Friday, January 30, 2009

Those Childhood Summer Daze

Sometimes I forget that it's summer. Working media hours will do that to you. Then, on my way back to work after leaving a Treaty of Waitangi conference at Victoria University, I saw this.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Curious Case of NZ Football

Remember back around the Olympics how there was the controversy about the Wellington Phoenix's decision not to release Shane Smeltz and Tony Lochhead to the NZ Under-21 team? If not, here's a refresher course.

Also, there was the whole thing about Football NZ receiving a funding boost from SPARC following their improved performance last year.

I've done a little researching and found out that the Wellington Phoenix do not and can not receive funding from Football NZ. The reason why? They're an Australian team. This is due to the structure of the Hyundai A-League, which requires clubs and their players to be registered in Australia in order to compete. Which is understandable, because if they were a New Zealand team in an Australian competition it would lead to all kinds of arguments from anybody who wished to enter about 'well why can't we' etc, whereas this way the administrators can turn around and say 'well hey, we had a spare license and they had the best offer at the time'.

There are two things that don't make sense though. Firstly, the way this arrangement works makes the Phoenix ineligible for any of that SPARC money. Which means they're paying for these players out of their own pocket. I don't think most NZ Football punters understand this, which led to the unpatriotic calls around the Smeltz-Lochhead saga. I'm sure if the Phoenix had come out and made that clear, then the situation would have remained a lot calmer. Because who can blame them for trying to get their money's worth?

Secondly, just why did the Men's Footballers receive such a big boost? I had assumed it was as a result of the Phoenix's performance, but if they aren't a SPARC team this can't be the case. They did well last year to almost lock up a World Cup berth, but can't that also be attributed to the Phoenix and the fact that most of the players in the All Whites are now getting regular game time with the same coach?

Note: Congrats to both the Men's and Women's teams, they did spectacularly last season.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cah Crash Chooseday

Making up for the past few weeks I've missed it with some goodies.

Keep it on the track kiddles...

One of my favourite V8 crashes, but it was a shame that it happened at Tratt's last ever round.

One of the better accidents from the 2008 season:

Wanna learn to fly?

Use the spectators to get a gauge of how quickly they're actually going!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The World Cup hits NZ

[Also posted at The Dropkicks]

In case you missed the extraordinary media fanfare surrounding the arrival of the A1GP in New Zealand ahead of this weekend's round in Taupo, I'm going to talk about it some more.

The A1GP is the 'brainchild' of Dubai's Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum. In reality it's just little bits of other motor-series thrown together to make a super-series. The 'world cup' idea is sort of the same concept as Premier 1 Grand Prix/Superleague Formula, the 'power boost' is taken from Formula Renault, the sprint/feature format has been used by BTCC and many of the drivers are former F1 or other open-wheel series competitors.

The series works around the idea that each country is given the exact same car and is not allowed to work on these outside of designated sessions. Also, I've heard, but not been able to confirm, they are limited in how much they may change settings. This is supposed to make the success or failure on track reflect solely on the driver [barring the fact that the pit crew do the setup and compulsory pit stop work - which anybody who saw the first series will know was a farce as there appeared to be something suspect going on with the wheel nuts].

France took out the first season in convincing fashion, Germany the second and A1 Team Switzerland were rewarded for their constant backing of Neel Jaani with last year's crown. New Zealand has finished fourth, second and second in the championship over those three seasons.

Teams were originally purchased by a licence holder, who fronted up with $1m to secure the seat. Colin Giltrap, one of the heroes of NZ motorsport, saw the opportunity to have NZ up on the main stage of world motorsport and funded our successful licence application, securing Fisher & Paykel sponsorship after Team USA were rumoured to have demanded $4m per season to have F&P on their cars.

Sadly, finances is what has defined the A1GP. There has always been talk about whether the series was sustainable due to the high cost of the cars, travel, and not to mention the upwards of $200 punters were expected to pay at some rounds. Now it appears this theory of financial instability destroying the series might just become a reality. If you check the A1GP website it shows one circuit as TBA, despite the fact that race is to be held in March. The next round in Indonesia has been cancelled as the track was not ready for inspection in time, although there is chance that it may be moved to Sepang.

It will be a shame if the series does collapse as without it, Jonny Reid would probably not have had the same Champcar 'chances' he has, and the general NZ population would never have even heard of Chris Van Der Drift or Earl Bamber. Unfortunately, switching from Lola to Ferrari for the cars and a general lack of connection with the fans of the series looks to have turned Al Maktoum's dream into the World Cup of Financial Crisis. It will be interesting to see what happens to the series in future, especially since the series signed a six-year supply deal with Ferrari last year, despite a $212m loss in the first season and a 48% fall in returns over the first three.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Jesse's best served on the rocks

By now you will have heard that Jesse Ryder's been on the chop again.
As with last time, it's led to radio listeners calling up demanding he be dropped. Now I'm going to play devil's advocate here and ask for a little bit of perspective. What Ryder did was head to town and drink. With his friends. In his 'home' town.
He certainly didn't put his hand through a glass door again, nor did he attack a bunch of All Blacks. I didn't see him but I'm pretty sure he wasn't running around telling people that drinking is great and you should do it every chance you get.

He missed a training session and team meeting which is unprofessional and I do think he deserved his suspension, but have you never done the same? Sure your job may be less glamorous and involve less smacking the ball out of the park and more assembling the actual balls, but in principle it is the same. And what happened to you, did you get fired?

The boy is the saviour of New Zealand Cricket - He's got Generation Y following and going to the matches, something they've been largely apathetic to thus far. Do you really want NZC to cut him and risk losing that market?

PS: He wasn't the only BLACKCAP out on the town.

Disclaimer: I in no way am telling you that it's ok to drink, but if you're going to, have a couple of Epics.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Possibly the most under-reported story in world sport at the moment?

2008 was a bumper year for motorsport. We had a thrilling conclusion to the A1GP until New Zealand went to China [an omen for Fisher & Paykel perhaps?] to kick off the year, then the glorious/farcical [depending which side of the fence you sit on] Lewis Hamilton F1 win... Oh and Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes won their third successive Bathurst 1000, with Jamie also taking out the V8 Supercar gong.

But for months it seemed that something was wrong. Locally, and the first thing I noticed, was Opes Prime dropping its sponsorship deal with Holden Dealer Team [among others].

Now it's the holiday break and we've seen Honda withdraw from F1, with rumours of a South American backer denied, Audi pulling out of American Le Mans [along with Porsche, Kawasaki expected to leave MotoGP and Subaru and Suzuki departing the World Rally Championship. There's some scuttlebutt that Subaru may be picking up Honda's empty grid spots through its link with Prodrive, but with the season start looming it would be a push to get anything done in time.

Now, while teams in motorsport come and go, what makes this significant is that these are factory teams. These are the teams who pour significant amounts of money into research and development, building new cars and sharing the data among others who use them. This isn't like when Citroen 'left' the WRC, but still provided Sebastien Loeb with cars.

The other thing to realise is that these aren't just teams that have popped up ambitiously then fallen over when things haven't gone their way. Honda has been in Formula One for six years. Audi runs rampant at Le Mans and is doing ok against Peugeot in the series. The limited knowledge I have of Subaru in motorsport is all centered around WRC, while Suzuki only recently launched their tilt at the series.

2009 as a year in motorsport will be an interesting one indeed. Particular questions to keep in mind are:
Will Subaru end up in Formula One?
Will Honda stop providing engines to the IndyCar series?
Will Audi continue to compete in the Dakar rallies?
Will it's main rival in F1 gone, what will Toyota's future role be?
Where to now for Chris Atkinson?