Monthly Archives: January 2019

Ayrton Senna’s legacy is a fatality-free F1

Two decades after his death shocked motor racing out of its complacency, Ayrton Senna’s legacy is the longest fatality-free period in formula one history.

Following Senna’s lethal crash early in the San Marino Grand Prix on May 1, 1994, F1 authorities legislated sweeping changes to make the cars and circuits safer. The urgent action was recognition that the previous 11 years with no driver being killed in an F1 race – and eight years since a fatality in testing – had been more good luck than good management.

Although the safety of the cars and tracks had improved in the 1980s following the campaign in the ’70s to end the almost ritual slaughter of drivers every year, F1 was still unnecessarily dangerous early in the last decade of the 20th century. Drivers were vulnerable in their low-line cars and the tracks still contained too many hazards.

Senna was the last driver to die in an F1 race and the changes forced on the sport by his tragic demise have saved many lives since.

Progressively more stringent crash-testing procedures, constantly improved protection of the drivers in their safety-cell cockpits and the wholesale modification of the perilous parts of the circuits transformed the survivability of big crashes.

As a direct result of the safety reforms that followed Senna’s death, F1 has never gone so long without fatalities or serious injuries.

While his death was not entirely in vain, it is still raw in the memories of the millions worldwide, who witnessed it live on television – the first time a globally recognised figure was killed before an audience’s eyes.

Senna, then 34, was already a cult hero when he was taken so unexpectedly in an accident that had freak consequences. Although what caused his Williams car to spear off at the fast left-hand Tamburello corner at the Imola circuit on the seventh lap of the restarted San Marino GP has never been determined, his mortal injury was an unusual outcome.

When his car slammed into the concrete barrier beyond the corner, a right front suspension arm folded back and penetrated his helmet, piercing his brain.

Had the impact been at a slightly different angle, Senna would have climbed out, dusted himself off and expressed his disgust. Instead, F1’s darkest weekend ever claimed another life, following the death in qualifying the day before of well-liked Austrian F1 rookie Roland Ratzenberger, who was Australian David Brabham’s teammate in the struggling Simtek team.

Senna, who had switched from McLaren – with which he had won three world titles – to Williams, had failed to finish the first two races with his new team and was desperate to turn the tide at Imola. Williams was not the powerhouse he expected, having dominated in the previous two years, and he was pushing the team to overcome the shortcomings of his car.

So he was already anxious, and became increasingly concerned and distracted following his fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello’s narrow escape from a huge crash in practice on the Friday and then Ratzenberger’s death in qualifying on the Saturday.

Senna was not in a great frame of mind and there were suggestions at the time that he overcame a premonition of doom to start the race, for which he had won pole position from emerging upstart Michael Schumacher.

Such a feeling of foreboding would have been consistent with his deep spirituality. Although a ruthless racer, he was an emotional, deeply thoughtful, caring person out of the car.

Senna, whose fame in his native Brazil rivals soccer icon Pele, became more famous and revered in death, and his legend has grown to mythical proportions.

Debate rages among F1 aficionados as to whether he is F1’s greatest driver of all time and, for many, his sheer passion gives him the edge over fellow all-time greats Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark and Schumacher.

Two leading figures in V8 Supercars have no doubts that Senna was the standout of F1’s golden era of the late 1980s and early ’90s. Holden Racing Team managing director Adrian Burgess was a mechanic who worked on Senna’s cars at McLaren, and Tekno Autosport’s team principal Steve Hallam was his race engineer at Lotus in the mid-80s and also worked with him at McLaren.

”He was an incredibly special guy, very warm,” Burgess recalled. ”He’s looked on now as a legend, but even then you knew you were working with an all-time great. You knew he’d go down in history as one of the best ever.”

Added Hallam: ”He was the best of his generation, simple as that. My principal memory of him outside of being the finest driver of his generation was that he was just a good human being. And I mean good in the very best sense of the word. He was a good person, very human, and he showed a lot of emotion.”

Burgess was also close to Ratzenberger, making Thursday’s commemoration and celebration of the 20th anniversary of Senna’s death – and the tragic events of that fateful weekend – even more poignant.

And Hallam has a tangible reminder of his privileged time working with Senna, who gave him one of his helmets when he left McLaren at the end of 1993. ”It’s a possession that I treasure immeasurably,” Hallam said.

Senna was always popular in Australia, with which he has an historical bond, having scored his final F1 victory in the 1993 Adelaide GP. It was also his last appearance on a podium alongside his former arch-rival turned friend-at-the-end Alain Prost, with whom he fought F1’s most bitter feud in 1989 when they were warring teammates at McLaren.

