Monthly Archives: May 2013

Pit Stop – F1 news – By Lewis Brearley

When Nico Rosberg crossed the line and took victory in Monaco he emulated his famous, world champion father, Keke, who won there thirty years ago.

For Nico to equal his father’s greatest achievement and win a Formula One World Championship looks like being quite a lot harder though. While Nico’s victory was sublime and he topped every single session of the weekend, his Mercedes took him to victory after running a very conservative tyre management strategy which only worked because of the tight confines of the Monaco circuit.

The frequency and regularity of tyre management is beginning to cause unrest across the F1 sphere, from the fans and the media, all the way to the drivers themselves.

For 78 laps, Sebastian Vettel trailed just behind the gearbox of Mercedes, first Lewis Hamilton’s and for the last half of the race, Rosberg’s. Two laps from the end, Vettel set fastest lap of the race and got the following rebuke, “Right, that’s enough, you don’t get any more points for that.”

His response: “But satisfaction. Instead of driving slow for 70 laps.” A Formula One driver driving slow is a confusing dichotomy but this is what the new Pirelli tyre compounds have resulted in.
Most fans and drivers would accept a degree of tyre management and the resultant divergent strategies it allows but the extent of the tyre management currently means that it has become by far the most important factor of the racing.

It’s beginning to look bad for the image of Formula One too. The internet is littered with articles crying out for some on-the-edge racing and most damagingly, race broadcasts are now scattered with team radio discussions about how slowly the driver needs to be going to “optimise his race”.

This tyre degradation was introduced in 2011 with the aim of producing two-to-three stop races to liven the up the sport after the rather dull races seen in 2010 with the extremely durable Bridgestone tyres.

For two years this tactic worked rather well, with races regularly providing plenty of action and the fastest car-driver combination taking the title at the end of the year.

But now Pirelli has taken things a step too far. Their product dominates the racing to such a degree that perversely; the fastest cars are no longer winning. Mercedes and Red Bull may have won three of the six races so far, but together the two teams have six pole positions. The three races they haven’t won are due to Lotus and Ferrari eking out more laps from their tyres.

Both teams are taking aim at Pirelli to change their ways. Red Bull continue to push for more durable tyres while Mercedes opportunistically accepted Pirelli’s offer of a proper three-day testing session in order to improve their understanding of the tyres.

Red Bull along with Ferrari, having probably sensed being outmanoeuvred by their rivals, have officially protested to the FIA.

The constant criticism of Pirelli is unfair though. The company is required to provide tyres which produce two-to-three-stop races across 19 different tracks in 19 different countries with just four different compounds while not being allowed any running with the cars which will actually use them.

However if one thing is certain it is that tyres, their management and now even their politics have overrun F1. It’s too late to change the formula this year, but next year’s racing needs to be much more about the racing and much less about the rubber.

Pit Stop – Is it a good track? – By Lewis Brearley

Millions of pounds can be spent by some of the cleverest people to be found researching and developing the perfect layout for an exciting race track. Yet despite racetrack designers’ best efforts, there doesn’t appear to be any formula behind good racetracks.

This fact was proved once again proved at this weekend’s MotoGP meeting. The cobbled-together Le Mans Bugatti circuit, small and tired, looks on paper to be nothing special. But when the motorbikes roll up and the huge French fanbase descends upon the track, the place comes alive and treats fans to regularly thrilling races.

Sunday’s racing began with Maverick Vinales taking a dominant victory from pole position in the Moto3 race. For the third time this season, the podium consisted of the same three Spaniards, Vinales alongside Alex Rins and Luis Salom, while Jonas Folger trailed just behind after spending the first half of the race battling with them.

Things really stepped up a gear with the Moto2 race. After three years of battling against top talent and a rules formula heavily unfavourable to him, Scott Redding finally took his first Moto2 victory and with it, together with the numerous mistakes of his closest rivals, a 24 point championship lead.

The decision to enforce a minimum weight limit on each rider has allowed the six-foot tall Redding to finally prove his immense talent on an equal footing with his much smaller and lighter rivals.

Takaaki Nakagami led away from pole but was one of many of the top riders to make a mistake in the treacherous damp conditions.

Halfway through the race, with the clouds above growing steadily gloomier, Redding was looking imperious with a two second lead over Xavier Simeon, the Belgian heading towards his first podium finish.

