy. We have built stronger homes to stop predators. We have advanced medical science and either eradicated, or created vaccines for deadly and debilitating diseases. Now we’re trying to save the stupids.

I refuse to accept that spending time and money to save stupid people is going to be worthwhile. During our childhood, most of us will try stupid things. We keep doing these things until it goes wrong. Most of us then learn a lesson from this mistake but, some of us don’t. By all means, cry at the funeral, but really we should be celebrating the fact that his or her genes have left the pool forever.

We have made the decision, as a species, to treat genetic diseases rather than cut them out, root and branch. That’s fine, but stupidity should not, in any form, be tolerated. Workplace accidents, along with other ‘life skills tests’, used to be a great way of eradicating the stupid gene. Now, for some reason, we are protecting these people. This does nothing for anyone. All it does is ensure that in the future; every activity we undertake will have to be performed wearing a reflective vest, while a Safety Officer watches on. Should make bedroom activities a hoot.

It’s been a massive two weeks for Motorsport of all disciplines. As I write this Lewis Hamilton has just taken pole position in the second running of the Korean Grand Prix and Casey Stoner has just taken one more pole for tomorrow’s Australian Moto Grand Prix at Phillip Island. I’m a long way away from being a Motorcycle enthusiast so if you’re after more information about this I suggest you find another blog.

Last week is what I want to talk about here. I didn’t move far from the couch last weekend. Well, that’s not entirely true. Saturday I had to work. I was, however, able to catch most of the Top Ten Shootout for the 49th running of the Bathurst Endurance Race at Mount Panorama but sadly missed qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix. This was because I took the family out to see Harry Kewell’s first ever game in Australia. It was a thrilling end to end display that unfortunately finished in a 0-0 draw. Harry was brilliant, but, couldn’t quite drag Melbourne Victory over the line despite setting up some excellent scoring chances.

Sunday was where it was at. It was a continuous nine hour display of some of the best Motorsport action one will ever see. Japan’s Suzuka Grand Prix circuit once again showed why the old tracks are still better than the new tracks. The actual end result was pretty much written, as it was only a matter of time before Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel clinched the final point he needed to become the youngest ever two-time World Driver’s Champion. The race itself was a great display with a three way battle between Vettel, McLaren’s Jenson Button and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, Button eventually claiming victory from Alonso.

Before the Japanese Grand Prix though, was the annual V8 Supercars race around Mount Panorama. A long time ago I used to watch V8 Supercars quite frequently. I would follow the races quite closely to see what’s what. Time changes all though, and, eventually faced with spiralling costs, V8 Supercars has openly embraced standardised parts. All that is different on the cars now is the engine, although they are both 5.0 litre V8’s, and body shell. The cars are essentially the same. They bear as much resemblance to the road-going version as a kite does to a jumbo jet. While this ensures that racing is close it does, to my mind, give it a slightly manufactured feel. The actual cars themselves are 40mm shorter than the road-going version too.

Nonetheless, V8 Supercars remains the pinnacle of motor racing here in Australia. It’s widely regarded worldwide with any number of well-known International drivers lining up to have a go. The Gold Coast race next weekend has attracted a few NASCAR and Indy Car drivers to the field, although we will be one short, more on that in a moment. But, last weekend it was all about ‘The Mountain’.

It’s the one race a year I watch religiously. I watched it as a child with my father, together we cheered on Peter Brock. It brings back pleasant memories. The race itself has undergone a few changes in recent years. Back in the good ol’ days of Group A, B and C as many as 130 cars were lined up on the grid; V8 Commodores and Falcons sharing the limelight with Toyota Corolla’s, Jaguar Xj12’s and BMW M3’s. Has it been improved since then, well I don’t think so and I still wistfully think on those days.

Even non-motoring types know about the Bathurst race, it’s an Australian institution, like the Platypus. But for those who live under rocks, it is 161 laps around one of the most arduous and demanding circuits in the world today. That’s right, ‘the world’. I can think of perhaps only two more circuits in the world that have the mystique and wonder of ours, Germany’s Nurburgring, otherwise known as ‘the Green Hell’, or Le Mans. You could possibly add USA’s Laguna Seca circuit but really, apart from one corner that track is pretty much standard fare. No, Mount Panorama is special and we should be grateful that we have it.

