Tag Archives: sebastian loeb

Another fast-Seb, Danica’s milestone

 

Sebastian Ogier

Sebastian Ogier has the name, the car and the talent. (pic Edgar Gonzales)

Once again it was the USA that brought us most of the racing action this week, but the French provided the flair. Nascar was in action in Las Vegas, Grand Am had a thriller at Homestead and the WRC’s new breed were in Top Gear’s favourite country.

 

Carl Edwards did his somersault celebrations after taking the win in Sprint Cup at Las Vegas, but the Nationwide encounter had more talking points. The last lap saw reigning champion Brad Keselowski leading the way until a puncture sent him into the wall on the final lap gifting the win to 50-something hip hop aficionado Mark Martin.

 

Behind the thrilling events up front a little Nascar history was made by Danica Patrick. She took fourth, the highest for a woman at this level of stock car competition, in what was her most impressive drive to date in Nascar. This was a significant milestone, coupled with the last-gasp spills it means Nationwide in Vegas gets my race of the week.

 

Danica Patrick may have carved out a little piece of history, but the drive remained a solid rather than spectacular effort. To see elbows-out, white-knuckle action you had to head off the tarmac and onto the dust of Mexico or to the ice of the Stade de France.

 

The World Rally Championship with its new itty-bitty cars headed to Central America where a glance at the results wouldn’t tell you the whole story. Sebastian Loeb, one of greatest driving talents at work in the world today, took the win to add to his record-smashing tally, but the real star of the show was another Citroen-driving Frenchman called Sebastian. Winner of one WRC round already, Sebastian Ogier is being groomed to replace the master and he nearly got one over the champ as they tussled against each other until Ogier made a mistake on the final day.

 

The rest of the WRC field lagged minutes behind the two Sebastians despite the Frenchmen starting most stages in seemingly disadvantageous conditions. Sebastian Ogier nearly matched the performance of Loeb, which is enough to earn the young star twoworld’s racer of the week.

 

There was further French frivolity in the Stad de France where the Professor taught the class a lesson in ice dancing as Alain Prost won in the Andros Trophy. He seems to smile a lot more when he wins on ice than he ever did on tarmac, the Paris crowds were happy with the result too.

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Filed under Andros Trophy, Nascar, Rally, Sports Cars

What’s the point?

 

BSB riders give chase - new points systems are all the rage (pic MSV)

In the past you needed to be Watson the supercomputer to work out who scored what in a Nascar race, now the Sprint Cup has adopted a new points formula that should be easier to comprehend for those like myself whose brains freeze when faced with any more than a couple of digits. So it’s 43 points for the win, a solitary point for last and you can guess the rest. Throw in a point for leading a lap (always a great incentive for action) and another point for leading the most laps (always a well earned point) and there you have the new system. Simples.

So things are easier to follow, but the Sprint Cup is only claimed after the season’s ending series of 10 races known as The Chase. Played out on dull ‘cookie cutter’ tracks, the top 12 drivers have their points almost equalised and only these chosen few can race for the title. Not so simples.

Jimmie Johnson has claimed the last five straight Sprint Cups, timing his push to the top 12 perfectly every time while other stock car superstars are left fighting over the scraps. So can Jimmie still win under this new system? Of course he can, he’s the complete driver with a shrewd crew chief and the best team in the business, but at least we may see some more representative results for strong drivers who have missed the Chase in the past such as win-a-holic Kyle Busch or King of Concrete Carl Edwards.

Last year British Superbikes adopted their own Chase-style system, branded as The Showdown, that saw Riuchi Kionari taking the crown at a thrilling final round at Oulton Park. Nobody doubts the quality of the Japanese rider, so it’s certainly worked for the BSB and looks set to stay. It’s also a hell of a lot better than Bernie’s silly medals idea he keeps going on about ever since he took his little trip to Beijing with the Blairs back in 2008.

For what it’s worth I’m not a fan of a Chase format that freezes out riders and drivers. It’s nice to see a championship develop over the course of a season. But what do I know, I’m still stuck with the opinion that the only proper points in F1 are the top six.

The Chase seems fairly popular on the Nascar scene, so the current talking point is the weird scenario that the top three series are all being led by drivers who didn’t win during Speedweeks as it was part-time interlopers Waltrip, Stewart and Bayne who struck gold. Only giving points to regulars was a response to Sprint Cup drivers scooping the honours in feeder series, such as Brad Keselowski’s title success in Nationwide last year.

