Archive for October, 2011

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┬áspiralling 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.┬áNo, 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.