2014

GB cycling receives vital boost with 2019 World Championships

Great Britain and it’s cycling set up desperately needed a boost after recent negative press. Now they seem to have it. Yorkshire won the bid to host the 2019 UCI cycling world championships. This will give them the perfect chance to put behind them allegations surrounding their poster boy Bradley Wiggins.

In recent weeks many experts have questioned Team Sky’s use of TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) with star riders such as Wiggins and fellow Tour de France winner Chris Froome. The Sky team are closely linked with GB cycling, itself facing allegations coach Shane Sutton of sexism and bullying. Sutton subsequently resigned, emphasising the turbulent year it has been for British cycling in general, despite huge success in the Olympics and Froome’s victory in the Tour.

Whilst Yorkshire’s dream victory will not be realised for another four long years, the fact the road race world championships will be returning to Britain for the first time since 1982 is a huge step for cycling in this country. The governing body, the UCI, could have easily avoided awarding Britain the championships in the current climate, but they didn’t.

tour-pic

This picture perfectly encapsulates why the 2014 Grand Depart for the Tour de France in Yorkshire was so popular. Imagine the scenes from the 2019  UCI World Championships. Photo copyright Liverpool Echo/James Maloney.

The Tour de France began in Yorkshire in 2014, drawing rave reviews from all involved and huge crowds engaged with the sport for the first time in the case of many. An annual Tour de Yorkshire was subsequently set up by the ASO, organisers of the Tour, again cementing itself as a hugely popular event on the cycling calendar.

For these reasons it seems entirely logical therefore to award it to Yorkshire, despite British cycling taking a battering recently after years of tremendous growth. Outside of allegations made thanks to Russian hackers, this growth is still increasing and the pledge to spend £15 million on hosting the championships is a huge step forward.

Ten years ago spending this amount of money on cycling would never have happened. A lot has changed in the past decade, and who knows how much further the sport will have grown by the time the event takes place in October 2019. I will be one of the no doubt many fans stood amongst the Yorkshire hillside cheering on the riders as the go past.

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Indy Lights on upward trend

After years of struggling with a old car and a decreasing grid, the Indy Lights finally looks to have turned a corner next year with the announcement of a new Dallara race car which has sparked a resurgence in interest in the series. The feeder series to Indycar now appears to have restored itself as a haven for young North American open wheel racers, whilst simultaneously being a viable alternative for frustrated talented young European drivers.

It’s only the middle of October yet already the series has confirmed 10 teams have already agreed to run in the series next year, with likely two cars from each team producing a likely grid of 15-20 cars. This is easily an improvement over the past few years where then entries have been around 10-14 cars. Those already confirming their orders are powerhouse team Schmidt Peterson who have ordered two cars for their Indycar feeder team. Other existing teams to place orders are 2014 front runners Juncos and Belardi racing who have both ordered two cars also. New team McCormack racing have also confirmed their commitment to their series, whilst sportscar team 8star motorsport has confirmed one entry, with the potential for a second also.

Indycar racer Tristan Vautier developing the new Dallara IL15 racer in August.

Existing teams Andretti Autosport and Team Moore are some of the team likely to have placed orders but yet to go public with their intentions to run in the series next year. On the driving front, it appears the quality of the grid will be greatly improved next year. Championship runner up this year Jack Harvey is working on a deal to return to the series next year. He will be keen for the title but will face stiff competition from the likes of 2014 Pro Mazda champion Spencer Pigot, who is likely to move up to IndyLights . Others likely to be returning are 2014 front runners Zach Veach, Matthew Brabham and Luiz Razia. 8Star are also keen to run promising sportscar racer Sean Rayhall if they can find the budget, with young racers Alan Sciuto and Parker Kligerman potentially earning themselves a seat next year after impressive post-season tests so far.