It was these very clouds which were to provide a nail-biting finish. As the track got more damp, Simeon and Redding’s own team-mate began to close rapidly on Redding, who was getting uncomfortable with the changing conditions. With his lead ebbing away Redding began signalling for the race to be curtailed and with just two laps to go the red flags were indeed shown, securing the first none-Spanish race win of 2013.

A heavy downpour just after the Moto2 race had finished provided a dash of extra spice for the main event, the MotoGP race.

With the track dry enough for dry tyres but wet enough to require a cautious approach, the MotoGP grid raced off into the first corner. Marc Marquez belied his aggressive reputation with an overly cautious start and by the first corner was already back in ninth, his inexperience of riding a 1000cc bike in the wet glaringly apparent.

Dani Pedrosa took an assured victory and regained the mantle of championship favourite that he had pre-season. Behind him, Cal Crutchlow took a career-best second place and more importantly was easily the top Yamaha rider, with Jorge Lorenzo finishing seventh after struggling with grip problems and Valentino Rossi crashing midway through the race.

Marc Marquez recovered from a shaky first few laps to take a podium, continuing his 100% record. He overtook Andrea Dovizioso with only a couple of laps to go, the Italian’s Ducati performing more strongly than even the team expected in the changeable conditions.

Once again, the old Le Mans track had served up a treat of racing, and in just two weeks MotoGP moves on to another classic track, Mugello.

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Terrace View – Arsenal Clinch Fourth – By Billie Marshall

Arsenal endured a nervous last game of the season to qualify for the Champions League for a 16th consecutive season after a narrow victory over Newcastle at the Sports Direct Arena.

Heading into the final day needing to win to assure Arsenal the 4th place they wanted, Laurent Koscielny scored the only goal of the game to fend off any potential challenge from north London rivals Tottenham.

It was a nervous ending for the Gunners after Gareth Bale had struck late in the game at White Hart Lane but Arsenal held on to the relief of the travelling support.

Newcastle had the better of a first half starved of any real chances, but it was another second half performance that inspired Arsenal to victory. Koscielny smartly turned in a Theo Walcott free-kick to score the winner.

At a ground that has been somewhat unfortunate to Arsenal in the past, Newcastle started the better. Yanga Mbiwa escaped down the Arsenal right and pulled back the ball but Papiss Cisse hit his shot well over.

In a similar move at the other end, Kieran Gibbs raced cleared and cut inside of Debuchy, but his pull back was hit high and wide by Santi Cazorla from the edge of the area.

Both sides failed to create many chances in a first half dominated by each sides defensive capabilities, with long range shots from Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye comfortably wide.

Arsenal have the best record in the Premier League in the second half of games this season and it showed yet again. Walcott’s free-kick was headed goal bound by Lukas Podolski for Koscielny to smartly turn and volley the ball past goalkeeper Steve Harper from close range.

Newcastle continued to apply pressure but failed to break the Arsenal defence, capped by a fantastic performance from goal scorer Laurent Koscielny.

Ben Arfa again shot from long range, but when Tiote gave the ball to Theo Walcott in injury time the striker could only see his shot cannon back off the post and miss a chance to wrap up the game.

Despite more Newcastle pressure Arsenal held out to claim a vital victory which see’s Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger again achieve Champions League qualification.

There was a small chance of 3rd place or a potential play-off to decide 3rd place, but due to Chelsea’s victory over Everton, Arsenal will remain in 4th position.

It has been a season of up and down’s at Arsenal but their 7th 1-0 victory of the season has ended the season on a high and seen them once again finish above rivals Tottenham.

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Pit Stop – Engines at war – By Lewis Brearley

McLaren’s freshly announced engine partnership with Honda brings into focus the situation surrounding next year’s engine supplies.

Four teams have not yet confirmed which manufacturer they will use for power from 2014. Lotus, Sauber, Toro Rosso and Marussia are all still seeking final confirmation from their preferred choices.

With 11 teams on the grid and three engine manufacturers present next season, four teams for two manufacturers and three for the other appears to be the optimum and obvious solution.

However, upon further analysis it soon becomes clear that in reality this vision may be a little cloudier.

Renault has already confirmed deals with Red Bull, Caterham and Williams but has two more teams – Lotus and Toro Rosso – pitching for engines. If the Renaultsport management are to be taken at their word and a five team supply is indeed out of the question, that leaves one team left for either Mercedes or Ferrari.

