Friday, 21 August 2009

Team Bath Roar Ahead


A team of engineering students from the University of Bath came first in the annual international ImechE Formula Student competition, held at Silverstone earlier this summer. Team Bath Racing finished sixth and fourth at previous events in 2007/08, ahead of other participating British teams. Another impressive fourth place at the competition held on the 17 – 19 July, capped a hat-trick of UK victories for these innovative players.

The aim of the Formula Student event is to promote careers in engineering by challenging university students to design, build and develop their own single seater racing car. Team Baths car was powered by a modified motorcycle engine, capable of reaching 60mph in three seconds. All other components of the car were designed, made and assembled by the team itself. Fifteen mechanical and electronic engineering students from Bath University worked on the car, competing against a field of competitors from around the world.
Students operate under a hypothetical client brief that they have to produce a prototype racer for a large manufacturing firm, and therefore must learn to work round the clock, under extreme pressure and adhere to tight deadlines. Participating students will gain the experience, skills and professionalisms, essential for a successful career in motorsport.

This year’s Formula Student competition started slowly for Team Bath as they underperformed in the skidpan and acceleration events. Nevertheless, morale was bolstered as the team went on to achieve second place in the presentation round, surpassed with an exciting win in the fuel economy event. The big test came on the endurance event, held during appalling conditions as torrential rain drenched the Silverstone circuit. To make matters worse, a car belonging to a competing team blew its engine and spewed oil across the track. However, the Team Bath car excelled on the greasy circuit and led the endurance round for most of the day. Unfortunately, the weather eventually loosened up, allowing the treacherous track to dry out, permitting the remaining teams who hadn’t yet run to post quicker lap times. Despite this, and thanks to a strong performance in the fuel economy event, the team finished fourth overall, on par with their inspirational feats of 2008.

Fabian Pillay, project leader for Bath Team Racing, who drove the car in two of the four races summed up the experience: “The team has worked incredibly hard over the last 18 months and the result has made it completely worthwhile. Working up to 20 hours a day over the last two weeks leading up to the competition was mentally and physically draining but nothing when compared to being stood in the Silverstone pit lane watching your car head out for the final race.

Ross Brawn, Team Principal of Formula One Championship leaders Brawn GP, hailed the value of the Formula Student project: “If the FS cars were all pristine, perfect examples it would be a boring competition, which makes Formula 1 a little bit sterile. Seeing these sorts of things at FS is quite exciting.’’
Ronaldo: Few Tears Shed

After initially stating that he wouldn’t sell Real Madrid a virus, Sir Alex Ferguson finally decided to cash in on his most valuable asset for a cool £80m, allowing Cristiano Ronaldo to make the move from Manchester to Madrid which he had so vehemently desired since the previous summer. While some United fans lament the departure of Old Trafford’s talismanic number seven as irreplaceable, it appears Ferguson could not tolerate Ronaldo’s prima-donna personality much longer.

Nevertheless, beyond the exasperating theatrics and egotistical nonsense for which Ronaldo became increasingly notorious for was a statistical freak of a footballer, a wide forward with the goal-scoring rate of a world-class striker. His unquestionable ability as an individual match-winner was evident on numerous occasions last term for United, while his sometimes overzealous desire for victory can render the twenty-one other players on the pitch almost superfluous. However, when his risible tantrum at being substituted in the Manchester derby was further exacerbated by the unnecessary criticism of his manager’s tactics after defeat at the hands of Barcelona, it seemed Ronaldo had already packed his bags. It is worth remembering that much of the current United squad was built using funds from the sale of the previous number seven, who also lost favour with Sir Alex Ferguson and was also shipped off to Real Madrid for a substantial sum.

Despite his statistical success, there are a number of reasons why the magician from Madeira did not achieve legendary status among much of the Old Trafford support. Unlike his much coveted predecessors such as Cantona, Keane and to an extent, Beckham, Ronaldo never experienced the warm bond between audience and performer that culminates a United favourite. His tendency for melodramatics and play-acting opposed the predominantly Corinthian sporting values preached by Premier League, and while he is undoubtedly close to becoming the proverbial complete footballer, Ronaldo does possess a chronic inability to keep a cool head and track back when necessary.
Conversely, it seems there is every likelihood of the Winker flourishing under the bright lights of the Spanish La Liga. Following the recent re-election of Florentino Per├ęz as club president, Real Madrid have reverted to their infamous Galactico recruiting policy. Consequently, Ronaldo will have plenty of competition when it comes to who can moan the loudest in the Bernabeu dressing room. Moreover, Sir Alex Ferguson operates Manchester United under a siege mentality as a means of generating team cohesion and togetherness as a unit – the direct opposite applies to Galacticos, who ooze the kind of individuality and glamour that would cause Sir Alex to choke on his chewing gum. At Real Madrid, Ronaldo will now literally be in the same league as the worlds most complete footballers such as Xavi, Puyol, Iniesta and fellow Galactico, Kaka.