Finally leading the European racing influx so far for next year is Puerto Rican racer Felix Serralles, the only confirmed driver for next year so far. He will join the 2014 champions Belardi racing for next year after some difficult years in the European F3 Championship. Serralles previously proved his considerable talent in the British racing scene, and expect several more racers abandon the cut and thrust money dependent European racing scene for a fresh start at stardom in Indycar.

The final rung on the Mazda Road to Indy scheme is already creating plenty of buzz around the series with an influx of new teams and a new Dallara racer for next year. From here the future looks bright for the Indy Lights series with the support from Mazda providing young drivers the support to move up from the bottom rungs to Indycar, such as with 2014 champion Gabby Chaves and for Spencer Pigot next year. The series will hopefully entice plenty of European racers across to the series with the promise of a part season in Indycar including the a chance at the Indy 500 for the champion surely enough to tempt those disillusioned with the funding required to step up the European single seater echelons below F1. I for one will be eagerly keeping track with the revamped Indy Lights series next year.

For more information on the series please visit the link below
http://www.indylights.com/about/2015-indy-lights

Adam Higgins claims second Combe Formula Ford title in final race of season

The Castle Combe Formula Ford Championship has been hotly contested all season, with the three consistently stand out drivers of 2014 all in contention for the title going into last weekend’s final race. After the dropped scores had been applied it was reigning champion Adam Higgins who went into the race with a 1 point lead over Roger Orgee, with young star Ash Crossey an outside contender 14 points behind.

Lining up on pole was the perennially unlucky Nathan Ward, who has been in a position to win a lot of races this year but for a multitude of reasons has been prevented from doing so. Roger Orgee was the first of the title contenders in 2nd, with Ash Crossey lining up 3rd from title rival Adam Higgins in 4th. From the start it was pole man Nathan Ward and Adam Higgins who made the best starts off the line, with the top 3 of Ward, Higgins and Orgee making an early break on lap 1 from the pursuing train of Crossey, Michael Moyers and Richard Higgins.

By the next lap Ward had opened his advantage to roughly 2-3 seconds whilst it appeared Adam Higgins was now holding up those behind him including Roger Orgee directly behind him. From here Higgins and Orgee eased away slightly from those behind him, being led by Crossey, over the next few laps to solidify themselves in their own private battle for the title.

By lap 6 Ward has built his lead to a massive 4.4 seconds over Higgins behind, who was still only just holding off Orgee behind him. A few laps later and the pressure finally told on Orgee in 3rd as he suffered a small off and was passed by Ash Crossey, which also let Higgins off the hook now in 2nd. After this an almighty battle developed for 3rd between Crossey, Orgee, Moyers and R Higgins by lap 11. A lap later and Orgee’s title hopes were finally dealt a hammer blow as he went off for the second time, this time dropping to 7th as Crossey was now well ahead of the rest in 3rd.

Back at the front and now Adam Higgins was well clear in 2nd and Orgee was struggling he seemed to set loose in the final 5 laps as he set a string of fastest laps to reel in Ward in the lead. Going into the final lap of the season Higgins was right with Ward for the lead, and his finally completed his fairy tale afternoon as he slid inside Ward at the Esses to take the lead at the death as he motored home to his third victory of the year and his second consecutive title, which leaves him only one short of distinguished father Bob Higgins accolade of three consecutive titles between 1981 and 1983.

Higgins was clearly overjoyed with his second title as he jumped up and down in the car throughout the slowing down lap, with Ward gracious in defeat with 2nd whilst rising star Ash Crossey completed the podium. Combe debutante Michael Moyers was an impressive 4th with the hugely impressive dominator of Class C David Cobbold came home 5th with Adam Higgins brother Richard completing the top 6. Orgee came home a very frustrated 7th but was magnanimous in defeat.

Adam Higgins proved in this race alone why he deserves to be the 2014 champion, and as it seems the Higgins family will be back in 2015, you would have to be a brave man to bet against Adam Higgins claiming a third consecutive title, although he will face stiff competition from the likes of Roger Orgee and Nathan Ward especially.