This year’s event didn’t disappoint either. Like most endurance events the driver’s spent the first 140 laps setting themselves up for the final charge home. It was a case of gently, gently for most teams, David Besnard aside. There are a number of driver’s who have made the last twenty or so laps of the Bathurst 1000 their own. Peter Brock, Alan Moffat, Jim Richards, Dick Johnson. All had the ability to take their cars and find that little bit extra and really produce something special. Craig Lowndes, if not already, should also be added to that list.

Lowndes started the final 20 laps around 15 seconds down on the leader and eventual winner, Garth Tander. Craig grabbed his car by the scruff of the neck and produced qualifying speed laps again and again, until, going into the last lap, he was bang on the bumper of Tander. Garth made his car extra wide and was able to hold him off but it was a brilliant drive by Lowndes and should be forever remembered in the upper pantheon of motor racing performances. All hail ‘The Mountain’, once again it has produced some of the greatest driving the world will ever see.

Now, unfortunately, some sad news. I awoke this morning to the news that tragedy had struck at the Indy Car event in Las Vegas. After a massive 15-car pile-up, where many drivers were injured, Dan Wheldon was declared dead. For those who didn’t know of him Dan was one of those quiet, unassuming blokes that Motorsport is full of. Hugely affable and extremely likeable, he had raced everywhere and everything. He was due to race alongside James Courtney this coming weekend on the Gold Coast. I wish to offer my condolences to his family and team-mates. Dan Wheldon, you will be missed.

Ayrton Senna

Posted: September 28, 2011 in Cars
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Honesty is probably the best place to start here. I didn’t care much for Ayrton Senna da Silva when he was driving in Formula One. To qualify that a little, I was only in my teens. I didn’t really see him as a man either; he was just a yellow helmet in a car repeatedly taking points off my hero, Alain Prost. When I first started watching Formula 1, I was around ten years old.  Ayrton Senna was just starting out with Toleman F1 and Alain Prost was the man of the moment. I quickly hitched my wagon behind him and McLaren. McLaren are still the team I follow today, almost with religious fervour.

The battle of Senna and Prost was not truly joined until the 1988 season when they were teamed together at McLaren. McLaren took 15 out of the 16 races that season and still remains one of the greatest achievements in Formula 1 history. The problem here was that it sparked a war within the team. Prost became convinced that Senna was getting better equipment and different instructions from the team. There is a great anecdote from commentating legend Murray Walker which highlights this fact. Mr Walker was waiting to interview Prost after a qualifying session and Prost asked him to wait by the McLaren motor home until the post-qualifying debriefing session finished. Murray waited for some time, hours passed before Prost exited in a huff. “Goodness Alain,” said Walker, “what could you have possibly been talking about for all that time?’ Prost quickly replied, “Oh, the debrief finished ages ago, I just didn’t want to be first to leave.”

The war continued into the 1989 season and ended when Prost left the team and joined Ferrari for 1990. I was a little miffed by this, I still supported McLaren, but I would never support Senna. This upstart had come into the team and forced out my man, Prost was ever the hero and Senna the villain. When Senna left McLaren and joined Williams in 1994 I was happy. I could proudly support my team once more. In 1993 Williams were clearly the dominant team with their all-singing, all-dancing, active everything FW-15C. With Alain Prost back at the wheel for his last season, they won quickly and easily. Senna wanted to join the team with the fastest car and at that time it was Williams. Prost went, Senna came in.

The regulatory body had different ideas and late in the piece changed the regulations to ban these advancements. How much this would have to do with Senna’s death early in the 1994 season has never, to my mind, been properly investigated as most of the focus was placed on the Williams F1 team. Williams had to scramble to remove the aids and then rebuild the car without them. It takes months to design an F1 car, to make sure that all the pieces work together. The Williams car was designed around their clever suspension and I have always wondered if that by removing it the car became un-driveable. In the previous three races Senna struggled to find a set-up, struggled to find pace in the car. That something broke on the car is beyond doubt but still, I wonder if he simply drove beyond the limits of the car once too often.