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John Tomic’s ban set to expire

At the stroke of midnight on Saturday, when the 12-month ban for assaulting his son’s hitting partner expires, tennis father John Tomic will be free to apply for tournament accreditation once more. Which, for the Tomics, means a double comeback, of sorts.

As Bernard, ranked 77th, prepares to play qualifying events in Madrid and then next week in Rome, just over three months after the dual hip surgery that followed his first-round retirement against Rafel Nadal at the Australian Open, sources have confirmed there will be no move to extend his father’s suspension past May 4.

John Tomic is not expected in Madrid, the scene of the infamous headbutting incident with Frenchman Thomas Drouet outside the tournament hotel that resulted in a suspended eight-month prison term, but could theoretically apply for a coach or player guest credential from Sunday.

Neither Tomic snr nor management company IMG replied to Fairfax Media’s inquiries.

The news of  John Tomic’s reinstatement follows a recent ATP statement that the Queenslander’s status was under review, amid speculation that his ban from attending tour events may be stretched past its original one-year term.

With the four grand slams individually following the ATP’s lead, Tomic was permitted to enter as a paying spectator at only two tournaments during his suspension: Queen’s Club and Sydney.

A Spanish judge ignored a plea of self-defence to find Tomic guilty of bodily harm last September, but he escaped jail time because the sentence was less than two years in duration and he had no previous convictions in Spain. Drouet was left in a neck brace with a broken nose after the confrontation in Paseo de la Castellana on May 4.

There has been a suggestion that Tomic is preparing to take on a reduced coaching role on his return, having appointed Croatian Velimir Zovko as co-coach before Christmas. But that has been greeted with scepticism, with one insider commenting: ‘‘I would take that with a grain of salt. I imagine that John will be very much in the front or second row again once he’s allowed to be.’’

Bernard Tomic, meanwhile, has been quietly continuing his rehabilitation and preparation in Florida and then his European base in Monte Carlo, the 21-year-old having been urged not to return – for a second time – before he is ready.

Tomic was beaten in just 28 minutes by Jarkko Nieminen at the Sony Open in Miami in March at his only appearance since January, and the shortest completed ATP match on record.

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Renault can’t commit to Twingo

Renault will not offer its alternative to the tiny Smart car locally unless it arrives at the right price.Speaking at the launch of the new Clio GT, Renault’s Australian boss Justin Hocevar says costs will determine whether the Twingo city car comes to Australia.“We’re absolutely interested in it, we think it’s a fantastic car and we would love to have it here in the market,” he says.“But the challenge for us, as we’ve always said, is that we don’t want to bring cars to market unless we can price them correctly in their segment.“We’d love to get it but not until we can get a business case that is rock-solid, where the vehicle can sit naturally within our existing product portfolio at the right price.”The current Renault Twingo is a compact front-wheel-drive hatch not offered in Australia. The next-generation model has been developed as part of a platform sharing arrangement with the next rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive Smart ForTwo.Both cars have reportedly been engineered for electric drivelines, adding extra appeal..Cut-throat competition in city cars have driven profit margins to less than $100.Volkswagen recently stopped importing its smallest car, the Up hatchback, which was originally priced from $13,990 plus on-road costs.Hocevar says a city car such as the Twingo would have to sit well below the current entry-level Clio, which is priced from $16,790 plus on-road costs.“There is no point fighting an uphill battle in what is already a highly competitive segment if you can’t be priced right,” he says.“Everything else is between $13,000 and $15,000 drive away.”Renault’s Australian boss also says the company is keen to offer an upcoming hot hatch capable of setting a Nurburgring lap record for its class, along with exclusive Renault Alpine cars in the works.“The Alpine project is something well on track, still something we are committed to,” he says.“We keep putting our hand up and expressing our keenest interest.”

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How to turn an app into a business

Come up with an idea for an app, develop it, put it on the App Store at 99c a pop – and wait for the millions to roll in.


If turning an idea for an app into a successful business were this easy we’d all be doing it.

“A lot of the time the problem isn’t actually making the app, it’s actually building a sustainable business model and something that can scale,” says Mark McDonald, one of the founders of app developer and investor Appster. “A lot of people think that building an app is just this thing you do and suddenly it makes money on the app store.”

Along with his business partner Josiah Humphrey, McDonald has developed more than 80 apps, including one for radio personalities Hamish & Andy and one called BlueDot that allows motorists to pay tolls with their mobile phones instead of using an e-tag.

“It’s really about building a company as opposed to just making an app,” McDonald says.

“The apps that are successful are those that are run like a start-up – they actually have people working full-time driving them, they have a marketing plan, they have a business development plan and they’re constantly seeking investment.”

With over a million apps available around the work, the sector is very competitive, so new apps need a professional approach if they’re going to get traction and build a user base.

