Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Our hero goes mountain bike racing ....

“There are only 5 miles left, that’s 3 miles gone, keep going “

It was 9.30 pm in the dark of Minley wood on Sunday night. Matt  had talked Daryl and myself into the “TORQ till you sleep “ 12 hour mountain bike enduro event, and the couple shouting the helpful news to me were trying hard to be encouraging.

Matt is an old hand at these enduro events and has organised a semi regular mountain bike evening at work over the summer. He had urged Daryl and I to join in the race whilst on one of these evening bike rides,

In the warm evening sunshine on Tuesday evening we’d gently rolled around the Minley course, as Matt explained what was involved in a 12 hours race. “Oh it’s easy” he’d said, “the laps take about 40 minutes, we won’t be going for a win or any sort of prizes and it’s just a bit of fun”

“But I’ve never entered a mountain bike race before, I’m far too old for that sort of thing” I’d replied. “Don’t be silly, you’re never too old for a bit of a laugh” he joked, “besides which, you only have to do a minimum of 2 laps. There’ll be four of us my mate is a pro he and I will do most of the actually racing”. I looked thoughtfully at him and replied “two laps .. That sounds easy” and we were in.

That conversation returned to haunt me on my third lap. It was dark and the light I had borrowed wasn’t doing the job. I was having to rely on Jedi senses and the numerous serious riders passing me with their gazillion watt lights to illuminate the path. My lungs were bursting, I‘d lost my water bottle avoiding a tree root that had leapt out at me, and I wasn’t sure where the trail went next.

“There are only 5 miles left, that’s 3 miles gone, keep going “ the couple shouted out of the darkness at me. “Cheers” I managed to puff back in reply. “Okay only 5 to go, that’s up the big climb then and through the technical single track section” I thought.

I was sort of enjoying myself. The first lap had been nothing but pain to a body used to a gentle roll though the countryside. The second lap had been easier as my body knew what had been required of it . The third however was proving difficult. Delirium had set in from lack of water and talent and I was talking to the bike, urging her to get me home and not let me injure myself. The light on the handlebars flicked and bounced around just catching the board to mark the end of the seventh mile. Even in the cool darkness the sweat was running off me in rivulets, blinding me as it ran from my forehead into me eyes. “Come on, its all down hill from here Julian” I huffed. “Just that vicious little climb before the finish line” I gritted my teeth and dug deep.

The tree must have been waiting for me. Round the corner I came, thoughts of the finish line and a drink coursing through my mind, when my shoulder thudded into the tree trunk and I was knocked sideways. Time slowed, images flashed through my mind, my wife fast asleep at home, my son waiting for at the finish line to cheer me. Matt telling me how easy this would be. Then the second tree lunged at me, knocking me upright and I wobbled on my way bruised but still on the bike, riding through the night.

I finished my last lap at 9.50pm. I was sore, bruised, tired sweaty but really happy that I’d made it. There were still 2 hours to go but I wasn’t going anywhere near the course again, my job was done. Three 1 hour laps was more than enough for me, I handed over the wrist band to Daryl and waved him off into the darkness.

“See that was fun wasn’t it” Matt beamed at me, “Now how do you fancy joining a 10 man team for the 24 hour next year ?”

We eventually finished 30th out of 43 team, only 6 laps behind the leaders. But I like to think we had more fun then them.




Monday, 26 August 2013

Lewis gets pole, Vettel gets the victory, predictable and dull.

Hello everyone, sorry about the delay. Real life got in the way. But I have watched the race and it wasn’t worth it really. Bit dull, only Maldonado being a complete tool as ever, to liven things up ... where’s the rain when you need it !!
Vettel won without too much effort. He mugged Lewis out of eau rouge and didn’t look back. Redbull had trimmed the car out with the Monza spec tin tray rear wing and the thing was like a rocket on the straight bits.  Worryingly for the rest it was still fast in the tight twisty bits. That’s now 2000 laps Vettel has led, which puts him in the same league as Senna, Prost and Mansell. Well maybe not Senna or Prost, but probably Mansell ... with less facial hair.  He’s now pretty much two wins ahead of the rest of the pack and i think set fair for the silverware. Roll on 2014.

Alonso was second with another sterling drive, and he still believes he has a chance of championship... how quaint.

