A couple of weeks ago, the British Touring Car Championship headed north of the border for its annual trip to Scotland and the Knockhill circuit. Again it was a weekend of high drama and yet again one man in particular was right in the centre of it all.
I initially decided not to write about this particular incident, which saw Aron Smith make contact with Jason Plato sending the latter off into the gravel and out of the race. Previous blogs expressing my opinions of Jason Plato and his attitude and behaviour have generally been met with agreement. However some fans of the outspoken racing driver, who’s lead has clearly been followed by those who support him and have decided to be very critical of my own opinions. Some been quite personal but many claiming I know nothing about what I am saying. Somewhat Ironic in many cases.
So you can imagine my delight in a saviour in an unexpected form. There were so many things I wanted to say about Jason Plato and his attitude, behaviour, driving and his somewhat scathing and hugely hypocritical comments live on TV. One man saved me the trouble of writing down my views, as he had already done so. This man? The Boss of Motorbase Performance Dave Bartrum. A BTCC race winning team and also a British GT winning team too. So this Man cannot be accused of not knowing what he is talking about.
Dave had written a blog about the weekend at Knockhill which included a large section about Jason Plato which went like this:
“The only sour note of the weekend was Jason Plato’s reaction to the incident with Aron. I realise he will see it his way and we will see it ours, that’s natural. I was disappointed in the penalty which TOCA gave us because we’ve been on the receiving end of nearly identical incidents with Aron & Rob Austin in round 1, TOCA verdict – Racing incident, Liam & Lea Wood at Croft, TOCA verdict – Racing incident. Someone does it to Plato, TOCA verdict – 3 points & a £500 fine. Is it because its Plato? Maybe, who knows? With that in mind when we heard that 888 & Plato had appealed we were surprised, turns out Jason wanted more! He even suggested that Aron had a job to do on him! What can you say to this? Paranoid maybe?
Jason is supposed to represent British Motorsport, in two roles even beyond his role in the BTCC with MG & 888. He is the face of the KX young driver programme mentoring young aspiring drivers & has a major role at the BRDC as a Director. Yet despite all of this he remains the most outspoken, shouting his mouth of to anyone who will listen about how badly everyone else drives! Sorry, am I missing something? Is this the same Jason Plato who rammed Matt Neal off in a fit of rage/revenge at Snetterton, the same Jason Plato who rammed Gordon Shedden of at the last corner of Donington after pushing him along the back straight whilst Gordon tried to brake, and the same Jason Plato who simply disposed of Dave Newsham disgracefully at the first race of the season? And that’s just this year. He has been one incident away from a 3 month ban for a little while due to his own indiscretions on track in the last 12 months. Pot and kettle spring to mind!
He suggested Aron doesn’t deserve a race licence. Quite frankly, he is the man who needs banning from the championship. Why TOCA didn’t give him points for his revenge mission at Snetterton on Matt Neal is anybodies guess! Probably because he has so many points already. MG & his sponsors should think twice before renewing his contract if he continues to behave like this. He makes damning statements that other teams and drivers are merely ‘playing at this’ and we’re just ‘pretenders’ unlike the paid professional drivers. At most, if this was the case there would be a 3 car grid, this is modern day Motorsport. I amongst other would love to have the budgets of yesteryear and be able to pick two fully paid drivers like Andy Neate & Jason Plato as 888 have been able to this year!
How he keeps a job with the BRDC is beyond me. He is a Director in the most influential club in British Motorsport, he is in a role which people need to respect him and look upon his as someone who sets an example of how a race driver conducts himself both on and off the circuit. In my opinion he does neither! It’s a joke that they have someone with such low regard for fellow competitors and young drivers in such a position. It’s hypocritical. There is a new young driver programme which he is fronting. He then accuses Aron of being ‘a pretender’ because he pays for his drive. Will that be the same for all the drivers under his management who are paying for their drive? I doubt it, I’m sure he will change his mind then! Quite frankly no driver having been mentored by him would be welcome in a race car of mine.
All of that said I do respect his driving ability, he is clearly very talented. He also puts on a great show for the public, who seemingly love a bad boy. Maybe we’re just another part of his show this week. I just think if he kept his mouth shut and his thoughts to himself the world would be better for it. I can only assume, and half understand that Aron is on the receiving end of his passion from the reality that Jason’s Championship received a massive dent at the weekend due to him making a mistake of his own by drifting over into Aron, giving Aron very few options. Jason made the uncharacteristic error in which he lost out, something he doesn’t do very often. I think most drivers would have driven exactly how Aron did, and the others probably would have ended up in the gravel themselves!”
This is worryingly almost exactly what I wanted to say on the matter and many will know I have been saying similar for a long time, but only this time, hopefully, I won’t get abuse from certain people so thanks Dave.