I will always remember watching the San Marino Grand Prix. I still remember exactly where I was. When Senna crashed in that race, and was later pronounced dead I remember feeling, well, nothing. No emotion whatsoever. The next race came about a fortnight later. At this time Channel 9 had the broadcasting rights to Formula 1 in Australia. Because of this there was no lead up to the races itself. If you were lucky you caught snippets of qualifying highlights on the Sunday sports programs, otherwise, as far as Australia was concerned Formula 1 didn’t exist. Also remember that there was no internet, no easy way to quickly came to terms with what had occurred in the preceding sessions. I had no idea what was planned for the next race at Monaco.

The cars were on their parade lap when Channel 9 moved to the ‘live feed’. They slowly moved into the grid spots and it quickly became apparent that the two spots at the front were not going to be filled. It had been decided that in honour of Senna and Roland Ratzenberger, who also died at San Marino, the two front spots would remain free. Then they came, in a great endless torrent my tears starting flowing. It suddenly dawned on me that two great men were gone, one largely greater than the other, but both still great. I would never again see the familiar yellow helmet hunting down rivals and doing things with a car that often left mouths agape. The memory of that moment still causes goosebumps and it is one that I will never forget.

So it came to pass, about four weeks ago, that I found myself in a movie cinema, staring at the screen. Those same scenes from the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix flashed up and, once again, so did the tears. If you still have not seen the Ayrton Senna movie, remarkably enough called, Senna, then I would urge you to do so. My views about Ayrton Senna have largely changed over time. The man was a saint. Not on the race track, but in the real world. He was still quite happy to be a villain on the track but this movie confirmed everything I have read since his death. He was a private individual, deeply religious, who loved racing but hated the bullshit that came with it, the politics, the movie captures this beautifully.

Ayrton Senna was an enigma. His work behind the wheel of Formula 1 cars is well documented, what is, or was, not so widely known is his work with charity organisations in his beloved Brazil. Ayrton came from wealth. The poverty in Brazil upset him greatly, particularly the way it affected children. With the majority of Brazilian sport stars of the time, it was almost standard to become famous and then pretend that you had never heard of Brazil. Ayrton wasn’t like this, he was immensely proud of his Brazilian heritage. In time he set up the Senna Foundation which has since raised millions of dollars to help hospitals and children’s services. During the movie you begin to understand why his death hit the country hard, think Diana but a whole lot bigger.

I don’t think the world will ever see another Ayrton Senna. Others have won more races, won more championships, but no-one ever drove a car quite like Ayrton. For two hours he kept the car on knife edge, doing fuel economy equations in his head. Others have done more in charity, helped more people but Senna’s name lives on in Brazil as the good work of the Senna Foundation continues, his sister Vivianne at the helm. Strangely enough his greatest rival, Alain Prost, is one of the directors. No, we will never see another Senna and the world will be poorer for it.

Ayrton Senna da Silva (21 March 1960 – 1 May 1994)

“Nada Pode Me Separar Do Amor De Deus”

What Happened To You Melbourne?

Posted: August 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

You Used To Be Cool!

I have been travelling a lot in peak hour lately, and I have been secretly surveying the driving habits of Melburnians everywhere. And, when I say everywhere I mean…well…the people who live on the same side of the city as me and travel the same route to work.

I have tabled the results of the survey and using some fantastic, scientifical methods I have come up with something I call… results.

I have done also all this to coincide quite brilliantly with the moment that K-Rudd decided to make cigarettes a luxury item that requires you to re-mortgage your house every time you want a pack. Maybe more on that later and by later I mean next month, possibly the one after, or…you get the idea. The upshot is that I can’t afford to smoke anymore.

As it turns out, I am not the most patient and reasonable man in the world and I will never be mistaken for the Dalai Lama. So we come to the results. How do I put this politely, without offending anyone? Hmmm….bollocks to it.

You’re all shit, I hate every last one of you and you should all be killed.

Any regular readers of my column will know that last year before Christmas I wrote an article on things I would like you all to do before and whilst driving. If you did in fact read this article it appears that you have either forgotten all it said or you’ve chosen to ignore its advice altogether. Either way, don’t be surprised if one morning soon a tallish tattooed man punches you forcefully in the face. It may or may not be me but I’m pretty sure you will have deserved it.

