Thursday, 23 June 2022

Caterham Track Day Tyres

 These are my thoughts on choosing track day tyres for a Caterham. I have sets of 14" and 15" wheels. I don't know anything about 13" wheels with your low gears and ground clearance, or your tall diffs, or your tall wobbly sidewalls. I also drive my car to track days, so I'm only going to be talking about road-legal tyres.

Toyo R888-R

These are my favourite tyres, as long as there's not a lot of water. They're available in 14" and 15". They're about in the middle of the price range for semi-slicks. They have a very sturdy construction and stiff sidewalls. The grip they provide is excellent and you get quite a lot of use out of them. They're asymmetric so you can't flip them around on the wheel, this does mean that once you have worn out the outside shoulder the whole tyre is used up. The technical documentation for them says that the front suspension should have as much caster as the chassis will support. I think this is to try to get more of the width of the tyre on the ground during cornering. I have done this, but I still always wear them out on the outside.

Nankang NS2-R

These are a cheaper track day tyre. They're available in 14" and 15" They're very sturdy and have stiff sidewalls and you get a lot of wear out of them. They're directional so you can flip them over to even out the wear. I have only got on well with them when the weather is hot, when the circuit is bone dry, and when you've already warmed them up. In the cold they're terrible, and in the wet they're dangerous. What's odd is that people race MX5's on these in all weathers and they get on fine. My guess is that they will come up to temperature OK on a slightly heavier car, but that it's hard to get enough heat into them on a Caterham.

Avon ZZR

I've never used these. I believe that they're the top of the range semi-slick for our cars. I think they're 15" only. They're also too expensive, too hard to come by (I think you have to buy them from BMTR or Caterham), and I'm given to understand that they degrade thermally very quickly.

Avon ZZS

I've never used these. I believe that they're the top of the range all rounder for wet and dry. I think they're 15" only. They're also expensive and they're soft, so you don't get a lot of use out of them.

Uniroyal Roadsport 5

This is what I use in the rain. Only available in 15". The grip is pretty good, and they're pretty forgiving to drive on. They're not a particularly high performance tyre and they have very soft sidewalls. The whole car does feel rather detached and wobbly but you can corner and brake even in standing water.

Avon CR28

Available in 14" and 15". I've never used these because I'd wear out a set just getting to the track, but I believe they're the absolute best for wet conditions. They're a road-legal, soft compound, full-wet motorsport tyre.

Richard "Michelin Man" B

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Quiz 4

 At the weekend I hosted the canteen quiz. It's mostly the same quiz that I did at my niece's wedding. Have a go:

General Knowledge
1) What animal are dogs descended from?
2) What fruit is wine made from?
3) In which town do the Flintstones live?
4) How many games were there in "Squid Game", including the game with the recruiter?
5) How many claws on an ordinary domestic cat?

Music (And The) (give the name of the band leader)
1) And the Pips
2) And the Heartbreakers
3) And the Stooges
4) And the Four Seasons
5) And his Comets

English Kitchen -> American Kitchen (translate to American)
1) Crisps
2) Chips
3) Biscuits
4) Courgette
5) Pudding

Early Work
1) Which guitar god played on “It’s Not Unusual” as a session musician and later co-wrote a song so overbearingly popular that it mustn't be played in guitar shops?
2) Which actor went from playing a hotdog-purchasing condiment snob in a 1987 advert to a lead role in one of the most successful sitcoms ever seven years later?
3) Which film director made both 1981’s “Piranha 2: The Spawning” (tagline: The terror is back...but this time it flies! A new breed of terror!) and the highest-grossing film of all time.
4) Which Booker-winning author came up with the “Naughty, but nice” slogan for cream cakes, then later made headlines by disappeared from public view after an especially bad book review?
5) Which iconic musician, known for his various colourful stage personas, won six Grammy awards in his lifetime. None of which were for his 1967 novelty single, The Laughing Gnome.

Famous Vehicles (give the type of vehicle)
1) Titanic
2) Spirit of St. Louis
3) Flying Scotsman
4) Enola Gay
5) Thrust 2

Explain a Film Plot Badly (name the film)
1) An officer on a space tug saves the ship's cat, but none of the crew, from an aggressive parasite.
2) Plot to assassinate two princesses is foiled by a reindeer, snowman, and ice seller.
3) Schizophrenic man competes with himself for control of a boxing society.
4) A man's car runs out of fuel on his way to disrupt a wedding after he has already slept with the mother of the bride.
5) Local law enforcement and marine biologist disagree on beach safety procedures.

Cryptic Rock

American Kitchen -> English Kitchen (translate to English)
1) Egg Plant
2) Hard Cider
3) Arugula
4) Jello
5) Cilantro

Sibling Rivalry (give the surname)
1) Aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur
2) Novelists Charlotte, Emily, Anne (also Branwell)
3) Musicians Liam and Noel
4) Tennis players Venus and Serena
5) Fairy tale collators Jacob and Wilhelm

Old Jokes Home (fill in the question)
Example: My wife went to the West Indies. _____? No She went of her own accord! Answer: Jamaica?1) My wife went to South Korea to join a band. _____? No they play R&B!
2) My wife's allergic to the sugar in milk. _____? No her feet are fine!
3) I got a job in a bowling alley. _____? No it's full time!
4) One of my wife's sister's children went to the south of France. _____? No it was her nephew!
5) My wife hurt her foot climbing a volcano. _____? No she twisted her ankle!