Now even the most hardcore Jason Plato fans must take on board some of these comments and surely see Dave has a very good point. I am however, not criticising people for wanting to be a fan of Mr Plato though. I have said it before and say it yet again. The guy has great driving ability there is no argument there. But is he really a role model to those who do support him? Especially the younger generation. Is the do as I say not as I do attitude setting a good example? Is the constant moaning and criticising of the rules and others inspirational for others? Lots of Plato fans say he is a hero and legend. But is this really the way a hero should conduct himself?
Two words I have just used are thrown about far too much in describing sports stars and mostly unnecessarily. Hero and Legend. I’m going to stick my neck out on the line here and risk further abuse by saying Plato is neither of these. Good yes. But not hero or legend. Why? I’ll tell you why.
A Hero or Legend is not just someone who reaches the very top of their discipline, but someone who inspires others. Someone who sets a good example to others, overcomes adversity, conducts themselves well and shows a good, positive attitude and strives to achieve. But most of all, someone others can look up to. A role model who people want to emulate. After the Summer of Olympic and Paralympic games, it is clear there are many that put the MG BTCC racing driver in the shade.
For motorsport fans though, If you want a real Hero, Legend and Inspiration, look no further than Alessandro ‘Alex’ Zanardi. The Italian ex Formula one driver suffered a horrific crash in 2001 in the Champ car series and subsequently lost his legs. Whilst many of us, faced with this for the rest of our lives would wallow in self pity and hate the life that you now face. Alex didn’t. He continued do race for a few years after his legs were amputated, but he had his heart set on one goal. The Paralympics.
Without moaning, complaining or criticising, Alex set out to achieve this goal. Training hard in the face of adversity, all this hard work came to fruition last week. The road cycling took place at Brands Hatch, somewhat poignant in this incredible story and Alex Zanardi was there to represent Italy in the hand cycling with his unique three wheeled bicycle which was no doubt designed with the help of some of his friends within formula one. The British crowd were there in their thousands to cheer and support the participants with many motorsport fans there to support Zanardi.
All the hard work and determination came to fruition for the Italian which saw him take two Gold medals and a Silver. The delight within the motorsport fraternity was clear to see. This man’s incredible journey in the face of adversity had come good and he had reached the very peak. This man is a genuine Hero. A true Legend. And an Inspiration to all.
Dave Bartrum’s full blog can be read here.
A couple of weeks ago I returned home from a pretty crappy day at work. It was my 30th Birthday and I was feeling pretty depressed about it. Whilst sitting at my computer I decided to check the London 2012 website to see if I could get any Paralympic tickets. I was pretty keen to try and see something after the incredible Olymipic Games Team GB just had and if anything the Paralypians are achieving something far greater.
After an hour or so on the website I had secured myself two tickets. One for the mornings Athletics session on Saturday the 1st in the Olympic Stadium and one for the Men’s Wheelchair Basketball that evening at the North Greenwich Arena. A total cost of £25 for the two tickets. I was pretty pleased with this and was really looking forward to seeing both and cheering on the Paralympic GB team.
The day came and I had arrived at the Olympic park just before the gates opened. It was advised to get there about two and a half hours before the event you were going to see due to the security checks and allow for delays. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait long and the queues weren’t big at 7.30 in the morning. It didn’t take long to get through the security and I was soon in the park. It was pretty impressive. The Stadium looked fantastic, people were smiling, happy and excitited in anticipation. Including myself.
The Athletics wasn’t due to start until 10am so I had some time to kill. I wandered around a bit and went and looked around the megastore. At 9 o’clock I headed to the Stadium. I wasn’t sure how good my seat would be and what the view would be like as it had only cost me a tenner. I was pleasantly surprised. The View was good. I wasn’t right at the back and I was about two thirds of the way round the final bend. I could see everything which was just as well as there was shot put, discus, club throw and long jump to watch as well a range of Track events.
It was soon time for the action to start and the stadium had slowly been filling but was now full and the atmosphere was electric. I didn’t take my Camera with me but had taken a pocket compact camera to travel light and just get a few snaps. I wanted to take in the event rather than keep trying to get good photos. With all the field events taking place and the track events starting time seemed to pass pretty fast and I was really enjoying it. The crowd really got behind the athletes and like me, must have been pretty impressed with what these people could do and what they were achieving.
One of the main events of the Morning was the Men’s 200m T42 final. This feature Great Britain’s Richard Whitehead, a double leg amputee. He received a great reception from the crowd before the start and was tipped to do well. The gun went and the race was off, these guys were quick considering the severity of their disabilities. At the end of the first 100m Whitehead was at the back, as the crowd roared him on. What I witnessed over the last 100m was just incredible. All of a sudden Whitehead seemed to switch on the afterburners. He passed everyone and crossed the line in first place setting a new world record in the process. The Stadium erupted! He’d done it. A Gold for Great Britain. I’m sure it was impressive seeing Usain Bolt win his 100m & 200m gold medals, but you know what, that is nothing when you consider Richard Whitehead has no legs!
