Bob McMurray: looking back at one hell of a motorsport weekend
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Last weekend was a heck of a weekend for motorsport.
It started for me by attending the brilliant ‘Gathering of Geezers’ charity event hosted annually at the wonderful ‘Warbirds & Wheels’ base at Wanaka Airport.
Listening to the fascinating stories told by legends of motorsport was a great way to spend an evening with an especially entertaining interview of the truly legendary Bill “Tiger” Destafani, a multiple winner of the ‘Reno Air Races’ which in true and typically American understated fashion they call “The Worlds Fastest Motor Sport” and I am sure it probably is.
If you don’t know what these air races are about then I strongly suggest you find out.
It is all about speed and close racing, pure and simple.
We also had the final Formula 1 race of the season at Abu Dhabi where perhaps the main point of interest, during a fairly lacklustre event, was the dramatic exit of Nico Hulkenberg on the very first lap of the race.
With his car barrel rolling into the barriers after a clash with the Haas car driven by Romain Grosjean, and coming to rest “on it’s roof” the debate has been rekindled about the ‘halo’ and the apparent difficulty and failure by Hulkenberg of extracting himself with the hint of fire a present danger.
That debate will continue but what is not in debate is the inherent strength of current single seater racing cars, which was amply demonstrated, not only in Hulkenberg’s unfortunate accident, but in the even more dramatic start line accident in the Formula 2 race.
Thankfully no serious injuries reported in any of the accidents over the weekend.
Apart from the above, the biggest news was set around the retirement from F1, or perhaps it may be a sabbatical, of double world champion Fernando Alonso, a retirement that was mirrored on the other side of the world at the last Supercars event of the season in Newcastle NSW.
After far too many achievements in the sport to list here, the inimitable Craig Lowndes had his final race in the main game.
A huge amount of focus was around Lowndes but even more, prior to the weekend, was on the battle for the championship and that was between the two Kiwi drivers Shane van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin.
It was going to be an epic weekend battle between these two supreme drivers of the 2018 season and race one of the weekend only added to that anticipated battle as the final race loomed.
It was a race where I did not have a favoured driver.
Both ‘SVG’ and ‘Scotty’ have equal appeal to me as drivers.
Both had been by far the best drivers over a season and either would have earned the title were they to win it.
A small mistake in the pits on Van Gisbergen’s car in race one which then turned into a major issue and a subsequent penalty for the driver, compounded by a comparatively bad qualifying position for Van Gisbergen, took the electric atmosphere away from the ultimate race of the season
In any event one Kiwi driver won this major Australian championship and the other came second, an absolute triumph in nationalistic terms.
Adding to the Kiwi victory march in Newcastle was Chris Pither who won, also deservedly and after a long and difficult campaign, the Supercars second tier series, ‘The Dunlop Super2 Series’.
Sadly, at the other end of the scale and taking some gloss off the Kiwi successes, came the not unexpected announcement that Brendon Hartley’s Formula 1 career with Toro Rosso, after a difficult and fraught season, was finally over.
Not good news but looking at the positives, he was the first Kiwi driver in Formula 1 to score points since Denny Hulme almost forty five years ago.
With no more Formula 1 until 2019, no more Supercars, IndyCar, NASCAR or MotoGP, the focus of worldwide motorsport in the next few months will be on the upcoming Toyota Racing Series.
In addition I don’t have to be awake at 3.00am to watch motor sport on TV for a while and that is a very good thing!