Sunday, 23 October 2011

Motorsport Mourns. Manchester turning blue?

Big things have happened in the world of sport in the past week or so. I think the most prominent has been the death of two iconic racing characters in Dan Wheldon and, this morning, Moto GP rider Marco Simoncelli.

At the age of 33, Wheldon was a huge name in the American racing paddock having made a name for himself by twice winning the coveted Indy 500 and becoming Indy car champion on one occasion. His passing led to an amazing response from all corners of the racing world. Something like this really shows what a tight nit community the sports can have. It also showed the danger of motorsport, the risks involved with driving cars at speeds of over 200mph are far too often forgotten but each and everyone who takes part in any number of series' risk their lives for the entertainment of thousands. Of course it is the money and glamour too that have people so addicted to their profession but it certainly made me think of the lengths sport, particularly motorsport, goes to in order to become and stay popular. Dan Wheldon had two children, one of which is only six months old, know one can sympathise enough with his family after such a tragic event.

A week after Wheldon's death in the 15 car pile up at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, motorsport lost another popular figure in 24-year-old Italian Marco Simoncelli. The promising youngster was hit by more than one of his competitors after a crash that left him helmetless. After an hour in the hands of the emergency services at the Sepang raceway, Malaysia, the afro haired Simoncelli was announced dead.

To have two such horrific accidents in such a short space of time has really shaken not just the racing world but a  lot of people who would not usually take notice of such sports. I think it's important to increase safety  but, unfortunately, it is the danger and speed aspect of the genre's of sport in the spotlight that make them so appealing to the people who compete in them and the people who devotedly follow them. In the wake of what has happened, in Indy car racing in particular, calls from a number of places have come for the safety to be improved to match that of Formula One, where Robert Kubica suffered a monumental accident in Canada in 2007 that left him with 'only' broken bones and enabled him to return to racing the same season. 1979 F1 world champion Jody Scheckter was particularly vocal in making it known that he want his son, Tomas, to leave the sport.

Beyond the doom and gloom of recent goings on in the world of motorsport, there has been some fantastic action closer to home. There can only be one talking point on a Sunday evening that follows a day in which the tide of power in English football has given its clearest indication of serious change in years. Manchester United 1, Manchester City 6!

There were turning points such as a Jonny Evans' miss for United in the first half - an air shot that had the ball hit his standing leg when only 7 yards out - and of course his sending off early in the second half, a decision that seemed justified after he pulled back the impressive Mario Balotelli. It wasn't a result that can be blamed squarely on the impact of those events alone. Manchester City have scored more goals than any other side in the top division in England, conceded the least amount and looked 100 times more like a team than they did this time a year ago when it appeared they were only a splattering of extremely talented individuals. Characters like Micah Richards look more accomplished and matured on and off the pitch and the fact that Mancini has brought together a set of players that is no longer constantly changing, brings continuity, familiarity and understanding. They are by no means the finished article but the fact that they are now notably closer to having a team that look like championship winners is certainly evident after their display at Old Trafford.

As for United, they looked out of sorts. It was the first time since 1930 they have conceded 6 goals at home and their worst ever defeat in the Premier League. Sir Alex Ferguson described the result as 'the worst in my football career' - and he was talking about both management and playing days.

Whether City can win the league is a much bigger question but will the seriously compete for the title? Absolutely, their seriousness compounded by their being moved to 11/8 favourites for the title as of Sunday evening.

Without surprise, there will remain people that despise City's recent success and improvement to the vast amounts of money their owners have and continue to spend. As a neutral, personally I welcome it. It brings the best players in the world to England and nobody can deny that City are entertaining?!


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