Other highlights during the session were three bronze medals for Great Britain. Gemma Prescott in the Women’s Club Throw, Robin Womack in the Shot Put and Claire Williams in the Discus. All receiving rapturous applause from the crowd. As the session drew to the and end there was still the Men’s 1500m T46 heats. The first of which was to provide a truly magical moment that summed up the whole spirit of the games.
As the first heat got under way it was clear there was one runner who wasn’t going to be challenging for a win. In fact Houssein Omar Hassan from Djibouti was lapped by the field before he had even completed 400m. He was to be lapped again before the rest of the field had finished, but he carried on. This determination didn’t go unnoticed. Every time Hassan came past, the crown stood up and gave him a standing ovation along with cheers and shouts of encouragement. It was heart warming to see the support he was getting and no doubt spurring him on. Seven and a half minutes after the winner had crossed the line, Hassan made the finish and the Stadium erupted and the noise was deafening. Cheering and applauding the fighter who stuck at it to complete the race. It really was a magical moment.
As the session closed, I headed off to get something to eat and look around the park a bit. I had some time to kill before heading to the North Greenwich area for the Basketball. Wandering around the park I came across two of the men’s sitting volleyball team from Rwanda. People had approached them asking for Autographs, me included. They seemed pretty overcome and confused as to why people were asking for Autographs and photos but were happy to oblige. Like all the Athletes in the Paralympics, there were amazing people and it was nice to see them being treated like the sports stars they should be. I went and took up a place in front of the big screen to watch some action from the Veledrome and see Sarah Storey claim another gold in the 500m time trial. Everyone was happy and friendly, even the volunteers and stewards.
I arrived at the North Greenwich arena soon after 5pm and the doors opened at 5.30pm. Getting there early meant I managed to get a good seat to view the impending action. I wouldn’t say I’m a massive basketball fan but I had seen some of the wheelchair basketball on the TV and was Impressed. However I was unprepared for what was ahead.
I crowed filled in gradually filling the area as the teams warmed up. I was impressed to see them casually throwing the ball through the hoop with ease. It’s pretty hard to do standing up, but these guys were sitting down! The first game was Great Britain versus Columbia. Naturally the GB team received great support from the expectant crowd.
As the game started I was just in awe. The way the players moved around the court at speed, changing direction, blocking and finding space was just incredible. Some of the blocking was quite aggressive and often players would tip over in their wheel chairs, but the majority were able to flip themselves back upright and carry on. Those who couldn’t often got help from not only their own team, but also the opposition showing great sportsmanship. But when it came to scoring, what can I say? It was just incredible. Players found space in crowded areas and often scored with what looked like consummate ease. Even three pointers were going in more often than not. This was truly amazing and GB put on a great show beating Colombia 81 points to 41.
The second game was Canada v Poland and was a bit closer than the first game. It was hugely exciting and I was hooked. I loved every minute of it whilst in full appreciation of what these incredible athletes could and were doing. Canada were victorious 83 to 65. Sadly the time flew by and I was disappointed the day was over. As I headed home I had time to reflect on what I had experienced.
I like many others had become a bit pessimistic about the whole Olympics in the run up to the event, but again like many had got hooked after Team GB’s achievements a few weeks ago. I was desperate to go and see the Paralympics and was thrilled to have been able to experience it. These Athletes achievements are more incredible than those a few weeks earlier overcoming various disadvantages to compete at a high level. All really happy to be there, without complaints or moans and smiling throughout. Professional sports stars who get paid thousands of pounds a week could learn a lot from these incredible people. But it wasn’t just the Athletes that made the games great. All of the Volunteers and organisers had done an amazing job. All of them were happy and friendly, helpful and talkative. Even those with the megaphones had a great sense of humour and entertained the crowds. The whole organisation was fantastic. I never came across and problems and it helped make the whole experience even better. It was a day I will never forget and proud to have been there to witness some of the great sporting moments I did.
It really was the best £25 I had ever spent.
This Sunday saw the closing ceremony of the 2012 London 2012 Olympics. I stayed up to watch despite needing to be up early the next morning. Not because I felt I had to, but because I wanted to. It was truly fantastic and the Athletes who treated us to some amazing moments over the previous 16 days looked to be having a great time and rightly so. The Olympics had been a huge success.
