While Walter Smith watched his players warm up for the Champions League battles against Europe’s best by tackling Paris St Germain in the Emirates Cup, Rangers were also tackling premier competition at Donington Park; but this time the action was on four wheels.
The Leicestershire circuit this weekend plays host to the British round of the Superleague Formula, the championship in which 18 cars — each one representing a leading world football club including AC Milan, Liverpool, Lyon and Athletico Madrid — battle it out.
And don’t think these are Mickey Mouse cars; in fact they’re not far shy of Formula One power with their V12 engines producing more than 750bhp. They’ve even got a ‘push-to-pass’ mode — now being introduced into IndyCars in the States — to give drivers more than 800bhp for 15-second bursts.
After struggling in last year’s debut season — when the underdeveloped car, frustratingly driven by Wishaw’s Ryan Dalziel, failed to make any serious impact — this year has seen the car in the hands of Aussie John Martin.
The 25-year-old Queenslander, who also drove the Australia car in A1GP, has already bagged a podium slot when he was finished second in the opening race at Zolder in Holland behind the Spurs car driven by England’s Craig Dolby.
Disappointingly though for Martin, being in the wrong place at the wrong time in other races — where he has become the innocent victim in other people’s crashes — has left him and the Rangers car lying 13th in the title race led by Liverpool and their Spanish pilot, Adrian Valles.
To compound the team’s problems, he lost a probable win in the opening round in France when his car fell off its jack during the compulsory pitstop. Martin had been comfortably leading at the time, but the delay meant he finished 13th.
“Yeh, it’s not been the best start to the season,” admitted Martin, who will start Sunday’s first race from fifth on the grid after torrential rain washed out today’s final qualifying, “and no one’s more disappointed not to be further up the rankings as I am.
“I know we have a quick car and the guys at Alan Docking Racing have worked tirelessly to make sure we’re competitive. We’re just not getting the rub of the green.
“There’s no denying Superleague Formula is a great concept because it brings together two sports that didn’t have an association with each other before. It would be great if the two could keep growing in tandem and if I’m successful in it too for Rangers, then all the better.
“This weekend marks the halfway point in the six-round season, so it’s important we dramatically reduce the mistakes we’re making. And I certainly have no intention of backing off; I’m here to win races and that will always be my number one goal.”