Monday, May 01, 2006


Since I haven't yet seen the weekend's touring car races, or BSB, or finished watching WRC, I'll hold off on commenting on ANY of it. So there.

Instead, it's time to look at three racers who stay at the top levels of the sport but who don't have the results to back it up. Perhaps this is just an axe-grinding session, so if you disagree, either leave a comment or write your own blog!

BEN BOSTROM: Okay, he won the AMA Superbike championship in 1998, but did it without winning a single race. In '99 he was second in the championship with just one race win, whilst his win as a wildcard at Laguna Seca in World Superbike was enough to bag him a factory Ducati ride in 2000. So he's got the best superbike ride in the world from just two wins! This is where we start to see his performances not meet expectations. He was so bad, in fact, that Ducati moved him to a satellite team halfway through the season. In 2001 they had to form a separate factory team just so he could ride on Dunlops. He scored some wins in what was the best period of his career, before a disastrous 2002. In 2003 he returned to the AMA with his tail between his legs, expecting to come in and win. Surprise, surprise, performance didn't meet expectations and he ended up 4th with no wins, whilst in 2004, he managed only one, again at Laguna Seca. So, time to switch series again - back to World Superbike. And, guess what, another crappy year, although this time Ben would blame the team, instead of the tyres or the bike. So, back to the US, back on a Ducati, back to his non-winning ways. 2006 has been rubbish for BBoz so far. The bike is slow, yes, but his team-mate has beaten him at every round. Since 1998, Ben has won nine races, four of them at Laguna Seca. If they had a championship for dating supermodels though, Ben would be the Vale Rossi of that sport...

JACQUES VILLENEUVE: This gnome-like Canadian was a great driver in the CART Championship, but sadly his talent is not (and never has been) sufficient for sustained success in Formula 1. Sometimes racers progress further than their ability actually warrants, and that appears to be the case with Jacques. "But he won the F1 title in '97!" you cry! Yes, he did, but he lost it in 1996 to Damon Hill who had to take a seat with the struggling Arrows team in 1997, and thus removed himself from the title fight. Michael Schumacher was in his second year with Ferrari, developing a car that was still a long way off the pace of Villeneuve's Williams. Thus the door was open to a flukey win. This may sound a bit unfair, but I only have to point to JV's abysmal record since 1997: no wins and 5th overall in 1998; no points in 1999; no podiums in 2000; best results of two thirds in 2001; no podiums in 2002; only 6 points in 2003 and a solid thrashing from young team-mate Jenson Button. In 2004 he was without a ride until the last 3 races when he filled in at Renault. He pledged to help them secure second in the constructor's title, but failed to score any points and Renault finished third. For 2005 he signed for two years with Sauber, although the deal was done before the Renault debacle. Once again his team-mate beat him, and the only reason he stays with Sauber BMW for '06 is the probable penalty for Sauber in breaking the contract.

CHRIS ATKINSON: The Subaru WRC driver from Australia was signed after a remarkable run to 5th in the 2004 Australian round of the championship, in a group N Subaru. It was certainly a gamble on Subaru's part, but they believed they were scooping up a young talent who would be on pace after a few rallies in a WRC machine. They also wanted a new young driver to replace Mikko Hirvonen who endured a tough year with the team in 2004. However, Atkinson did no better than Hirvonen and ended 2005 in 12th place, with points finishes in only three rallies out of twelve entered. Subaru inisted it was a learning year for the boy, but when you're in the second fastest car you'd better be at least grabbing regular points, even if you can't match the experienced superstars of the sport. This year, he's secured points in three events, with sixth as his best finish. He's beaten on a regular basis by "privateers" like Dani Sordo and Manfred Stohl. Just like Villeneuve, Atkinson has risen beyond a level his talent can support. He's quicker than most Australian rally drivers, but sadly that's not good enough when you're up against drivers like Marcus Gronholm and Seb Loeb (or even second-tier drivers like Henning Solberg or Xavier Pons).

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