In fact it’s this decision which is causing the logjam with the other teams’ engine supplies and Renault needs to make a decision quickly. But it’s not just a 50/50, random choice. Out of the two teams – Toro Rosso and Lotus – Lotus is the one most likely to deliver success and the worldwide promotion that follows. Yet on the other hand, Red Bull are pressuring the French firm to supply their sister team Toro Rosso and Red Bull is Renault’s number one, world championship-winning team.

Once this situation is resolved the rest of the grid will quickly be fully powered.
Mercedes, just like Renault, has three teams secured – Mercedes, McLaren and Force India – leaving space for the German manufacturer to pick up another should the need arise.

However, Ferrari has no engine supply deals agreed outside their works team. It’s very likely that they will supply their long-term partners Sauber and will very probably be contracted into supplying Toro Rosso should the Italian team be turned away by Renault.

This would leave Marussia, who can hardly cobble together enough money for an engine deal anyway, at the mercy of the generosity of Mercedes and Ferrari. Marussia hope that their signing of Ferrari academy driver, Jules Bianchi will persuade Ferrari into giving them a deal. But that is not a nailed-on certainly in even the slightest terms.

If this sounds complicated it’s simple when contrasted with the situation that would arise if Renault were to bow to Red Bull’s demands and Lotus were left at the doors of Mercedes and Ferrari.

The Enstone team’s first port of call would be Maranello, even if the name Lotus-Ferrari is anathema to the purists among you.

As bad as no Enstone team though? Because Ferrari have never in their history supplied a championship contending team (a rival) with engines and Mercedes would take some persuading to supply three championship contending teams when their own board are begging for success for their own team.

The die lies with Renault. When it is finally cast, one team reaches for the emergency plan.

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Weekend Roundup

Last weekend saw some classic sport on your screens, but did you miss some of it.

Lightening struck twice in the football league this season as Watford scored 18 seconds after their keeper had saved a penalty to put them into the playoff final, a repeat of the Brentford V Doncaster Rovers game which saw Rovers claim the title.

Manager Gianfranco Zola celebrated on the pitch with his stars and they will now face either Brighton and Hove Albion or Crystal Palace in the richest game in football.

Outside of football, Fernando Alonso won his home Grand Prix in Spain as Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg (who started on pole) and Lewis Hamilton (second on the grid)  were unable to cope with their tyre wear.

Leroy Cudjoe produced a fantastic performance as Huddersfield Giants defeat Leeds Rhinos 24-8 in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup, with the England centre scoring two tries.

Elsewhere Wigan Warriors’ star Sam Tomkins scored four tries as they beat Hull Kr 46-14 and holders Warrington Wolves won 52-6 against Salford City Reds.

Rafael Nadal won the Madrid Open as his dominance on clay continues and Serena Williams claimed her 50th career singles title beating Maria Sharapova.

Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints beat Harlequins and Saracens respectively as they set up the Aviva Premiership final, with the Tigers looking to take another title.

In America, Tiger Woods claimed his second Players Championship title beating Sergio Garcia after the Spaniard found water on the par three 17th.

For more information about this weeks sport, look out for our preview later in this week.

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Pit Stop – Senor Marquez – By Lewis Brearley

A staccato wag of the finger from a double world champion is the kind of gesture which would have most rookies wetting the bed.

But Senor Marquez is no ordinary rookie is he?

The new, young, Spanish sensation received dismissals from Jorge Lorenzo both in the waiting pen after the race and on the podium after his successive attempts to apologise for his act of last-corner aggression. In response, Marquez coolly shrugged his shoulders and flashed his trademark boyish smile.

He knew he’d run the tightrope of racing etiquette and he knew also that he had got away with it. Riders up and down the grid expressed their acknowledgment of the aggressiveness of the move but they all hinted that they’d probably have done the same thing had they been in the same position.

Valentino Rossi, the seven time champion of the world was one of these riders. It would have been hypocritical, however, if Rossi was to criticise Marquez for the incident after Rossi’s eerily similar antics at the same corner in 2005.

When Jerez hosted the season opening grand prix in 2005, Rossi barged his arch nemesis Sete Gibernau at the last corner to take a controversial victory at Gibernau’s home race no less. However, it’s hard to use this as a guide to how the Lorenzo-Marquez relationship will progress as Rossi and Gibernau were already giving each other the silent treatment way before their Jerez incident.

The refusal of Lorenzo to accept the offered apology signals an aggrievement with the man who was already known as an aggressive rider before he made the step up to MotoGP and who’s success may just be getting to Lorenzo.

