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Archive for September 2009

Crashgate: Briatore and Symonds sacked

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Nelson Piquet Jr

Who ever said revenge was a dish best served cold may well have had Nelson Piquet Jr in mind when he said it.  The son of the Brazilian world champion certainly got his own back in good style.

It all started back year, in at the Singapore Grand Prix.  It was Nelson’s debut season and it was going far from well.  It was clear that the Renault team was built firmly around Fernando Alonso, the two time world champion.  Nelson’s role was at best a walk-on one.  He was, allegedly,  given minimal resources and track time to practise.  His relationship with his flamboyant team manager was frosty and fracious.

Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds

Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds

Flavio Briatore was a former business manager of Luciano Bennetton, the fashion magnate.  When his boss expressed a desire to start a Formula 1 team Briatore was pushed into the team principle’s role.  He knew next to nothing about Motor sports and he had to learn fast.  He left the mechanicals to the mechanics and concentrated on the business deals.

Pat Symonds was an old hand at mechanics, and a long serving member of the Bennetton-Renault team.  He became Executive Director of Engineering shortly after Renault bought out Bennetton’s remaining shares.  In the early 2000s it was this pair that brought Renault back to the front of the grid, racing neck and neck with Ferrari.  They brought in Fernando Alonso from Minardi and cheered him on as he took two F1 Championships.

In 2008 they were reforming a new team line up.  Fernando Alonso had returned from a miserable year at McLaren, and he was promised top-billing.  His team mate was a young hopeful, Nelson Piquet Junior.  This handsome young fellow came from a great racing pedigree.  He had some success in GP2 and he had ended the season in second place.  In 2007 he toiled away as the test driver at Renault.

But in 2008 he was underperforming as a race driver.  Alonso was busy making his drive for the championship and Piquet seemed the forgotton man.

In september it was the turn of Singapore to hold it’s first race.  Not only was this a street circuit, but it was also the first F1 night-race.  Renault was having a difficult season and Alonso had only qualified 15th because of a fuel-pump problem.  Briatore and Symonds hatched a fiendish plan to leap-frog him to the front of the grid.  They told him to go into the pits for a quick stop, and as he entered, they ordered Piquet to crash.

Courtesy of sutton-images.com

Courtesy of sutton-images.com

He gritted his teeth and went for it, probably wondering if he was really being paid enough for all this.

In 2008 the rules stated that the pit lane closes for the first few laps while the safety car is out.  As a result Alonso exited the grid a good few places further up the grid than when he left.  He duly went on to win the race.

Piquet was questioned about the crash but he officially stated that it had been a simple mistake.  He kept his mouth shut about any other motives for over a year.

By August 2009 Piquet’s relationship with his team had soured considerarably.  If fact, it was to get downright nasty.  Piquet had not performed to expectations and by August Briatore had lost patience and abruptly sacked him.  A very public slanging match followed.  But Piquet had one card to play up his sleeve.

Max Mosley

He approached the FIA, and particularly Max Moseley, with testamony that he had been ordered to crash in Singapore.  For Moseley this was manna from heaven.  Earlier in 2009 he had been in a very public war with the heads of the F1 teams over the new rules for 2010.  In the end the only way he could get them to accept a revised version of the rules was to agree to step down as FIA President at the end of his term.  The humiliation, on top of various newspaper alligations about his private life, rankled him.  This would be his payback against Briatore and his cronies.

Moseley ordered the FIA to begin an investigation immediately.  Piquet gave his testamony on the record.  Symonds was offered immunity from prosecution if he testified what really happened.  He declined, out of loyalty to his long time friend, Briatore.

On 4th September Renault were charged with interfereing with the outcome of the race, citing a breach of article 151c of the international sporting code.  They were called to an extrodinary meeting due on 21 September.

But yesterday, 16th September, it was Briatore and Symonds that chose to depart Renault, pleading no contest against the charges.  Piquet and Moseley had their revenge.

Now we just have to wait and see what happens at the extrodinary meeting on the 21st.  Stay tuned.

And who said F1 was boring?

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Written by Nick Gilmartin

September 17, 2009 at 11:05 am

Libya: Terrorism Incorporated

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Gaddafi

Virtually from the day he seized power Muammar Gaddafi presented his country as a safe haven for international terrorism.  Much as Fidel Castro had done a decade earlier, he set aside land for bases, instructors, bank accounts, intelligence dossiers, weapons and explosives.

As I have previously stated, Gaddafi wasn’t too fussy who he let in.  Some of the factions of crazies that flocked to his banner were chalk and cheese.

