Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Track Day Review: Bedford Autodrome

This week I had my first visit to Bedford Autodrome with Javeline Trackdays and we used the "GT" circuit.

In some ways it's the best circuit I've been to, but it also has serious drawbacks.

It advertises itself as the safest circuit in the UK and I bet it is. It's on a huge flat plane of grassland and there is literally nothing to hit. The track is smooth and wide and has many concrete runoffs. If you do leave the track you just slide safely to a halt on the miles and miles of grass. This means that there's also nothing to see. There are no undulations and no landmarks so it is very easy to become disorientated. It's a long circuit with a lot of corners and I found it difficult to learn. It was probably lunchtime before I was confident about what gear I wanted for each corner before I got there.

You get to do a lot of driving. The circuit is over 4 miles long so they let 40 cars out at a time. Moreover there are so many crossways and access roads that they can often recover a car under yellow flags. (They call this a live-snatch). We didn't have a single red flag the whole time I was there.

Overtaking is easy. There are lots of wide straights so it's easy to let faster cars past.

These last two points mean that you burn a lot of fuel. I've got a frugal naturally aspirated 1600cc engine, I didn't spend that much time on track and I burned about 45l. Fuel is available on site but it's quite pricey.

The cafe is excellent and large - but nowhere near the pit lane.

The problem with Bedford - in my view - is parking. There simply isn't a paddock. There's one car park for trailers and towing vehicles. Another which counts as the assembly area but which is a long way from the track and only just has enough room for all the track cars. There are a few garages on the pitlane and if you have one of those you're laughing. There is barely enough room on the pitlane to park all the track cars so you're not allowed to stake out a spot and leave your tools and spares there. By the end of the day it looked like a refugee camp where everyone had piled bags and toolboxes outside the pit lane cafe or against someone else's garage.

Richard "travel guide" B

Track Day Photos

Last week my track day was cancelled. By way of apology the organiser gave me a free ticket to go to Bedford Autodrome.

This was the view from my hotel room window. I was delighted with it because I could check whether or not my car had been stolen.

A lot of fast cars in a very crowded pit lane. The Suzuki Swift counts as a fast car when it's driven by the guy that teaches racing drivers.

Someone took me for a ride in a Radical. I no longer want a car with aerodynamic downforce. It made me feel slightly sick and I'd never have the nerve to brake that late.

Snell certified sun hat with forward head restraints.

I picked up quite a few insects.

Clean enough to put away. I'll wash it properly when I've got seven or eight hours to spare.

Richard "photojournalist" B

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Supercar Experience

Yesterday I went on a trackday. For various logistical reasons my friend met me there in a small boring hatchback. It made the whole experience thoroughly luxurious. I had my whole passenger footwell and seat for my luggage and I even had room for a change of shoes! We had somewhere dry and secure to put all our gear and effects and I didn't have to spend a load of time lying on the cold tarmac rigging/removing the luggage rack.

The problem with the day, however, was that the circuit had double booked and our track day was cancelled - after we got to the circuit. Instead we walked the perimeter of the circuit, watched the supercar experience day and went to a motor museum (and a McDonalds).

A supercar experience day looks like it would be thoroughly disappointing. They do have the use of the conference centre (rather than the cafe) and all the cars are clean and shiny. Your day seems to consist of a load of queuing followed by driving a very expensive car at a snail's pace four times around Castle Combe with an instructor by your side. The activity is so tame that nobody wears crash helmets, there are no marshals on the track, and we saw the farmer drive his tractor to the field in the middle of the circuit while the circuit was live. In the 90s two chicanes were added to Castle Combe to reduce the speeds at the dangerous corners. Yesterday two more were added with traffic cones to make sure that any remaining excitement was drained from the day.

I didn't have a stop watch, but with my wrist watch I timed somebody in an Ariel Atom do a lap at an average speed of just over 50mph! (amateurs are around 80mph, world record 130mph)

Richard "full refund" B

Monday, 29 April 2019

Chinese Tools

It is possible that I have over-reacted. The weather equipment on my car is held on with press-studs and they keep falling off. I've got a little punch to peen them over, but it always goes crooked.
I bought this inferior Chinese arbor press for pocket money. It's trash.. My favourite thing about it is that the bolts proudly say "4.8" on them - this means they're about as stretchy as inferior steel and about as strong as good quality chocolate.

No, I don't own an optical centre-punch, why do you ask?


Boring - like this blog.

Here's the punch in the press.

And here's the hood refurbishment.

Richard "over-engineered" B

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

A Rose By Any Other Name

In computer programming it is generally acknowledged that the two hardest problems are cache invalidation, coming up with named for things, and off-by-one errors. It seems that naming is also a challenge when it comes to having children.

I went out with a girl who had the same name as her mum. When she was born she was so poorly that she was expected to die immediately. They wanted to christen her before they cracked her ribcage open and started experimental surgery so they needed a name. In a very stressful and rushed situation her dad had to come up with a name. He just said the name of the first person he saw - his wife.

When I was born my brothers and sister petitioned my mum to have me given a space-aged name. I should have been Hieronymus-Astroflash. I'm glad to say that my father vetoed that and named me himself.

Someone made a mistake registering the birth of a woman I work with. Her middle name should have been Louise, but it was misspelled and her birth certificate said Loise.

I also work with a Dutchman who, frankly, could have made a better job of anglicising his name. To English speakers it sounds like a girl's name and a lot of his telephone conversations start with something like "No that's me. No I'm a bloke. Yeah it's a foreign name."

I know of a boy who, at primary school though his name was pronounced "scene" but it was spelled "Sean". And I've heard exactly the same story of a girl who thought her name was "Why-ve-knee" (Yvonne).

One of my friends has just had a baby daughter and called her Selene. According to his brother he initially thought it was an alternative spelling of Celine. I hope that pronunciation won't last. If you're not sure how to say it, it's from Greek. Think Selenium or Penelope, Persephone, Calliope, Ariadne...

Richard "I'll have to stick to naming functions, variables and parameters" B

Monday, 15 April 2019

Album Cover

At the weekend I went for drinks with a chap whom, as a boy I would bully - I had full authority to do so as a friend of his older brother. He vowed revenge on the both of us for spoiling the end of The Secret of Monkey Island and, after 25 years his brother received his retaliation while I'm still waiting.

We were bemoaning his brother's bewildering success: Moved to America, made a fortune at Microsoft, ran his own business, won an Emmy, beautiful house, married, started a family, etc. None of his employment however was as impressive to us as when, as a teenager, he would fold cardboard boxes for a tomato farm. With the single-minded zeal that only a teenage boy without a girlfriend can muster he turned box folding into a type of martial art (he got paid by the box) and spent every spare hour earning. He was saving up for a new stereo with a CD player and a graphic equalizer, and very nice it was too.

His brother and I then spent a happy few minutes criticising his early CD collection. Too much Madonna, too much U2, the motion picture soundtrack from that weird camp Michael Keaton Batman film for god's sake, seemingly everything that REM committed to perforated aluminium.

There was one album that he owned, that I wanted to make fun of, but I couldn't remember who recorded it. It was self-indulgent adult-orientated-shite, it was for old people when we were still young and energetic, it had a picture of a car on the front, it had something to do with hotels... Google eventually jogged my memory and it was Chris Rea's Auberge. To my shame it has a picture of MY car on the front. Exactly the same car that I have today, same make and model, same colour, same colour grille, same headlamps, same headlamp stanchions, same rollover bar, same stoneguards. Dammit!

Richard "He can pretty much play the guitar" B