Marquez is ahead of every other rookie to ever grace the sport in the speed of his success; he even leads the championship, thanks indeed to the Lorenzo clash.

But enough with the history and the symbolism, what about the events of the race itself?

This season is certainly providing the big battles for the lead long deemed to have been missing from the sport. Lorenzo passed Dani Pedrosa at turn 2 to retake the lead after being outdragged into the first turn by Pedrosa on his Honda. For the next few laps as Lorenzo edged out a gap and his team mate Rossi battled with Marquez, it looked like the Yamaha was the machine to be riding.

Yet as the race progressed the Yamahas slipped back and the Hondas got faster. Pedrosa passed Lorenzo for the lead and pulled away comfortably all the way to the chequered flag.

For those who had already written off Pedrosa’s championship prospects and established a new role for him as Marquez’s number two, the commanding Jerez win was certainly a wake-up call.

Pedrosa showed everyone, after a disappointing start to the season, that the glorious speed which almost took him to his first world title last year remains intact.

With Rossi looking a fading superstar clinging with gritted teeth to the new generation, a three horse race for the championship looks imminent. However bad mannered it may become, it’s certainly going to be compulsive viewing.

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Open Water Swimming – It is all about the Challenge

Open Water swimming is available for everyone and accessible to everyone.

Swimming in beautiful lakes, in wet suits that do keep you very warm and with people who are equally as crazy to jump in the cold water as you.

But it takes a special kind of person to want to do a race, over 10km, in the open water of Lake Buttermere.

Having experienced a swim of around twenty minutes myself early for a launch day, it is not easy, and it takes a dedicated athlete to cope with the challenges.

But the challenge of swimming for four hours is something which Mark Pinder, a novice to open water swimming, is looking forward to.

“I like to have a challenge or goal to focus on in general, and since running and triathlon are out due to injury, I saw this event as the equivalent to running a marathon, both to be completed in four hours,” he said.

“It was either a swim or long bike ride, and as most of the training was during winter, I felt I would rather be in the pool than on the bike.

“Also swimming was always a weak sport for me in general and I became the family joke with my poor style, so it made me more determined to take it up.”

Pinder has had success as a track and field athlete in the past for City of York but is also a keen athlete and is used to training to a high intensity  having run the London marathon a few years back.

However he still found training difficult for this, but because of things others take for granted: “Training started well, but the past month when the distance in training has increased from 3-4km swims to 5+ I find it hard to find the time, due to the availability of public swims in the local swimming pools, as many “Open Swims” are not on for long enough (more than 2hours) to complete longer distances.

“I have been training with the Triathlon Club twice a week, but again these sessions are one and two hour sessions, which helps with the technique, and more enjoyable working within a group, but struggle to get the mileage in.

“However I am not too far off plan with 5 week to go, I would have liked a few more longer swims and I will make sure that I get these in during the last few weeks but my swimming has improved amazingly. I look so much smoother.”

So then why the Utterly Buttermere swim this summer? You can see the attraction to the beautiful lakes, the weather, the course, but no for Pinder it was everything and that ‘race’ aspect.

“The whole day in general and the achievement of completing the 10km race, it will have been something I have worked to since December, so it will be the elation afterwards.

“Also getting into a lake, with this year having a long cold winter, lake swims have been limited, but this event will mean a long swim in the lake, which is more interesting than endless lengths in a pool during a swim session.”

The event is now one of the greatest on the calendar and is seeing people from far and wide join in with the fun, due to its unique nature. Pinder alone admits that even he has inspired a few.

“I originally entered with a friend from the tri club, although she entered the 5km, and since then more members have signed up to both the 5km and 10km since word has got around during the Triathlon swim sessions. I think there are around eight of us doing it now, but we all have our individual goals, some for a certain time, mine personal for sub four hours, and others to just complete the event,” he said.

So if you are free in June, want to do something with like-minded people, want one of the biggest rushes in the world and the sense of ultimate achievement, get yourself to Buttermere.

For more information on the event check out http://www.headtothehills.co.uk/events/item/utterly-buttermere-swim-sportive.html

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Ferguson was the Greatest. Who will be his successor? – By Josh Elderfield

After 26 long and memorable years at the helm of one of the biggest football clubs in the world, Sir Alex Ferguson has announced his retirement as manager of Manchester United.