The first groups to arrive were radical Muslims opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.  Angry, zealous and capable of violence, they soon set up shop in the Libyan desert.  From there they launched attack after attack on Israeli civilians and military alike.

Palestinians

The umbrella organization was the Palestine Liberation Organization.  Their subsections varied from radical communists to right wing Ba’ath-aligned groups.

IRA

From there the next group was the Provisional Irish Republican Army.  Although a vastly different religion, they were fighting, as they saw it, an Imperialist power occupying their land.  They recieved arms and training before slipping back into Northern Ireland.   Throughout the 70s and 80s they wreaked havoc against the British army.  The PIRA mantained a working relationship with Libya right up to the late 90s.

ETA

A similar organisation was ETA, the Basque Seperatist movement.  The Basque homeland was a province of Spain that had it’s own language and culture and aspired to become a seperate country.  They recieved similar training to the PIRA, how to use car bombs, pipe bombs and Improvised Explosive Devices.

Just to mix the party up a little bit more he invited members of Germany’s Baader-Meinhof group to train.  Instead they went to Jordan but he still provided them with arms and some rudimentary training.

Idi Amin

In 1978 the Idi Amin regime of Uganda declared war on the neighbouring state of Tanzania, who promptly counter-attacked and led to a messy border conflict.  Libya sent 2500 ground troops and Russian or Chinese-built tanks to aid Amin.  But it was all to no avail, and the Libyan troops, minus tanks and weapons, were expelled to neutral territory.

The Libyans also aided local Arabic groups in Spanish Sahara, and he was the first to recognize their newly reformed country as Western Sahara.

Al Magrahi

It may have been the Libyan intelligence agent, al-Magrahi who taught the terrorists how to hijack a plane.  He was the head of the Libyan national airline’s security for years.

The Libyans were not adversed to carrying out acts of terrorism of their own, the difference was that they picked targets well out of their depth.  Their fighter aircraft took on the US air force during an exercise in international waters, and lost both aircraft.  Gaddafi didn’t take it too well.  The US cranked up the sanctions.

LaBelle_disco

In 1986 West Berlin was home to La Belle nightclub, which was a favourite spot of the NATO aligned US servicemen.  On 5th April at 01.45 am, the place was packed.  The bomb went off near the DJ box, a natural focal point.  Two US servicemen, Kenneth T Ford and James E Goins, along with a Turkish lady, Nermin Hannay.  Two hundred and thirty people were injured.

Ten days later the US reacted like a wounded bear.  Their air forces struck at military bases and terrorist training camps up and down the country.  The mission was a huge success, in spite of the death of Gaddafi’s innocent daughter.

Flight 103 Cockpit

For Gaddafi this was far from over, and he ordered his agents to strike at an American civil target.  They decided to pick a Pan Am flight out of London.  It was the darkest moment in the long history of Libyan terrorism, killing a total of 270 people.

He stepped up the sales of arms to the IRA and the PLO, and urged them on to greater acts of violence.

In 1989 Libya went for a repeat performance in the Gulf of Sidra incident.  In virtually identical scenario two MiG-23s faced down two F-14 Tomcats.  And once again it was 2 – 0 to the United States.

After that things calmed down a little.  By the nineties America became obsessed with the Middle East, the terrorist groups started to scale down operations and Libya started it’s long slow rehabilitation.

Written by Nick Gilmartin

September 15, 2009 at 2:38 pm

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Patrick Swayze takes a final bow

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Patrick Swayze

Ladies and Gentlemen I am afraid it is confirmed this time.  Patrick Swayze has finally lost his valient fight against Pancreatic cancer.

He passed away late last night with his wife Lisa at his side.

Patrick was best known for his lead role in Dirty Dancing that turned him into an icon overnight.  His picture became a permanent fixture in teenage girl’s bedrooms in the mid eighties.  It was expected that the film would be shown in cinemas for one weekend then go straight to video.  Instead it became a box-office smash that still captivates a certain generation of women.  His later films fared less well, with the exception of Ghost.

In an age when bad behaviour among celebrities is considered acceptable, Patrick remained calm and always a Gentleman.  He was incredibly faithful to his dancer wife throughout his whole life.

In addition to acting and dancing he also managed a horse ranch and he was an expert horseman.

He was 57 years old.

Written by Nick Gilmartin

September 15, 2009 at 9:48 am

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Keith Floyd goes off the air for good

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keith floyd

Well folks I am afraid it is obituary time again.