I am now at the point where I’m starting to think that in some situations road rage should be encouraged and rewarded. Something along the lines of this:

Angry Man: “I chased down and killed a person who cut across three lanes of peak hour traffic, causing untold chaos, all because they realised they were in the wrong lane and didn’t want to go another two hundred metres where they could safely make a U-turn.”

Road Rage Encouragement Committee: “Excellent sir, have $200 and an Order of Australia Medal (OAM).”

As an aside, I remember when I first started driving, some years ago, if you came along someone doing 80 km/h in a 100 km/h zone the trick was to get as close to the back of them as you possibly could and start flashing your high beams vigorously. If it was daylight you could also thrust your arm out the window, (opening it first), and shake your fist in their general direction. What would happen then was that they would either realise their error and speed up or, get freaked out, crash and die. Either outcome was totally acceptable.

What happens now is that people just sigh and accept the fact they are now stuck behind someone who is doing 20 km/h below the legal limit. If you even think about trying the above method you are treated as some sort of social pariah instead of the OAM worthy hero you really are. People are more likely to spit on you in the street when they should be offering you opportunities to speak to high school students at morning assemblies. What the hell has happened to us?

There are basic driving activities that people just don’t seem to be able to come to grips with. Take merging for instance. Why can’t people do it? Why do people stay in the left-most lane when they can clearly see people are trying to merge? Are you all that friggin’ stupid?

When merging onto a freeway, match your speed to that of the cars that are already travelling in the lane you want to be in. Once your speed is the same as the car beside you it becomes a simple sideways motion, easy. There is no need to stop and wait for a gap. There is no need to merge as soon as the line becomes dotted. Chances are there will be ample space for you to match your speed. Do you think there’s a chance that’s why freeway entrance ramps are downhill? Yes, I am aware that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit and I don’t care one bit.

When driving on a freeway an important thing to remember is that where there’s an off-ramp, there’s usually an on-ramp. If you are travelling in the left hand lane and spot an off-ramp, try and move one lane across. This will keep the lane free and help the other idiots who are freaking out, trying to get onto the actual freeway.

In peak hour traffic what benefit does one get from sitting as close to the back of the car in front as possible? The ‘scare-them-into-submission’ method does not work in peak hour traffic. The trick here is to back right off until you have two or three seconds space. Then when they brake, you lift off the accelerator, when they come off the brake you speed up again. Repeat as necessary. Trust me. By doing this the only time you will touch your own brakes is when you arrive at a red traffic light. You will be much calmer when you arrive at your destination and you could smugly walk past that Prius owner knowing that by not touching the brakes you have driven your vehicle in the most efficient method possible. After doing this, punch them in the face. for being a pratt.

There are plenty of other methods I could explain to you but, you didn’t listen last time so what chance is there now that you’ll listen this time? If you don’t mind, I’ll just go on hating you all from afar.

I should probably mention, in the spirit of responsible journalism, that road rage is shit. If you actually get to the point where you get out of the car and feel the need to punch someone, then, punch yourself. Hard, in the mouth.

This article first appeared in the June 2010 issue of The King’s Tribune.

What’s Going On In F1?

Posted: August 7, 2011 in Cars
Tags: ,

I love Formula One. I mean I really love it, to the point where it’s been commented on more than once, as I’ve walked into work on a Monday morning, all bleary eyed due to staying up all hours watching the latest race. I find it deeply satisfying that we, as in Australia, also have our own official round of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) Formula One World Championship. Unlike my editors at The King’s Tribune, I can’t think of a better way for our State Government to spend $50-odd million of taxpayers money, if indeed that is the actual figure.

What I find perplexing about this though, more than the actual amount, is that the Australian Grand Prix is wholly funded by the Victorian State Government. Other Grand Prix around the world are funded at a Federal level and used as a marketing tool for that particular country’s tourism industry. This may be a solution for further down the track as hosting a round of the World Championship becomes even more expensive. It may also lead to a ‘sharing’ concept with different cities in Australia taking their turn to host the round. For this to work though Australian State Governments will have to adopt a ‘whole Australia’ concept rather than the State V. State outlook they currently have.