I think it’s a truly wonderful thing that Nascar has drivers guesting across its various formulas – it gave us a truly feel-good story with Trevor Bayne’s big win last Sunday. It provides feats to marvel at such as Kyle Busch winning more races in one year than you could count on your fingers and toes. Some of the greatest races on two wheels have been ridden by wildcards, I only wish that F1 would lighten up and allow a Rossi or a Loeb to join the grid once in a while.

Today Indycar announced a massive prize-fund for their Las Vegas season finale to encourage some series-swapping, a move in the right direction for the new management of the series. A cheque for $5 million will be given to any guest driver who claims the win; what price Mario dusting off his overalls? “Oh boy,” tweeted Marco Andretti, “if my grandfather finds this out we will be a 5 car team!”

The Nascar debate about guys who finished second and third leading the way is a moot point – it’s great that they have guest drivers competing in the first place. And the fact we can even have this discussion without picking up a calculator is a success for the simplified points system.

After Nascar hits the desert in Phoenix and Vegas over the next couple of weeks the charts will doubtless look a little cleaner and those sensitive souls who are troubled by the scoring anomalies thrown up by the thrilling events of Speedweeks will have forgotten the current odd look of the tables. However the memorable feats of Waltrip, Stewart and Bayne will be imprinted on the minds of the fans forever.

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Filed under Indycars, Nascar, Superbikes

In the hot seat

 

Fancy a go at this? Hirvonen won in his Fiesta, but the star turn of Sweden came from a complete novice. (pic by Ford Europe)

On to happier matters. The new for 2011 World Rally Championship started its hopefully bright future on the gleaming white snow of Sweden last week. The big story was an incredibly tight final day that saw five drivers duking it out for the first victory of the new era, with Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen taking top spot, although the story that caught my eye was about a surprise interloper in this lead scrap – a chap called Chris Patterson.

 

The British interloper was thrust into the limelight at the end of the rally after Petter Solberg was caught speeding by the cops. A rally driver speeding, who’d have thunk it?

 

If you break the limit in Sweden you serve a driving ban that starts 48 hours after the offence, which seems like a pretty strong deterrent for the speedy. This fascinating forfeit for the fast left the former World Rally Champ and all-round nice guy with no choice but to hand the keys of his brand new Citroen over to his co-driver Chris Patterson. More used to looking into his lap than out of the windscreen, the raw rookie found himself needing to hold onto fifth over the final stage with non other than 7 million time champion Sebastian Loeb chasing them down. You can see Chris’ first experience of the driving seat here. It looks like a sterling job with only a little interference from his somewhat over-qualified driving instructor, just look how chuffed he is at the end of the stage!

 

This magic moment brings to mind Bernie Ecclestone in his Brabham days when he reputedly sent a message out on the PA system in Montreal back in 1980 asking if there was anybody in the stands who fancied being an F1 driver after Niki Lauda declared he was “tired of driving in circles”. Argentine driver Ricardo Zunino popped up and gladly took the seat, although it seems unlikely the reality of his appointment was quite so Hollywood. Zunino, a competent hand in F2, was already on Ecclestone’s radar and the ringmaster has always enjoyed a good story, but who are we to ruin such a charming tale?

 

A little more successful as an impromptu stand-in was John Boland. An Irish politician, he went to spectate at the Olympics revival in Athens in 1896 and came home with two gold medals. Unbeknownst to Boland his friend had entered him into the tennis competition where he excelled

by winning the gold in both the singles and doubles at the first modern Olympic Games. He never played competitive tennis again, it wasn’t going to get any better than that. Boland went back to politics, his Olympic golds becoming the world’s best ever holiday souvenirs.

 

The professionalism of sport today makes this about as likely to be repeated as the pilot on your Easyjet flight inviting you to land the plane yourself so he can take some time off and join the mile high club. The Solberg-Patterson car pool is about as close as we’ll see in motorsport to ‘one of us’ being thrust into the spotlight; Renault won’t even let its band of merry reserve drivers loose in its Grand Prix car, so we won’t be seeing Bernie asking the spectators to have a crack at driving any time soon.

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Filed under F1, Rally