For anyone interested in supporting or even competing in the series next year please visit the link to the series
http://www.ccracingclub.co.uk/championships/formula-ford-1600/

Why are Quarterbacks falling so far in the NFL Draft?

Going into the 2014 NFL Draft may were hailing the best Quarterback draft class in a long time with 4 consensus 1st round QB’s with plenty more following on in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Things initially started well as the Jacksonville Jaguars shocked the nation by selecting Blake Bortles with the 3rd pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, making him the first QB taken. From this point however the stock of the Quarterback has nosedived with the first warning signs being the fall of media darling and consensus top QB in the draft, Johnny Manziel. On draft night he fell from being a consensus top 5 pick to eventually be selected with the 22nd pick by the Cleveland Browns.

From the predicted four 1st round QB’s only one more was taken with the Minnesota Vikings trading back into the 1st round with the 32nd and last pick to select draft free faller Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville. At this point the fortunes of the Quarterback had been mixed in the 1st round with Bortles and Bridgewater being picked far before they were predicted to have been, yet fellow 1st round talent Derek Carr was forced to wait overnight for his time to be drafted.

Friday night saw the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the draft with plenty more QB’s expected to be drafted during the course of the night. The first off the board in the 2nd round was unsurprisingly Fresno State’s Derek Carr who took his cannon arm to Oakland where he can learn from Matt Schaub before eventually replacing him at the Raiders. With Carr off the board who was going to be next was open to debate. Some felt it was the pro ready Jimmy Garoppolo from Eastern Illinois whilst others fancied LSU’s Zach Mettenberger.

After a long while and plenty of Quarterback needy teams passing on a new signal caller eventually it was a surprise selection as the New England Patriots selected Jimmy Garoppolo with the 62nd pick late in the 2nd round. This seemed a slightly strange selection at first as the team has future Hall of fame Quarterback Tom Brady as the starter with impressive backup Ryan Mallet behind him in the depth chart. It was soon worked out however that Garoppolo is an insurance policy against Mallet potentially leaving as this is the last year of his rookie contract and is highly regarded around the NFL.

Going into the 3rd round it was expected that we would see a flurry of QB’s taken in this round as the value on these falling draft prospect would surely be irresistible to the many Quarterback needy teams in this draft. What actually happened was quite the opposite as no QB’s were selected at all in the 3rd round meaning there are plenty of signal callers who have to wait until today before being drafted.

For many it appears injury and poor combine/pro day performances are the reasoning why they remain on the board going into the 4th round. For Zach Mettenberger this is definitely the case as he must be frustrated to fall from a 2nd round prediction to falling into the 4th round, although this may be because of recent revelation about a diluted drug test at the scouting combine in February. Indeed on draft expert Mike Mayock’s board Mettenberger is rated above Teddy Bridgewater who went in the 1st round.

For other QB’s such as Alabama’s AJ McCarron it appears many NFL teams doubt he can be a regular winning QB in the NFL despite have an exemplary record of success whilst in college at Alabama.He will be a huge value pick if he falls below the 4th round today. The next rated QB is Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage who appears to have one of the biggest arm’s in the QB class with many tipping him to sneak into the 2nd round and expect him alongside McCarron to be selected in the 4th round.

For the likes of Aaron Murray of Georgia injury has curtailed his draft stock, expect him to be selected late in the 4th round/early 5th round . From the other Quarterback’s in this draft the likes of Logan Thomas from Virginia Tech, Tajh Boyd from Clemson and Stephen Morris from Miami expect these guys to be drafted in the later rounds or might even go undrafted as they are purely developmental Quarterback’s who need several years of development before they could be challenging for starting QB slots in the NFL. It should be very interesting to see where these young signal callers are all selected today in the final day of the 2014 NFL Draft.