Hamilton third, now you have to admit that if the pole in Hungary was a bit of a surprise, this was pure luck. The car was nowhere in all the other practice sessions and only just scrapped into Q1. Anyone who thought they had miraculously found a whole world of speed was kidding themselves. Everyone was going faster at the end of Q1 Lewis was just the one last across the line. That’s not to say it wasn’t a great pole and one of his very best, he still had to feel the level of grip and know when to push and when to back off. But, I think he would be the first to agree that any other of the top 5 drivers could have delivered the pole in the same situation ... Not the likes of Maldonado, but an Alonso or even a Webber if they have been the last car to cross the line, they would have expected to have pole.  
So when all the pundits said “Mercedes obviously have a fast car now, the win will be easy” I thought, Merc will be lucky to be on the podium.  And that’s what happened. With a dry race Lewis couldn’t live with Vettel or Alonso, and only Rosberg keeping Webber behind him stopped the grumpy Ozzy being on the podium too. It was still a good job by Hamilton, but he only did what the car was capable of delivering. He was a second a lap slower than Vettel at one stage. I don’t think they’ll be any closer in Monza to be honest. Though pole might be still on the cards, you never know.

Rosberg fourth, and another weekened when he should have beaten Lewis. He was faster in all the practice sessions and in much if qualifying, but then when the umbrellas came down Nico was behind his team mate and destined to play second fiddle again. Could he have over taken the Brit in the closing stages? I don’t think he would have been allowed.

Webber fifth and not as fast as Vettel, he was slow off the line and spent the rest of the race trying to catch up.

Button, amazingly, has the best result for McLaren this year in sixth; I think the last time McLaren failed to even get a podium during a racing season was something like 1983.  What’s the betting there’s a shakeup in personal if it happens this year? They were almost there but a late stop and Button was out of the top five. It was a plucky effort but like Mercedes I think they needed some rain to level the playing field out a bit.

Massa was seventh and had to work pretty hard for that.

Grosjean ... Now I'm not Perez’s biggest fan, but there was no way that he deserved that drive through for knocking Grosjean off the circuit! The dopey French get was well beaten for the corner and made a stupid lunge up the outside on the marbles and simply ran out of talent way past the breaking zone. He trundled off the track all on his lonesome and I have no idea why the FIA waded in and threw the book at Perez for that. Grosjean however did alright with what he had and at least made it home, unlike Kimi who destroyed his brakes and had to retire.

Sutil, was lucky to get ninth after Maldonado demonstrate how rubbish he is yet again. Once again a driver ran out of talent and made a mess of someone else’s race.  Sutil got tagged and Di Resta was punted out of the race. Sutil benefited from the carnage.

Ricciardo was tenth and I still have no idea why Vettel would want this driver in particular to replace Webber. I can’t think why he wouldn’t prefer a proven race winner like Kimi or a real talent like the Hulk, can you think of a reason ?

Vettel got the fastest lap pretty much at the end of the race just to rub it in.

And Max was last despite getting into Q2 with a ballsy bit of driving on slicks on a wet track. Well done him, good effort lad. 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Its late and i'm tired.

Right, yes, sorry. I made mention of a half term review and ... well I didn’t get round to writing one I'm afraid. So this will have to do.

So far then...
Seb has got: 3 poles, 3 fastest laps and 4 wins
Lewis has got: 4 poles, no fastest laps and 1 win
Nico has got: 3 poles, no fastest laps and 2 wins
Kimi has: no poles, 1 fastest lap and 1 win
Alonso has: no poles, 1 fastest lap and 2 wins.

The rest of the fastest laps are Perez - 1, Gutierrez - 1 and Webber - 3.
Which all adds up to:
Vettel : 172
Kimi: 134
Alonso: 13
Hamilton: 124
Webber: 105
Nico: 84
So then... well from those stats you have to wonder how Vettel leading and Kimi chasing him hard. And the answer as ever is consistency and lady Luck and her Chum Miss Reliability.
Vettel has had 1 retirement this year and never been lower than fourth whilst Kimi has had no retirements with just the one win, 5 second places and a bunch of top ten finishes. Fernando 5 podiums one retirement and the rest are some top ten finishes. Lewis has had 4 podiums one 12th and the rest top 5 finishes. Webber and Nico have had a lot of bad luck and bounced around the top ten.

