The April Review.
By Charles Oladeji.
FiA WRC, MotoGP, Formula One, BTCC.
April was dominated by the appearance of volcanic ash thrown up in Iceland which led to air travel all over Europe and around the world being affected by severe delays and cancellations. Many aspects of Motorsports logistical preparations in particular were affected; furthermore, this might continue to be the case in future as nature shows us all who’s the boss on this planet. This article is symbolically late to demonstrate the delays suffered by all travellers.
There have been many adventure anecdotes of the struggles by motorsports crews moving to and fro races; my favourite being the 70 hour coach journey the Ford BP Team embarked on to get back to Britain after the World Rally Championship (WRC) Turkey Stage. Ironically, prior to that exhausting endurance test, the team had dreaded in anticipation of the 24 hours it usually takes to get to New Zealand which is the fifth stage of the 2010 WRC scheduled for 7-9 May. The journey from Turkey must have put that travel preparation in another light. However, with the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano still throwing up ash up north, and subsequently grounding airplanes in N. Ireland and Scotland as recent as this afternoon, there are no guarantees for any of Europe’s motorsport crews scheduled events around the world.
During the Turkish WRC (16-18 April) Sebastien Loeb and Citroen continue to move away from Mikko Hirvonen, Ford BP and the initial promise of a believable pretender to the WRC crown. Hirvonen has failed to measure up to the brilliance of Loeb since the 2010 inaugural race in Sweden which he (Hirvonen) won. Thus, with Loeb winning in Turkey, after a winning the Mexico and Jordan Stages, he has a substantial lead of 41 points over Hirvonen. On the other hand, new Privateer Racer, and Former WRC Champion Petter Solberg has continued to grow stronger during the rally competition and is currently in 2nd place, albeit just one point above Hirvonen on the Drivers Championship Table.
Taking a different perspective on BP Ford, it’ll be interesting to see if the current oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico which has splattered BP (British Petroleum)’s hitherto carefully manicured public image with sludge, will also rub on to the Ford BP team in the WRC should things get worse for the environment. A week prior to the WRC race in Turkey, MotoGP retuned for the 2010 season at Qatar with those familiar faces that have dominated the top end of the sport for a number of years including Rossi, Stoner, Lorenzo, Hayden, Devisioso, alongside newcomer Ben Spies.
Last year I wrote a short article about the Medias fascination with Ben Spies going into MotoGP which I found slightly over the top considering all the talented riders that already occupy the 800cc grid. I especially drew a bit of criticism for suggesting during the article that Valentino Rossi wasn’t just the MotoGP equivalent of the old Michael Schumacher but, was also ‘very lucky’. I had to endure some minor abuse, the argument against me being, how dare I call Rossi ‘lucky’. Well, despite the mild opprobrium of some commentators levelled against me, I stand by my comment, especially after watching Casey Stoner bewilderingly fall off his Ducati bike in Qatar and surrender the lead to Valentino Rossi on the fifth lap. It was a complete shocker that saw the return of normal service with Rossi winning the race with a heavy dose of good fortune.
This article was written after Jorge Lorenzo had won the MotoGP race in Spain (2 May) with Rossi coming in 2nd and Stoner 5th. The race in Spain served as a second season race due to the postponement of the originally scheduled 2nd MotoGP race set for Motegi Japan , now moved up to October 3rd.
Briefly, it’s fair to say that Ben Spies (Yamaha) has performed rather well thus far; he’s currently on 11 points with Stoner (Ducati) and Melandri (Honda). Lorenzo’s recent win in Spain means he now leads the points with 45 with his esteemed team mate Rossi has 41.
This weekend Formula One returns to Europe having been mildly affected by the travel chaos leading up to the Chinese Grand Prix (16-18 April). With Jenson Button winning again in China due to a steady race, and Lewis Hamilton emulating a Demon Driver to gain 2nd in China, the McLaren duo appear to be the team to beat right now not Red Bull or Ferrari. That could all change of course.
On the other hand, commentators have become more vociferous in their criticism of Michael Schumacher at Mercedes GP. Life has become difficult for the German maestro, with the surprising determination and competitiveness of his team mate Nico Rosberg in the same car set up. With Rosberg competing at the top at the grid, the lack of competitiveness from Schumacher can only be as a result of Schumacher lacking the ability to compete. Jenson Button now leads the Championship table with 60 points, while Rosberg has 50 in second. 2010 season continues to fascinate fans barring the inaugural race at Bahrain.
Yet, despite thoroughly enjoying this F1 season thus far, there’s been enormous excitement to my mind at a British national level with the arrival 2010 British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) in April.
The withdrawal of a prominent player (Vauxhall Racing) in 2009 has had less impact than probably expected. The 2008 BTCC Champion Fabrizio Giovanardi who lost his seat with the withdrawal of Vauxhall secured a last minute drive with Triple Eight Racing, only to lose it soon afterwards.
Ironically Giovanardi won a double victory at the opening rounds at Thruxton (4th April), but could not continue into the next rounds at Rockingham (25 April) having failed to secure much needed sponsorship. He joins the plight of Colin Turkington, the 2009 BTCC Champion unable to defend his title as his West Surrey Racing team sponsors (RAC) decided to scale down its involvement. With Turkington and Giovarnadi out, in came former Renault Clio 2009 Champion Phil Glew who has generated some excitement alongside vets Jason Plato and Matt Jackson. James Nash formerly of RML will replace Giovanardi at Triple Eight. Both Plato and Jackson current lead the Championship on 67 points each after the recent 3 rounds at Brands Hatch.
Stay tuned for the May Review including the venerated Monaco GP, ADAC Nurburgring 24hrs, the Isle of Man Time Trial (IOMTT) and WSK in Italy and South Africa.