Now turn the clocks back a year or so when the Olympic tickets went on sale, I was really excited. I wanted to get a ticket for something. I wanted to see the greatest sporting event in the world. I wanted to be a part of history. I selected a number of events I wanted to see. Hoping I would be chosen for at least something. I wasn’t. Stories came through about people who got loads of tickets, MP’s and the such being given tickets yet I couldn’t get a single ticket for anything. I only live about 50 miles from the Olympic Stadium. Was one ticket too much to ask for? I was gutted. I was angry about the whole ticketing process and I had lost all interest and excitement in the Olympics.
Even when the Torch relay began I was still fed up with it all. It was all we had been hearing about for months and I still hadn’t managed to get a ticket for anything. Although it was nice to see worthy people running with the flame, people who had done a lot for charity and their community, I did get cross that minor celebrities got the chance to run with it to for no apparent reason. Remember Will.I.Am running with it in Taunton? Why? What had he done to deserve that opportunity? He didn’t even have any connection with the place and couldn’t even spell it!
But one image changed the way I thought.
Day 39 of the Torch Relay and the flame was in Doncaster. The crowds had packed the streets to see one person carry the flame. Not a celebrity, in fact a relative unknown. 27 year old Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson. Ben was the most severely wounded soldier to survive in Afghanistan and had lost both his legs. With the help of his family it took him neatly 30 minutes to cover the 300 meters whilst the thousands of onlookers cheered and spurred him on calling his name. It was heart warming stuff and made even the most cynical person such as myself feel rather emotional.
Maybe this whole farce and waste of government money was a little less of a joke after all.
The days counted down and before long the opening ceremony was upon us. I decided to give the Olympics a chance. Still frustrated at my lack of ticket I watched the opening ceremony with some cynicism. That didn’t last. Before long I was captivated by what was happening. The ceremony was spectacular. It had turned my mood and thoughts completely. I was now really looking forward to the games to begin.
The coverage provided by the BBC was superb. Hours and hours of TV showing every event. Extra channels put on and live internet streaming. Even the commentary on Radio 5, 5 live sports extra and Olympics extra that I was listening to at work was brilliant. The days passed and incredibly the medals for Team GB were racking up. Iconic and heart warming images and stories from the games being beamed around the world. Social media was buzzing and it seemed not just me but a whole nation was captivated. Cheering on the team in every event from Swimming and Rowing to Judo and Volleyball. Crying at images of Victoria Pendleton final goodbye and Chris Hoy’s amazing sixth gold medal.
It seemed as the Olympics went on and the incredible medal tally rose, so did the spirit the nation. Everyone was being treated to coverage of sports they had never seen before and introduced to new exciting events. How many people were captivated by the Dressage? How many people were cheering womens boxing? And how many want to give Handball a go? I had soon forgotten about the anger I had felt about not getting a ticket and was backing Great Britain and feeling not just proud of the athletes who have trained so hard to achieve the sporting greatness we were witnessing, but feeling proud to be British and of a nation that was really putting on the greatest show on earth. Despite all the negativity that surrounded the games in the run up, Britain really pulled it out of the bag. I was in awe of it all even with a little sadness that I couldn’t have been at witnessed this great event in person and soaked up the atmosphere.
As the games end, we are given montages of the memorable moments. The highs and the lows, the tears and the joy, the euphoria and the heartbreak. You can’t help be moved by some of the images but most of all, you can’t help but be inspired by what you have witnessed. The games may be over but the work needs to continue. Sports clubs around the country need to take advantage of the nations desire to get involved in sport. Encourage people to take part, provide opportunities to all those wanting to get a taste of it, and most of all the government need to help out. Even if you don’t think you are able to participate in any of the sports, just helping out and volunteering at a local sports club will make a huge difference to many. The British Team exceeded all expectations over the last two weeks, who’s to say with more people wanting to get involved in sport, they can’t achieve even more in four years time? Let’s hope the much hyped Olympic Legacy is here to stay and not just a flash in the pan.
As for me? I have been inspired too. The success of the Cycling team has left me wanting to get out on my bike more often. I used to go out cycling a lot, but recently I’ve had less and less time. I need to make time though and get back out there. I know it is highly unlikely I will ever make Olympic standard and by the time Rio starts, I think 33 years old would be pushing it a bit, but one thing is for certain, I would love to be able to photograph the next Olympics and maybe I could capture some images like the once we have seen recently that have helped inspire a nation.
Thank you to everyone involved in ensuring the London 2012 Olympic games has been a fantastic event that has made the world take notice and for turning me from a grumpy cynic to a proud Brit. From the Volunteers and the organisers to the Athletes themselves, Thank you all. I’ve cheered, I’ve yelled, I’ve jumped up and down, I’ve shed a tear or two and I’ve loved every minute of it. I never thought I would be saying that a few months ago. Britain really is Great after all. Bring on the Paralympics!