So Vettel and Kimi have kept the points ticking over, not tangled their cars against any other drivers or trackside distractions.
But the momentum is with Mercedes, they have made pole position virtually theirs this season, apart from the first two races and Canada, no one other than a Merc driver has started from pole. Only Vettel seems to be able to live with the Merc on Saturday afternoon. But come the race and the German cars are struggling to stay in front of the Redbull cars. And generally, one or other of them will be the one that finds the sweet spot. What I mean is if Lewis is on the podium Nico retires or scrapes into the top ten. Whilst a good weekend for Nico sees Lewis off the podium but with top fives to his name. Lewis is more consistent, and seems to have really got his mind around the way the car handles. Nico is either on tuned into the circuit or struggling to make the tyres work for him.

The Lotus, meanwhile has struggled on cold circuits with fast corners. They need a melting track to really get the car working for them. The win in Australia is always a bit of a lottery so we can sort of discount that one as luck; the seventh on Malaysia a week later would tend to confirm that. Then three straight seconds in China, Bahrain and Spain suggested a fast car on the silly twisty bland circuits, but a 10th in Monaco followed by a 9th in Canada and a 5th as Silverstone indicated they had lost their way a little bit, maybe the car wasn’t quite as sorted as the earlier podiums suggested. Then the tyres got changed and low and behold two more 2nds in Germany and Hungary which they could have won with a smidgen more luck, and maybe they aren’t dead and buried just yet.
What might distract Lotus and Kimi from the title hunt is “where is Kimi going to be next year”? It looks like the Redbull seat is going to go to Ricciardo now, I guess the amount of PR he was willing to do compared to the ever ebullient Fin was too much of a no brainer for Mr Marko and friends.  Suddenly Kimi is being linked with the soon to be vacant seat at Ferrari  ... or maybe he’ll stay with Lotus ... but a return to Ferrari would be cool wouldn’t it ... but Lotus have had more success recently... or not... in fact both have been a bit rubbish at times. ..... But Ferrari is, well ... it’s FERRARI. Remember last year, when Hamilton was humming and erring about his signature on a new McLaren contract? Yeah, remember how many races he won whilst the media was blowing that all out of proportion? The sum total of none at all. Personally I think he’d be a fool to go back to Ferrari, I'm pretty sure there are elements of the team that remember how enthusiastic he was  the last time the car wasn’t all that, and how much development effort he put in to get it up to snuff.

But what of Ferrari... Fernando is once again trying very, very hard to salvage something; but it’s a losing battle. Merc have over taken them, Lotus is ahead and Redbull are just too far ahead now. Well yeah, sure Vettel could have a really bad run of retirements or something, but it’s not in Redbulls nature to have reliability issues is it. They’re car just keeps working. Even the Alternator works reliably now. No I think Ferrari are going to look for a face saving win in Monza and maybe something in Abu Dhabi, and meanwhile start testing bits for next year’s car.
The fact that Monty has slapped Fernando down for daring to criticise the teams direction and commitment, means only one thing, “Shut up son and get on with your job, we’ll do our”. Ferrari is never going to admit in public that they don’t stand a chance and they take great exception to driver questioning their motives and direction. Prost a 3 times world champion got fired for daring to say they didn’t know what they were doing. The driver is paid to drive, not tell the media how bad things are.   
Well I think they’re going to keep trying to make something of the season, but not too hard.  

What about the rest of them then? Let’s see
Vettel – difficult to stop now I think.
Kimi – how much of a distraction will his future be?
Alonso – flogging yet another dead horse
Lewis – got the bit between his teeth again and no distractions anymore.
Webber, okay, Webber then. Well after the shafting he got in Malaysia, he’s off to proper racing with Porsche in the WEC championship and I hope he has a long and successful career. I’ve never thought he was anything but a solid number two, but I think he’ll be great asset to Porsche and sports car racing. He needs a challenge and he can develop a car and he can be very fast when it all clicks for him. Porsche knows what they’re doing in Sports cars and the new car looks stunning, so with any luck he can go racing without all the politics and finally someone will beat Audi... I’d even take a different German team these days.
Nico, started badly, had a bit of resurgent, but it’s the same old problem, come Sunday and sometimes you struggle to remember if he even started. He’s got lots of poles, but not really done anything with them. And now Lewis has got his act together, and the team are starting to understand what he wants, things are starting to look a bit  ... number two driver for poor old Nico. He blew a tired and jaded Schumacher away, but Lewis is proving a tougher nut to crack.