For starters we have the celebrity chef and renowned soak, Keith Floyd.  It was this man that we have to thank for making cooking while drinking acceptable TV viewing.

After leaving school he worked as a junior reporter on the Bristol Evening Post, before taking a career in the Army.  He left as an officer after a few years with no real direction.  In the end he followed a path into hospitality.

In just a few years his talents led him to own his own restaurant, and then a chain of them.  From there he entered Television at a time when celebrity chefs were far from cool or unconventional.

His method was a lot less starchy than his contemparies, he often seemed to make it up as he went along while drinking copious amounts of wine along the way.  It was this devil-may-care attitude that made him popular, yet it was also his undoing.

Keith fought alcoholism in the way we would fight the attentions of an amorous page 3 girl.

He lived the life he wished for when he moved to the South of France and lived among the farms and the chataeus.  However personal happiness eluded him and he was divorced four times.

To his friends he was generous to a fault and once personally guarenteed £30,000 worth of drink for a party.  It was this flamboyance that led him to be declared bankrupt in 1996.

But his health and finances never fully recovered.  He collapsed in a pub in Staffordshire in 2008.  He finally died of a heart attack yesterday.  To the public and wine-merchants all over the world he is a character that will be missed.

So I will leave you with a bit of footage of what Keith does best.

Written by Nick Gilmartin

September 15, 2009 at 9:26 am

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Libya: The Rise of the Colonel

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Libya Coat of Arms

Just over forty years ago the king of Libya decided he had earned a break.  His back was hurting him and he was starting to despare at the breakdown of the relationship he had with the more urbane members of his cabinet.  In the fall of 1969 he flew to a remote spa in Greece to see a private doctor and perhaps get his thoughts in order.

In the early hours of 1 September 1969 the security guards based in the Government buildings, the National television stations, the joint Armed Services headquarters, and many other places, got a nasty shock.  The lights of oncoming army trucks were the first surprise.  Was this an exercise?  Why the hell hadn’t they been told?  Soldiers began to spill out of the trucks and swarm around the buildings.  Hang on, were those guns real?  The next shock for the hapless guards was a rifle-butt in the ribs.

A coup was under way, a coup supported by, the very man left in charge of the country, Crown Prince Sayyid ar-Rida.  He would declare a 27-year old Captain as the new head of the country and then abolish the monarchy.  For his pains he would spend years under house arrest.

Gaddafi after coup

The mysterious young man who seized control of the country was Muammar Abu Minyar a-Gaddafi.

He ahd been born at the height of Rommel’s campaign in Africa.  As an infant his much needed sleep was often broken by the passing of a convoy of Afrika Korps truck.  Small wonder he turned out a little cranky.

His was the youngest child of Mohammed al-Gaddafi and Aisha Bin Menier, born in the dry desert of Sirte.  From an early age he was known for his good looks.  He went to a very conservative, traditional school where he became the leader of a small group of friends.  At was the same crowd that followed him through prep school, and into the military academy.  They were at his side the day he seized power.  He formed the revolutionary command council to lead the country and, within a year, made himself Prime Minister.

Perhaps strangely, he promoted himself only to Colonel.  Many have asked why not General or Marshal of Libya?  Well, it is hard to say.  Gadaffi seems to see himself as a champion of the underdog, the refugee, the dispossessed.  Yet, in truth, he had not really had a hard life.  He wasn’t the whipped dog that Hitler was, nor the delinquant who became Saddam Hussain.  He was just a fairly successful junior soldier with a head full of dreams and a few friends with guns.

Once he had consolidated power he set out to become the Fidel Castro of the Mediterranean.  How he managed any of this is mostly due to the fact that the majority of American Intelligence agencies were fixated on the deteriorating situation in South East Asia.  And they were especially wary of communists, something al-Gadaffi never professed, or turned out, to be.

In the early seventies the eastern Mediterranean was torn by war.  The conflicts in Palestine and Israel were hotting up, the communists were consolidating Yemen, and Turkey invaded Cyprus.  Arabs everywhere were gaining the strength to assert their independence from American oil barons.

MIDEAST-PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-PFLP-MARCH

Libya became a focal point for Terrorism International.  Islamic Extremists, Communist Insurgents, Irish Nationalists, even German crazies were welcomed.  The only thing these motley crew had in common – they were anti-imperialist, as Gaddafi saw it.  He gave them camps, money, training, bank accounts, everything they needed to spread fear and havoc in the world.