For those who get it right the rewards can be significant, as it is one of Australia’s most profitable industries. Business forecaster IBISWorld says 45 per cent of the revenue earned by app makers translates directly to profit.

App development in Australia has grown from almost nothing five years ago to an industry forecast to earn $176 million in profit from revenues of a little under $400 million, IBISWorld says.

It expects strong growth to continue over the next five years, driven by increased smartphone take-up and more online shopping.

Australia has traditionally lagged countries such as the US in terms of the “ecosystem” for developing apps and web businesses, in entrepreneurial spirit and the willingness of investors to put money into new and unproven ideas.

But Benjamin Chong, a founder of Right Click Capital, which invests in early-stage internet businesses, says Australia is catching up. “There are more people who I’ve come into contact with who are interested in at least exploring the possibility of joining a start-up and there are more programs around that can help support founders and I’m also seeing people who are prepared to invest in this,” he says.

Chong says that when investors consider apps, they want to see a business that has the potential to be global, not one that’s tied to a particular geography.

Matthew Macfarlane, investment director at the $40 million Yuuwa Capital venture capital firm, says investors want to see an app that will generate ongoing revenue, not just make one-off 99c sales.

“Unless there’s in-app purchases or some kind of subscription component in the app, it’s very challenging to excite investors like venture capital firms,” he says. “As long as you’ve game play or some kind of value proposition that continues to makes customer continue to engage and pay then it’s all fine.”

Macfarlane says almost all apps already have competitors when they launch, so app makers need to test the market before launch to ensure their product is sufficiently differentiated. “It doesn’t have to be a unique idea, but it has to be extremely well executed,” he says.

App businesses need to build an “addictive” app that will keep customers spending, and Appster’s Mark McDonald says this is more science than art. Half of apps are actually abandoned after the first use, denying the owner of any chance of future revenue, says McDonald.

Part of this is trying to build a “habit pattern” into the product, using scientifically tested psychological ploys like needs, hooks, triggers and rewards.

“For instance, Facebook targets people who want social interaction, so they have a hook, but they also have a trigger action – something with which they can grab attention – like a notification or a photo’s been commented on,” says McDonald. “Then they have some sort of reward. In the case of Facebook it’s a social reward – the validation that someone’s liked your post.”

Another key to success is to ensure that the app has a feature so that users can tell others about the application and invite them to use it, so that the users themselves effectively take on much of the marketing effort, says McDonald.

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Former NSW premier Nick Greiner’s diagnosis casts light on rare male breast cancer

Former premier Nick Greiner may save the lives of other men with his revelation on Wednesday that he has had breast cancer, advocates say.

Men, and even their doctors treating them, will often ignore symptoms because they do not even realise breast cancer is an option. Rare in men, it is responsible for about 1 per cent of cases, with about 125 men diagnosed annually.

Mr Greiner had symptoms for months, even visiting his GP who did not pick it up, an experience echoed by many men. While some men do not find out until the cancer has spread, he underwent a mastectomy and now has a clean bill of health.

Mr Greiner’s former wife Kathryn said he was ”very lucky” after initially ignoring his symptoms.

”Like so many men would have, Nick dismissed the weeping nipple and the bloodstains on his shirt,” she said. ”It was easy to do because he wasn’t in any pain and it was very intermittent … but after about the fifth episode we thought there was something more to it.”

Cancer Council chief executive officer Ian Olver said this would be the first time many men realised they could get breast cancer.

But Australia was likely to see more cases as the population aged, as it was ”a disease of the late 60s”.

“In general, because there isn’t as much breast tissue in men, [breast] cancer might be more obvious early on,” he said. “But if you don’t think you can get breast cancer, you might not think about it.”

It is often unexplained but risk factors include having excess oestrogen, which can be caused by being overweight, or being exposed to chest radiation, according to a new Breast Cancer Network booklet Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too.

Symptoms include a small painless lump near the nipple, discharge or a change in the nipple shape.

Breast Cancer Network chief executive officer Maxine Morand commended Mr Greiner for speaking out.

”It makes a huge difference for people experiencing those symptoms to realise it might be breast cancer,” she said. “And it’s also a reminder for GPs.”

Robert Lawton, 71, survived breast cancer and long-term drug therapy to prevent its return.

”Almost all the cases I have known have involved slow diagnosis, and this sense of shame because it’s all about pink and women,” he said. Once, when he was giving a speech, an audience member heckled it was a ”sheila’s disease”.

When he first experienced his symptoms, he was told he had nothing to worry about by both his GP and a specialist, before seeking a third opinion from another GP.

”It was really my wife who pushed me, I was quite blase,” he said. ”By the time they diagnosed it they really had to hammer me … I had nine bouts of chemotherapy.”

The director of cancer services at St Vincent’s Clinical School, Allan Spigelman, said any man with breast cancer is worthy of referral to a hereditary cancer clinic.