Massa, well he started alright with top fives, then 15th a third place podium then a retirement and the rest have been lower top 10 finishes. I think his fragile resurgence got a bit of a knock and he struggled to find a balance with the car and the results stopped coming. I'm pretty sure Ferrari has told him that there are no more life lines and this will be his last year with them.  If it’s not Kimi then it’ll be the Hulk or maybe di Resta. But it won’t be the likable Brazilian in the red car next year. He’s had to put up with a world of abuse from the Media and the whole world it seems at times and you know what, you never see him complaining to the papers or bad mouthing anyone on TV, I think he deserves a bit of a break.

Grosjean, hmmm I still don’t know. Is he a danger to himself and everyone else on the track? Did he cop a lot of flak for some incidents last year that were 50/50 at worse? A couple of podiums and some top ten spots, suggest to me a solid number two in the mould of Webber or Massa. Good at things when the package suits him, but not a Hamilton or an Alonso that can make things happen and deliver results the car shouldn’t be getting. The jury is still out for Mr G.

 Button... is it the car that is terrible or is Button phoning in his performance each race? Perez is making him look dull at times. We all though Lewis was mad for leaving for Mercedes; look who’s laughing now. Yeah the car is pretty terrible, it’s slow and the sweet spot is nigh on impossible to find at some track. But Button has been on the blower all year complaining about the handling and the tyres and the ugly spectators and the sun and his team mate and the tyres and the handling and this and that and just shut up already.  I can’t see the rest of the season being any different either.

Di Resta has done alright with crappy pit wall work from his team and he’s whinged about it a LOT. Every damn week he’s standing there quietly fuming to the camera as the cars go out for Q2 and he’s at the back of the grid because the team didn’t tell him to driver faster. Maybe he should, oh I don’t know, driver faster before the chequered flag come out for the end of qualifying. A novel approach I know, but one that might get some results. Anyway. Yeah. He’s been a bit rubbish in qualifying, but then he’s gone on and delivered a few choice results from now where.... actually looking at the results a fourth in Bahrain is pretty much the only one of note. But it could have been better is the team had got its act together. Maybe if he quietly fumes at them BEFORE Q1 starts, he’ll get a better result.

Sutil, see above... with less quiet fuming and more floppy hand waving and pursed lips.

Perez. See.... he IS rubbish. Stop kidding yourselves that he’s got any talent. He’s all teeth and no trousers.

Vergne... he isn’t going to get the Redbull seat and his team mate is. How do you think that will make him feel? Do you care? Well you’re heartless than, right, but terrible heartless.

Ricciardo. No I have no idea why Redbull would want to put him in the best car on the grid after spending a gazillion dollars on him. Kimi would have been a better choice but there you go. He’s done alright and I imagine they think he’ll do as he’s told and not complain like Webber did when he was told to move over for Vettel. I’ve seen nothing to suggest he’s a champion yet.

Hulkenberg has done alright actually. The car is a dog, but he’s plugged away and the new tyres might suit it a bit more. The fact he hasn’t been paid until recently and the team are seconds away from financial ruin hasn’t helped, but the Hulk has got on with things and shown he can driver a bad car to good results. I think he’s in with a shout for that Ferrari seat.

Maldonado. I really, really dislike Maldonado. I think he’s irritating, he’s only there because of the money and I think he’s a liability. I think Suzie Wolff could do a better job than Pastor. I think if Williams had the balls to put her in the car she would get more points than this idiot. He’s got one top ten finish in 10 races; it’s just not good enough!
Bottas in the other Williams ... still don’t know about him. He driven the nuts off the car a couple of times, qualifying third in Canada, but the car isn’t there for him. Okay Maldonado has to drive the thing as well so it obviously not the drivers fault they’re so far back, it is a dog. But Bottas has at least shown flashes of talent and guts.  I really hope he beats Maldonado by the end of the season. Really I do ... lots and lots.

Gutierrez is rubbish; he’s got more money than talent.

Bianchi is the pick or the rubbish cars bunch. Best finish was 13th in Malaysia and he’s comfortably beating Max.

Pic  ... perhaps not
Van Der Garde... hopeless
Max ... is living the dream.

Right that’s the lot. Spa this weekend. My money is on Vettel... or maybe the Mercs. Or Kimi ... yeah one of them.

Good luck