2014 Pirelli Spanish GP Qualifying Report

After the excitement of the first four flyaway races F1 returned to Europe after a long three week break. The popular European portion of the season begins this weekend with the Spanish GP, a track known to highlight the chassis and aerodynamic proficiency of your car. With all of the teams bringing significant updates everyone went into qualifying hopeful their updates had significantly improved their performance.

Immediately out in Q1 were both Sauber cars, hoping their lightened car would push them further up the grid after a difficult start to their season. The first drama of this session was a brief red flag period early in Q1 as the Lotus-Renault of Pastor Maldonado ran wide on the exit of Turn 3 and lost the wayward car before it glanced the barrier on the inside of the corner, breaking the right front wheel and eliminating Maldonado from the session. After the initial talk that this is a Red Bull track and therefore AMG Mercedes might struggle, this talk all proved unfounded as the Mercedes cars had a comfortable 0.7 second gap to the rest after Q1.

At the end of Q1 there were few surprises as the predicted faces were eliminated with Maldonado in 22nd after failing to set a time, with Kamui Kobayashi qualifying a disappointed 21st for Caterham. His rookie team mate Marcus Ericsson impressed with 20th in the other Caterham with the Marussia of Jules Bianchi in 19th from team mate Max Chilton in 18th. The final man eliminated was a disappointed Adrian Sutil in 17th with his new lightened Sauber showing little signs of improvement so far this weekend.

Q2 began with the Sahara- Force India’s cars coming out quickly before the pacesetters filtered out to set their first times. Nico Rosberg was setting the pace with a 1.26.0 with only a nice 0.6 second gap to the best of the Red Bull’s in 3rd. This session proved intriguing as pre-session session favorite for pole Lewis Hamilton appeared slightly scruffy as team mate Rosberg appeared to have the edge at this point going into the final Q3 session.

Of those eliminated in Q2 it was unsurprising to see both the Force India’s in 11th and 12th with Nico Hulkenberg ahead of Sergio Perez. 13th was okay from rookie Daniil Kvyat as Esteban Gutierrez came home 14th. The final two places were reserved for the cars that failed to set a time with Kevin Magnussen suffering a power unit failure whilst Scuderia Toro Rosso man Jean Eric Vergne had a 10 place grid penalty hanging over him after a FP2 mishap, therefore it appears his lack of running may have been a tactical decision by the team.

The final Q3 session began slowly before Nico Rosberg finally ventured out for his first run with 10 minutes left of the session. He was over halfway through his first timed lap when his run was abruptly halted as the red flags flew for a second time in this qualifying session, as the Red Bull of reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel stopped on the entry of Turn 3 with a suspected gearbox failure. The first race with his new chassis has proved difficult for Vettel with limited practice running and now a 10th place grid spot for tomorrow’s race to compound his problems.

When the session resumed Rosberg again set his first run time before Hamilton slightly eclipsed him going into their final runs. With seconds left on the clock the both started their final laps with Rosberg smashing Hamilton’s previous time before a nervous wait to see what Hamilton managed behind him. Luckily for Hamilton he had just enough in hand to set pole with 0.168 margin of pole from team mate Rosberg.

Row 2 will be filled with the Red Bull of the ever impressive Daniel Ricciardo with Martini Williams sophomore Valterri Bottas impressing again with 4th. Romain Grosjean was the standout of Q3 as he dragged his skittish Lotus-Renault into 5th when team mate Maldonado lost control in Q1 and will start 21st, whilst Kimi Raikkonen must be thrilled to out qualify team mate Fernando Alonso in 6th for Ferrari.

Alonso wasn’t far behind in 7th from Jenson Button in 8th for McLaren. The final row of the top 10 will be filled by Felipe Massa in 9th for Williams from the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel who obviously didn’t set a time. The grid is set in what promises to be an exciting Spanish GP race tomorrow.

For the official stats from qualifying please visit this link.
http://www.formula1.com/results/season/2014/919/