England’s racing drivers on the World Cup, Beckham and supporting the USA
By Andy Darley
Saturday, June 12th, 2010
With World Cup fever reaching new heights among English football fans ahead of the team’s opening match, most of the country’s top open wheel racers find themselves in North America looking for ways to watch the game.
And, of course, the stars of Formula One and the IndyCar Series will all be cheering on England against the USA – or will they?
For F1 drivers like Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, North America is just one stop-off in their global lifestyle, but many of the American-based British IndyCar drivers are putting down roots and starting families – and for some that is giving them split loyalties.
Dale Coyne Racing’s Alex Lloyd, quoted on the IndyCar Series website, said: “I’ll definitely be following the World Cup – it’s going to be quite interesting. I’ve become a little fonder of the US, living here for a few years, so perhaps I’ll be a little bit torn. It kind of sounds strange being from the UK, but I’d probably root for the USA over the UK.”
Fellow IndyCar driver Mike Conway, from Bromley, predicts a hard-fought win for England against the USA in the opening match – although, like Lloyd, he’s quoted as talking about a mythical UK team: “I think I’ll stick with the UK winning but I don’t think it will be easy. England are going to be one of the favourites. They come on strong and they’ve got some great players.”
In an IndyCar Series video interview, former champion Dan Wheldon says he can’t wait for the match and needs very little prompting to serve up a detailed analysis of England’s prospects: “I don’t think America are going to win the first game – I love America but England, with Rooney, are going to do very well.
“David Beckham has great leadership skills. I think in his role, with his injury, he’s going to give the team a great resource to bounce ideas to and from. I think his role now might be even more important perhaps than when he was on the field.
“England has always got a very talented team but Beckham will bring some of that unity which the England soccer team sometimes needs.”
He also happily recalls his own playing days, claiming to have scored five against Berkhamsted including a spectacular overhead bicycle kick – to which Brazilian rival Helio Castroneves jokes “where was that – was he dreaming?”
For Indy Lights driver Martin Plowman, just watching the game seemed like it would present a problem for a while. He Tweeted: “Help! Does anyone know where there is a sports bar close to Kentucky Speedway? I’m there Saturday and don’t want to miss USA vs England.”
Formula One world champion Button, in Montreal with team-mate Hamilton for the Canadian Grand Prix, is hoping to be able to delay his post-qualifying technical debrief so that he and his engineers can watch the match live.
He said: “Absolutely I’m going to watch it. We don’t know where we’re going to be, but hopefully we will be able to watch the game. Possibly the engineering debrief will go out of the window for a couple of hours.
“Obviously, the most important thing for us this weekend is the race, but second to that will be watching the game. I’m very patriotic and I’ll always support my country. I get very excited by international sport, so I’m looking forward to it.”
And Hamilton said that he, too, had football fever – although he admitted to not having yet got himself a team shirt. He said: “I don’t feel we’re going to have problems in the first game, but I don’t think the guys should take it easy either. I think everyone is excited to watch the World Cup, to really see how we do.
“Good luck to the whole team and, like everyone back home in the UK, I am excited about watching it. It would be fantastic if we got to the later stages or even won it – just think how amazing that would be. The whole country would go crazy.”
The views of Scotland’s IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti and driver/pundit David Coulthard have not been recorded, while Australia’ Will Power, asked about the soccer, replied: “What’s the fuck’s soccer? Oh – football!”