There is also the issue of where to race as Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit is currently the only FIA approved track within Australia and the development of race tracks is an immensely expensive proposition. The idea of Formula One cars racing their way around Bathurst’s Mount Panorama is the stuff of dreams but I’m not entirely sure it’s a dream that’s viable. Transport to and from that particular circuit is probably the biggest hurdle to overcome. But where there is a will there is a way and Jenson Button driving his McLaren, ‘over the hill’, could only be a good thing, as far as pushing that particular barrow goes.

This is not the point I want to make today though. I am also not going to give you any overview into the season thus far as there are other websites and blog’s where you can gain that information. What I would like to do is highlight some issues that have been bugging me about Formula One for some time.

I have been watching Formula One for many years, knee high to grasshoppers and all that. In that time I have witnessed many changes to my beloved sport. The turbo era came and went, ideas such as sliding skirts, ground effect and increasingly exotic materials, most of which have now been banned, were also introduced. The late 1980’s and early 90’s, were particularly exciting as the cars of this time had active everything and the lap times tumbled.

Falling lap times were an issue for the ruling body as not only did this mean that races, 300 km long, were been completed more quickly, meaning fans were seeing less of the cars they’d come to see, but the cars were travelling faster and faster and driver safety became a concern. So turbocharging went, sliding skirts were outlawed and active suspension and braking was banned. Exotic materials, such as Beryllium, are no longer allowed in engine manufacture and the track width of cars was reduced, supposedly to improve overtaking.

So the FIA made rules and regulations to try and slow the cars down. Every year new laws come into effect which all are supposed to improve the ‘show’. For instance, qualifying has changed its format approximately 4 times in the last ten years. As a result of all this rule changing the cars are just about as fast as they’ve ever been. The FIA have also been particularly interested in lowering the cost of Formula 1. The reason for this is to make entering F1 cheaper and therefore more encouraging to other teams.

The cost of F1 is prohibitive. Every year, over $2 billion is spent taking the ‘show’ around the globe and that, as they say, is real money. But, as it currently stands the new teams that have come into Formula 1, Virgin, Lotus, HRT, have probably done more to hamper F1 then help it on its way. This may change along the way but it will only come when those particular teams start spending more money. There are signs at Virgin and Lotus that good things are to come but they are a long way, years and years, from winning races.

I have a problem with all of this. Formula 1 is supposed to be expensive. It’s supposed to be an exhibition of technology and driving skill. At the moment we have long life engines that have to last four or five races each. Gearboxes are now supposed to last something like eight races each. It used to be that these parts were pulled out and stripped down after every session. Finish a practice session, pull the engine and gearbox out of the car and replace it with a brand new combination. Qualifying soon, well pull the practice engine out and put in the qualifying one that revs well over 20,000 RPM.

Formula 1 used to be the technological pinnacle of motor sports. There are many road car technologies that came from F1. Active suspension came from F1, carbon brakes came from F1, semi-automatic gearboxes came from F1. It’s not really the case any longer. F1 has borrowed KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) from road cars. While I agree that KERS is an important and worthwhile technology I don’t really think Formula 1 is the correct forum for it. Every year the maximum RPM an engine can achieve has been made lower and lower. From over 20,000 RPM it’s dropped to 19,000, then 18,000. From 2014 we go from 2.4l V8 engines to 1.6l V6’s with a top RPM of 14,000. Please, can someone stop the madness.

What I don’t understand is that the FIA are all about saving costs. Nothing could be more expensive than developing a new engine and making it reliable enough to not only last one 300 km race, but four 300 km races. This is not Formula 1 as I knew it growing up. We are no longer watching cars that have been designed to wring the very last drop of performance out of their respective packages. More often than not, due to refueling no longer being allowed, we are watching giant economy runs where the drivers are been ordered to turn down the ‘wick’ and not race each other. All to ensure that no extra damage is done to the engine so that it can be used next race.

More often than not we know what the result is going to be after the final pit stop as the guys worry about the next race and look after their equipment. I just want to see racing again, right to the chequered flag. I just want to see drivers drive without worrying about their fuel level or their tyres. I just want my Formula One back.