The Scot, who has enjoyed 13 Premier League titles, two European Cups, five FA Cups, four League Cups and a European Cup Winners’ Cup, will bow out at the end of the season, with names already in contention to replace him at Old Trafford.

David Moyes, who has been the bookies’ favourite for some time to succeed Ferguson remains in pole position for the vacancy, with the Everton boss yet to agree to sign a new contract at Goodison.

But would this be the right acquisition for United? Would Moyes be the right man to bring a 21st league title to the club after securing title number 20 just weeks ago?

First of all, Moyes has yet to boast silverware in Merseyside, after managing Everton for over a decade. Of course, the squad contributes a huge factor to winning a trophy but it’s not as if his side haven’t had their chances to do so – 2009 for example against Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

He has done well to be fair with the signings he’s made during his tenure and his attitude to nurturing young talent is similar one to that of Ferguson’s, but with no honours to his name, it’s difficult to see how someone could step up to the plate and manage a side as ambitious as Manchester United.

Jose Mourhino is another name being mentioned after his time is seemingly up at Real Madrid and has expressed his interest to move back to England but honestly, there is only one club in England which will steal the Portuguese’s direction.

One last contender worth throwing in to the fray is the Borussia Dortmund manager, Jurgen Klopp. Unlike Moyes, the Dortmund boss has won silverware during his time at the German side, winning the Bundesliga last season, and guiding his side to a Champions League final.

With Robert Lewandowski looking to be on his way out of Dortmund, and Shinji Kagawa already at Old Trafford, Klopp has a number of factors which could sway him to depart Germany too and start fresh.

Unsurprisingly a handful of managers are in contention to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor, interested to manage the likes of Robin Van Persie, perhaps next season we could be seeing an old number 20 in the hot seat at Old Trafford, I know one of them is managing in Norway at the moment, can’t quite remember his name…

One thing is certain though, whoever the board at Manchester United appoint, in their minds they know however many trophies the prospective successors have on their CVs or however much their club has developed, they know that nobody can replace the success Sir Alex Ferguson has achieved at Old Trafford.

Moreover, they know that nobody will ever have as much of an impact and be as monumental to world football as Sir Alex Ferguson.

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Sir Alex Ferguson, The Greatest, Retires

Sir Alex Ferguson has today announced that he will retire at the end of the season, after 26 years in charge.

He won 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups and 2 UEFA Champions League titles.

His first league title came in the first ever Premier League season and since 1991 he has become the most decorated manager in world football.

He leaves the game with an incredible record and his final game will come on Sunday 19th May against West Bromwich Albion, where United will be presented with their 20th top flight title.

In a statement from the club he said: “The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about. It is the right time.

“It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so.

“The quality of this league winning squad, and the balance of ages within it, bodes well for continued success at the highest level whilst the structure of the youth set-up will ensure that the long-term future of the club remains a bright one.”

Ferguson will go down as one of the greatest managers ever with a lasting legacy for the next few years.

For a long time David Moyes has been linked with the job but with other high profile names available, it is anyone’s guess who will be the next manager.

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It’snowheaven – Indoor and to England – By Jess Softley

With the winter season finally drawn to a close, it’s up to the indoor snow domes to provide our snow fix.

This summer, a new series of snowboard and ski events will be hitting the biggest domes across the UK as Snowsport England, the governing body who oversee snowboarding and skiing, have set up their very own English Championships.

After such success and positive response from the Scottish Championships, it was about time that England set up their own equivalent, allowing English riders the chance to compete on home soil. However, unlike many other competitions, these championships rewards riders with great set ups and a killer atmosphere rather than the latest gear.

The English Championships are a combination of four events with the first three heading to Chillfactore in Manchester during June for the Slopestyle, Moguls and Boardercross events in both disciplines.

The final event takes place in Milton Keynes on the 20th July, as riders will get the chance to participate in the Big Air competition.

This event not only gives riders a chance to enjoy themselves whilst shredding on English slopes, but also to encourage and draw out those hidden pros.

It’s likely that some familiar faces will be there along with up and coming riders, who will no doubt be looking to climb the podiums for this inaugural English event.

As well as the initial event, Snowsport has teamed up with Northern Freestyle to offer training and advice before the competitions to help improve snowboard and skiing skill and technical ability.

It will be interesting to see how this new addition will affect the UK competition circuit and also individual riders. I’m sure event organisers; Snowsport England, will be hoping that the competitions will generate the same response and credibility as that of The British Championships.

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