The explicatives describing Cristiano Ronaldo flow flawlessly off the tongue: scores goals with both feet from distance, possesses strong heading ability, can dribble at pace. Combine those qualities with his astronomical merchandising value and a decade of top-flight football ahead of him, it seems Madrid may have got themselves a bargain.

“Looking for Eric”, the film directed by Ken Loach was released in cinemas last week. Looking for Cristiano? Try Madrid.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Terry the Terrible


“He is Chelsea”. Strong words from the recently appointed head coach at Chelsea, Carlo Ancelotti, who has expressed an enduring admiration for the Blues skipper and considers John Terry an integral part of the squad that faces the mammoth task of finally bringing the Champions League trophy to Stamford Bridge. So why does the totemic centre-back who draws a level of respect and admiration at Chelsea Football Club that would have embarrassed gladiators at the Coliseum appear to seek pastures new? It is completely understandable that a measly weekly wage of £130,000 is blatantly peanuts for a player whose primary roles are to bulldoze opponents, win aerial challenges and frequently lambaste his team-mates. As a result, Terry feels his services merit considerably more than the £150,000 pocketed by Chelsea’s current highest earner, Frank Lampard, hence the somewhat obscene £200,000 reportedly offered by the connoisseurs of world football that are Manchester City. Eastlands manager Mark Hughes believes Terry has become “stale” at Stamford Bridge and needs a new challenge, a “challenge” which Hughes has already cited to woo the aficionados of Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor and Gareth Barry to the City of Manchester Stadium. It is no secret that Man City desperately need a Captain Fantastic figure around which a new squad can be constructed.

However for £200k a week, one would expect Terry to eradicate world poverty and possess the power of flight while single-handedly guiding Manchester City to Premiership glory. Terry may well be a natural, great, in-built leader but so are Prince Charles, Liam Gallagher and Father Ted. Many pundits lament Terry as being the last of a dying breed of faithful, no-nonsense, blood-on-the-shirt centre-halves to captain club and country, but compared to Bobby Moore or Terry Butcher, he looks like Gok Wan.

There is little doubt that John Terry wears his heart on his sleeve, but this particular sleeve will belong to the club who are willingly capable of paying far beyond the odds. The only thing Terry displays undying loyalty to is his wage packet.

Tartan Catastrophe


Provided Scotland can beat Macedonia and Holland at Hampden in September, as George Burley expects, then the Scots will qualify for next summer’s World Cup with no real problems. There is the minor issue that even if Scotland did achieve those two monumental victories, the resultant points total of 13 is highly unlikely to secure a play-off spot, and consequently Burley’s big scheme will be scuppered.

In fairness to the Scotland coach, not even Sir Alex Ferguson could have successfully manoeuvred the national team to avoid the ruthless execution dished out by a Norway side who were made to look somewhat exceptional following Gary Caldwell’s dismissal. Indeed, it took guts from Burley to select Steven Caldwell and Callum Davidson considering both players had been idling in international wilderness for the past four years, but their shortcomings were brutally exposed on a night when the wheels well and truly came of the Tartan bandwagon. Of course, there were many excuses for the coach and his superior SFA blazers to cite for the rout: Barry Ferguson’s damning Evening Times Interview; injuries to key players Stephen McManus and Craig Gordon; Alain Hamer’s harsh, if not correct choice to send Gary Caldwell packing following two bookable offences; FIFA’s decision to schedule the fixture before the Scottish domestic season had commenced.
However, the raw and painful truth is that players such as Darren Fletcher, Alan Hutton and Scott Brown should be more than capable of battling players of lesser standards on an international level. Nevertheless, the brewing emotion of gross public contempt for George Burley comes from deeper roots than merely inept squad selections. Such player choices, combined with a perennial insistence for referring to Cristophe Berra as “Christopher” and Barry Ferguson, quite sublimely as “Darren”, prompts reminders of the inglorious Berti Vogts era. It is frantically frustrating to witness Burleys current woeful form in contrast to the track record he established at Hearts three years ago. Furthermore, his apparent leniency in dealing with Ferguson and Alan McGregor following Februarys infamous “Boozegate” farce did nothing to replenish Burleys image.

While Scotland’s chances of catching a flight to South Africa next summer are slim to say the least, victory against Macedonia in Glasgow is mandatory. Defeat would see Burley’s popularity plummet to a level that would make Gordon Brown appear to be Robin Hood in disguise. Conversely, three points against the Dutch would be a feat akin to the miracle of Loaves and Fishes.

For our nation, a new Promised Land awaits: Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.