MiG-25

In turn he became an agent for the Soviet Union.  They gave him the first MiG-25 Supersonic jets available outside of Russia.  They retained cordial relations right up to 1991.

Green Book

Gadaffi developed his ‘Green Book’ in imitation of Chairman Mao’s little Red Book.  It was a collection of Islamic doctrine, tactics, methods, and rambling nonsense.  It came in three parts:

Part 1:  The solution of the problem of democracy

Part 2: The solution of the economic problem

Part 3: The social basis of the third universal theory

A sinister terrorist at the scene of the Munich Olympic Massacre

A sinister terrorist at the scene of the Munich Olympic Massacre

Libya’s guest list was quite the rogues gallery.  Palestine Liberation Organization, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Abu Nidal, Black September, Irish Republicans,  Basque Speratives, the Baader-Meinhof group and Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda.   He certainly wasn’t fussy who he let in.

Consequently Libya’s fingerprints showed up in many a terrorist atrocity.  The US Ambassador had packed his bags and gone home as early as 1972.  In 1984, Britain followed after a horrific incident that left a Policewoman dead.

YvonneFletcher

Yvonne Fletcher had been on duty, holding back demonstrators outside the Libyan embassy in London when a sudden burst of gunfire erupted from the building.  Several officers and demonstrators were hit, but Police Constable Fletcher died of her injuries within the hour.  The embassy was soon surrounded by armed police and army special forces.  Eventually the ‘Ambassadors’ (to use the term loosely) were expelled from the country.  No one was arrested for murder of an unarmed officer on the streets of the UK.

Gaddafi’s only response was to bemoan that his ‘ambassadors’ were not being allowed to go about their duties.

Years later a bomb was detonated in a Berlin disco, leaving three dead and nearly two hundred wounded, many of them NATO servicemen.  An intercepted telex (an early fax machine) from the Libyan embassy in East Germany seemed to point to Libyan involvement.

UTA flight 772 in central Africa, from Chad to Paris was bombed.  Libya was chief suspect.

Soon the American state department were asking questions about what they should be doing about Libya?  Sanctions? International pressure?

They also had a beef with the Libyans.  Gaddafi wanted to claim the Gulf of Sidra as Libyan international waters.  Now perhaps this was not as unreasonable as it sounds, as the bay in entirely contained within Libyan coastline and it is far away from regular shipping lanes.  But the US objected to this proposal.

To show them who is boss Gaddafi launched two SCUD missiles at the small Mediterranean island of Lampedusa where a small US Coast Guard listening post was located.  However the SCUDs proved to be wholly inaccurate and fell into the ocean.

Operation Dorado Canyon

By now the American President, Ronald Reagan, had had enough.  He ordered his Air Force to make tactical air strikes on Libyan airfields and barracks.  One bomb landed in the compound where Gaddafi was staying.  Although he himself escaped injury his adopted daughter, Hannah was killed.  Unfortunately no picture of her seems to exist.

Losing a daughter had a profound effect of Gaddafi, who, naturally, swore revenge.  In 1988, tragically, he would have it.  He summoned one of his best agents, Abdelabaset al-Magrahi, to come up with a new bombing plan.  This man was a Libyan Intelligence agent, and also the head of security of Libyan airlines.  He knew better than anybody how to get a bomb on board an aircraft.

Flight PA-103 was flying over Scotland when the bomb onboard blew it’s neck wide open.  The fuselage and the cockpit were ripped asunder and the flaming wreckage landed on several houses in the town, killing many more people.

The Colonel had avenged himself, at least in his mind.

In the following years Gaddafi concentrated on arming and training as many guerrillas as he could. He stepped up arms shipments to Ireland and Palestine.

But as far back as 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Gaddafi could tell the world was changing.  Slowly, surely, he started to backtrack on twenty years of terrorist activity.  He offered to pay compensation to victims of the bombings.  He sought to restore diplomatic relations with first Britain and finally America.  He is the only terrorist leader to have done so.  It may yet ensure his survival.

But in spite of this gesture of penance he remains a dictator who ruthlessly puts down domestic dissenters.  His internal security apparatus is cut from the same cloth as Saddam’s secret police.

Muammar Gaddafi is still an all-powerful dictator of millions.

Written by Nick Gilmartin

September 14, 2009 at 2:13 pm

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It’s a Brawn One-Two at Monza

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Brawn celebrates at Monza

After a hard-fought race Lewis Hamilton crashed out on the final lap.  Under a hot Milanese sun they drove hard down the straights and into the curves, with their tyres melting fast.  Lewis made an unscheduled stop for new tyres early in the race, and luckily the team was ready this time.  However by the time he drove out of the pits the Brawns of Button and Barrichello were just ahead of him.