”Male breast cancer can be a hallmark of a family where mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene – known to increase breast cancer risk – are likely to be found.’’

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Mike Baird to wrongdoers: ‘I’m your worst nightmare’

NSW Premier Mike Baird. Photo: Kate GeraghtyMike Baird has delivered a stern warning to anyone found guilty of wrongdoing during recent investigations by the state’s corruption watchdog: “I’m your worst nightmare.”


The Premier was due to meet newly appointed NSW Liberal party state director Tony Nutt on Wednesday afternoon to discuss evidence aired during hearings of the Independent Commission Against Corruption into allegations of illegal political donations.

The ICAC has heard claims that some of the party’s most senior officials, including finance director Simon McInnes, were complicit in seeking to disguise payments from prohibited donors to bankroll the NSW Liberal 2011 election campaign.

Labor has called on Mr Baird to shut down the party’s main fundraising body, the Millennium Forum, which the ICAC has heard was used to launder banned donations, along with another entity called the Free Enterprise Foundation.

Asked if that was a reasonable demand, Mr Baird said that “what’s reasonable is we need to clean up the culture of politics in NSW”.

“We’ll be taking appropriate responses and we’ll be doing it in a way that restores trust and confidence, not only to the party but to the entire government process,” he said.

Mr Baird’s predecessor, Barry O’Farrell, resigned as premier during a previous inquiry into infrastructure company Australian Water Holdings after giving false evidence in relation to the gift of a $3000 bottle of Grange Hermitage from a Liberal party fundraiser, Nick Di Girolamo.

The hearings focused fresh scrutiny on to the culture of political lobbying in NSW.

Mr Baird said that it was “important that we stamp out the practices that we have seen … I am shocked and appalled by the revelations I’ve seen, not just this week but over the past few weeks”.

Mr Baird said he would not provide a running commentary on the ICAC. ”But I’ll say this: I am determined to clean up events that we’re seeing to make sure they do not happen again,” Mr Baird said.

“I don’t care what political badge you have. If you have done wrong and if ICAC has shown you have done wrong then I’m your worst nightmare.

“I’m going to do everything to restore confidence in the government. I’m going to do everything to restore confidence in the great party I’m part of.

“The actions that we take will be strong, they’ll be swift and the community will see that we’re determined to fix and ensure that events that have been unravelling for many weeks down at ICAC do not happen again.”

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Australia’s unions warned to get paperwork in order for royal commission

Australia’s peak union body has warned its affiliates to be prepared to provide documents at short notice showing any payments they have made to officials, relatives or political campaigns.

The ACTU has written to affiliates outlining what they are required to produce to the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption and has warned them against destroying any documents.

Despite fears of a political witch-hunt, former High Court judge Dyson Heydon has declared the royal commission was not setting out to be hostile to unions.

ACTU assistant secretary Tim Lyons has told unions they can expect to be called at any time to produce documents, even if they are not one of the five unions named in the letters patent establishing the royal commission. The unions named include the Health Services Union, CFMEU, Transport Workers Union and Australian Workers Union.

“The time allowed for production of documents is a matter for the royal commission but is often short,” he said in his memo.

“There are serious penalties for failing to produce a relevant document, or to destroy something you may be asked to produce.

“Justice Dyson Heydon in his opening remarks enunciated these obligations in considerable detail.

“If you have any questions as to the nature of these obligations, you should seek legal advice.”

Mr Lyons told affiliates that unions have been required to produce lists of union offices and the personal details of each office holder, including their address.

Statements of financial records and each loan, grant or donation by the union over $1000 have also been requested from unions.

All payments by a union to an officer, spouse or relative or other person with a material personal interest dating back to January 2007 are also required. As are records of contributions to an election or preselection campaign for a union or parliamentary office.

Any benefits or payments made by the union or a related entity would be open to scrutiny.

All communication between a union and the Australian Electoral Commission relating to union elections would also need to be produced.

Dave Noonan, the national secretary of the CFMEU, one of the unions named to appear before the royal commission, said it was appropriate for the ACTU to inform its affiliates of their obligations.

Mr Heydon has said that the terms of reference for the royal commission launched by the Abbott government had been described as broad but in “other ways they are restricted”.

In his opening address, he said the terms of reference “rest on certain assumptions which are not hostile to trade unions. The terms of reference do not assume that it is desirable to abolish trade unions. They do not assume that it is desirable to curb their role to the point of insignificance.”

Senior counsel assisting Jeremy Stoljar has said no honest union official had anything to fear from the royal commission. He said reports of union officials setting up slush funds to pay for electioneering needed to be tested.

The royal commission held a preliminary directions hearing in March and has not yet set its next hearing date.

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