From beginner to international competitor within a year: Andy Walkden tells Alex Davis how he's managed it.Written by Alex Davis on 6th October 2015
What’s happened in the World of Sport since the last Olympic Games: part 3
In his final look at the past four years of sport, Blayne Pereira discusses some of the biggest moments to happen in his passion of motorsports...
Having gone through part one and part two, the final article of this ‘Four Years’ series focuses on my beloved motorsports: on F1, IndyCars, Moto GP and Rallying - WTCC, Nascar etc. just missed the cut!
The four World Championships have been split equally between England and Germany, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button winning in '08 and '09 respectively and Sebastian Vettel taking the last two. Hamilton won his title in the Formula One equivalent of how Manchester City won the Premier League this season, as he overtook the ailing Timo Glock for fifth place in the final corner of the season to get the extra point he needed, with Brazilian Felipe Massa and his Ferrari team celebrating their race victory and presumed championship too early in front of Massa’s home crowd after a late rain shower caused havoc.
Button’s title was a lot more straightforward. With several new rule changes, the brand new Brawn GP team benefited from a loophole in the regulations and they had a significantly faster car than everyone else, which Button used to great effect over the first half of the season before cruising through the second half.
But the last four years have really belonged to Vettel. He became the youngest ever Grand Prix winner when he superbly took pole position and won the Italian Grand Prix in September 2008 for the un-fancied Toro Rosso team in inclement conditions and has since added an astonishing 30 more poles and 21 wins en route to winning his two titles. The last one was marked with dominance not seen since the Schumacher-Ferrari heyday.
Several key manufacturers have quit the sport - BMW, Toyota, Honda, Renault - but F1 is truly in a golden-age right now. 2012 has seen five different winners from five different teams, with Sauber and especially Lotus also coming close to reaching the top step. Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado became the 104th different Grand Prix winner last time out in Barcelona, joining Nico Rosberg on the list of first-time winners this season. At the other end of the grid, three new teams entered F1 in 2010 and they are all still yet to score a point. Critics have said how the Pirelli tyres and the DRS system (which aids overtaking) both create an artificial environment but they are factors which affect everyone and the DRS/KERS systems are no different to the turbo-boost days of the '80s.
The tragic loss of Dan Wheldon (one of England’s most successful present day drivers) in the season finale last year was the unfortunate headline from the States. Wheldon had spent the year testing the new chassis for the series, which has been posthumously named in his honour “DW12”. Meanwhile, fellow Brit Dario Franchitti has swept the last three championships, adding to his 2007 triumph. Franchitti, 39, also won the 2010 Indianapolis 500, his second victory at one of the world’s most prestigious races – a race which Wheldon spectacularly won last year as J.R. Hildebrand crashed out in the final corner (after 200 laps!). Scott Dixon sealed the 2008 title, having lost out to Franchitti in the final corner of the previous championship as he ran out of fuel, while Helio Castroneves won the 2009 Indy 500 in a storybook affair, having just avoided a prison sentence after a prolonged legal case of tax evasion. Castroneves, for the record, is a former winner of Dancing With The Stars (American Strictly Come Dancing).
The past four years has also seen the official re-unification of the former ChampCar and IndyCar series, having spent just over a decade as split championships, in which both series saw dwindling fields and crowds.
Valentino Rossi clinched two more championships in 2008 and 2009 before he broke his leg in a Mugello crash early on in 2010, a season which saw his teammate Jorge Lorenzo secure his maiden title. Rossi was strong upon his return, never finishing outside of the top six, and still took third in the championship. However, the seven-time Moto GP champion has not enjoyed the same success since switching to Ducati in 2011 and has only recorded two podiums to date. Casey Stoner won last year’s title and the 26-year-old announced he will retire at the end of this season.
Last year’s Malaysian race saw another tragic motorsport loss, as Marco Simoncelli was run over and killed instantly. One of the sport’s rising stars, Simoncelli’s premature death came as the motorsport world was still in shock, less than a week after the loss of Wheldon. The junior categories have also been modified, changing from 250cc and 125cc to Moto2 and Moto3 respectively, with the usual thrilling ‘pack racing’ remaining.
There is no doubt about who has been the most successful sportsperson over the last four years, Sébastien Loeb. The 38-year-old Frenchman has won an unprecedented EIGHT consecutive world titles since 2004, totalling an unsurpassed 70 wins, and once again finds himself atop the standings after five rounds this season. His domination in the sport exceeds that of Schumacher in F1, Manchester United in the Premier League era and even the combined weight of Real Madrid and Barcelona in recent years. He has simply been unbeatable over the course of a season.
There has been debate as to whether the relative decline in the World Rally Championship is to blame compared to its most publically successful years in the '80s and '90s, but what cannot be questioned is Loeb’s ability behind the wheel of a rally car. He has seen off countless different rivals - including former champions - and rallying remains the ultimate test of driving skill, more so than Formula One, such is the very real danger of, for example, crashing into a tree or hurtling off into a valley. Loeb deserves to be the final name mentioned in this article; if you did not know who he was before, you do now.
P.S. Given this is almost certainly my final article after four years, I’d quickly like to thank all the editors I've encountered and wish Redbrick Sports the best for the future! It’s come a long way since 2008 and the section looks stunning!