SPIRIT of champions
Several Aussies excelled on the international motor sporting stage in 2009.
DESPITE various misfortunes, the winning spirit of Australian motor sportsmen shone brightly this year.
Casey Stoner, his Moto GP season affected by a mystery, energy sapping, illness, came good when the chips were down.
Casey lifted, and won his home GP at Phillip Island following a race-long battle with Valentino Rossi, still managing to finish fourth in the championship.
Mark Webber also overcame adversity after sustaining a compound fracture of his left leg in the Mark Webber Challenge in Tasmania in November when, on his mountain bike, he was hit by a car.
Though his injury wasn’t completely healed he started fitness training but was unable to do any pre-season testing.
Despite these setbacks he has just completed his best ever season in F1, since he finished fifth in his first F1 race at the Australian F1 GP in 2002 in Melbourne in a Minardi.
He came back strongly to win twice, firstly in Germany and then in the penultimate round in Brazil. Webber also finished second on four occasions and third twice.
His duel with newly crowned world champion Jenson Button in the closing laps of the final round at Abu Dhabi was testament to his outstanding skill and determination, where he finished second ahead of Button.
He also backed up his stellar season winning at the annual British Racing Drivers Club Annual Awards in London. He won the Innes Ireland Award for best displaying the qualities of courage and sportsmanship, along with the Bruce McLaren Award the most meritorious performance in international motorsport.
Webber wasn’t the only Aussie to win awards. David Brabham won an award for his victory in the Le Mans 24 Hour Race and the American Le Mans Series.
Young West Aussie Daniel Ricciardo was also awarded for winning the British Formula 3 Championship and, as documented in this column, has been signed as the reserve driver in Webber’s Red Bull Renault F1 Team in 2010.
Queenslander Jason Crump’s quest for a third World Speedway Motorcycle GP title began well with three wins, a second and a third at the halfway point of the championship.
In round six he finished fourth and round seven second, consolidating his already substantial lead in the championship. However a crash during a League race saw Crump badly injure his left wrist and forearm which required surgery and skin grafts.
Despite constant pain and very little strength in his left hand and forearm which made controlling the motorcycle most difficult, Jason soldiered on finishing ninth in round eight, his comfortable lead being whittled away.
Following a super human effort he rode into fifth place in the penultimate round, then just hung on to finish a gallant and courageous 13th in the final round, enough to rightfully claim his third world championship by a scant 15 points from one of the all-time greats, Thomaz Gollob.
Former V8 Supercar Champion Marcus Ambrose, who came second in one round and finished 18th of 43 in his first full season in the premier NASCAR Sprint Cup, won the Sir Jack Brabham Award, presented by CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motor Sport) for his outstanding talent, achievement and success at International level.
Wishing all my readers a very happy, and, most importantly, safe Christmas.
Stoner: Suffered mystery illness.
Webber: Fractured left leg.
Crump: Injured wrist..
Ambrose: Won Sir Jack Brabham Award.