And so it stayed with Barrachello leading the pack with his friend and rival.  Jenson Button became a permanent fixture in his rear view mirror for the rest of the race, sometimes close up, sometimes far away.

Further back Mark Webber crashed out early, putting a hex on Red Bull’s chances of winning the championship.  But it was on the final lap that Lewis Hamilton, driving hard, felt the car go from under him as he navigated a pair of curves.  It dived, nose first into a barrier wall.  Luckily he was unhurt and remarkably unfazed.  The only thing about him damaged was his chances of defending his title.

The final results are as follows:

Pos No Driver Team Laps Time/Retired Grid Pts
1 23 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 53 1:16:21.706 5 10
2 22 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 53 +2.8 secs 6 8
3 4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 53 +30.6 secs 3 6
4 20 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 53 +31.1 secs 2 5
5 7 Fernando Alonso Renault 53 +59.1 secs 8 4
6 2 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 53 +60.6 secs 4 3
7 6 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 53 +82.4 secs 15 2
8 15 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 53 +85.4 secs 9 1
9 3 Giancarlo Fisichella Ferrari 53 +86.8 secs 14
10 17 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 53 +162.163 secs 17
11 10 Timo Glock Toyota 53 +163.925 secs 16
12 1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 52 Accident 1
13 12 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 52 +1 Lap 19
14 9 Jarno Trulli Toyota 52 +1 Lap 11
15 8 Romain Grosjean Renault 52 +1 Lap 12
16 16 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 51 +2 Laps 18
Ret 21 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 22 Transmission 7
Ret 11 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 19 Gearbox 20
Ret 5 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 15 Engine 13
Ret 14 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 0 Accident 10

Written by Nick Gilmartin

September 14, 2009 at 10:27 am

Hamilton has his second pole of the season

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Lewis and Adrian

He only just managed it but Lewis Hamilton will start the Italian Grand Prix on pole position.  He was pushed hard by an outstanding performance by Force India’s Adrien Sutil of all people.

Behind them are the two Finns, Kimi Rakkonein of Ferrari and Heikke Kovelienen, another McLaren.  The third row is the entire Brawn team, Jenson and Rubens.  There is no love lost between these two this season and they will both fight to the bitter end.

This race will also see the debut of Vitantonio Luizzi who replaces Giancarlo Fisichella at Force India.

So the results in full are as follows:

Pos  Driver       Team                       Q1        Q2        Q3
 1.  Hamilton     McLaren-Mercedes      (B)  1:23.375  1:22.973  1:24.066
 2.  Sutil        Force India-Mercedes  (B)  1:23.576  1:23.070  1:24.261
 3.  Raikkonen    Ferrari               (B)  1:23.349  1:23.426  1:24.523
 4.  Kovalainen   McLaren-Mercedes      (B)  1:23.515  1:23.528  1:24.845
 5.  Barrichello  Brawn-Mercedes        (B)  1:23.483  1:22.976  1:25.015
 6.  Button       Brawn-Mercedes        (B)  1:23.403  1:22.955  1:25.030
 7.  Liuzzi       Force India-Mercedes  (B)  1:23.578  1:23.207  1:25.043
 8.  Alonso       Renault               (B)  1:23.708  1:23.497  1:25.072
 9.  Vettel       Red Bull-Renault      (B)  1:23.558  1:23.545  1:25.180
10.  Webber       Red Bull-Renault      (B)  1:23.755  1:23.273  1:25.314
11.  Trulli       Toyota                (B)  1:24.014  1:23.611
12.  Grosjean     Renault               (B)  1:23.975  1:23.728
13.  Kubica       BMW-Sauber            (B)  1:24.001  1:23.866
14.  Fisichella   Ferrari               (B)  1:23.828  1:23.901
15.  Heidfeld     BMW-Sauber            (B)  1:23.584  1:24.275
16.  Glock        Toyota                (B)  1:24.036
17.  Nakajima     Williams-Toyota       (B)  1:24.074
18.  Rosberg      Williams-Toyota       (B)  1:24.121
19.  Buemi        Toro Rosso-Ferrari    (B)  1:24.220
20.  Alguersuari  Toro Rosso-Ferrari    (B)  1:24.951

Written by Nick Gilmartin

September 12, 2009 at 6:24 pm