1) Wolves
2) Grapes
3) Bedrock
4) Seven - recruiter round, red light - green light, honeycomb, tug of war, marbles, glass stepping stones, squid game.
5) 18

1) Gladys Knight
2) Tom Petty
3) Iggy Pop
4) Franky Valley
5) Bill Halley

1) Chips
2) Fries
3) Cookies
4) Zuccini
5) Dessert

1) Jimmy Page
2) Matt LeBlank
3) James Cameron
4) Salman Rushdie
5) David Bowie

1) Ship
2) Plane
3) Train
4) Plane
5) Car

1) Alien
2) Frozen
3) Fight Club
4) The Graduate
5) Jaws

1) True
2) 1964
3) Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson etc. (Name a member of The Band)
4) Yes, moderately
5) Take the Skinheads Bowling (Name a Camper Van Beethoven song)

1) Aubergine
2) Cider
3) Rocket
4) Jelly
5) Coriander

1) Wright
2) Bronte
3) Gallagher
4) Williams
5) Grimm

1) Seoul?
2) Lactose?
3) Ten pin?
4) Nice?
5) Krackatoa?

Friday, 10 June 2022

Chequered Flag

 In creative works the more constrained you are, the more inventive and expressive you have to be. For example In a novel the author can witter away for thousands of words to try to get some point across, in a haiku it has to be done in a handful of words. One of the highest forms of art is good-natured mickey taking, and at the weekend I saw someone do it well with only a flag.

I was at a track day on the jubilee weekend. When you're driving on circuit it's loud and you're moving quickly so the only way that the marshals can communicate with you is with flags. I was told that it was a good idea to wave back at a marshal with a flag so that they know you've seen them. On a track day the only meaning that the chequered flag conveys is that the circuit is about to close, they're non-competitive days so you haven't won anything. At the weekend I was the first car to pass one of the chequered flags and as normal I gave the marshal a little thumbs up. In response the marshal started waving the flag in an exaggerated and flamboyant way – as thought I'd just won a career-defining race. I'm pretty sure that the meaning (as well as "please leave the circuit") was "don't look so pleased with yourself, this flag is just a formality".

Richard "Podium" B

Monday, 30 May 2022


 I've had an amazing long weekend at a niece's weddings. We were looked after incredibly well in a castle in Scotland and I went there in my silly little sport car.

Can we get Land's End to John O'Groats?
No. We have Land's End to John O'Groats at home
The Land's End to John O'Groats we have at home:

I drove a Caterham from Plymouth to Inverurie, staying overnight at a Premier Inn in Carlisle, and then made the same journey in reverse a couple of days later. My observation of long distance travel in a kit car is that it's actually pretty slow (once you take into account all the stops and rests that you need to take) and that every part of you that interacts with the car ends up hurting. It's so noisy that I was wearing ear defenders. As well as all the discomfort from the cramped and awkward sitting position, my hands and heels hurt from the vibration they were in contact with. It's as if car designers have been right to try to reduce Noise and Vibration Harshness. My observation of waiting around in Carlisle is that it's a bit like waiting in an international departure lounge in an airport. There are a few places to shop or to eat, but they're all a bit crappy, and the normal social rules about when it's too early to have a pint don't seem to apply.

Can we get movie-star wedding?
No. We have movie-star wedding at home.
The movie-star wedding we have at home:

We only had access to the west wing of the picturesque Scottish castle and we weren't allowed on the ramparts. Two dozen of us had to share a single butler and I had to serve myself with the exquisite dinner. There were only two fabulous bands and it wasn't quite dark for our private fireworks display.

Richard "Congratulations" B

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Apple of My Eye

 I never had a Tamagochi, I'm not living in an Asimov story, and I never played The Last of Us, so I don't know what it's like to care for the wellbeing of a bit of software, but I do now feel like I'm bringing up a software child, and trying to shape it into my own image. I want to be able to listen to music in my car, but at the same time I'm a cheapskate. There is an FM radio on my phone but the reception turns out to be terrible. I'm not prepared to buy a subscription to a music streaming service, but I already have Amazon Prime, so I'm trying to enjoy their music service. Without paying for the "Unlimited" version there are two problems: It's full of adverts, and you can't pick what you want to listen to. What you can do is play a "station" and tell it which songs you like (we'll play more like this) and which you dislike (we'll never play this again).

Using just the thumbs up and thumbs down I've been trying to train it to find songs that I like and I now feel invested in the app, and the time and effort I've spent with it. I have no idea what "more like this" actually means from an algorithmic point of view. If I had said I liked "Stairway to Heaven" would it have thought I like Led Zeppelin, 70s rock, and people that can really play the guitar, or would it have signed me up for long, pretentious songs and lyrics with overtones of Tolkein and mysticism. I hope it's building up a database from other people who are playing the same game as me. Having only thumbs up and thumbs down is very constraining. I told it that I don't like Aerosmith "Don't want to miss a thing" but my hand hesitated over the icon. Would it take that to mean I don't like Aerosmith at all? I'd be happy if it played pretty much anything off any of their albums up to and including "Pump".

Richard "AI training" B

Monday, 9 May 2022

Listen Up

 In a couple of weeks I'm going to take my silly little sportscar to Aberdeenshire. One of the things that I've been trying to improve in preparation is the acoustic environment, You get a lot of wind and road noise so it's rather tiring to drive. I usually wear ear plugs, but I would rather be able to listen to music. My headphones are Beyerdynamic DT770M (yes, they're related to the legendary DT100). They're designed for monitoring in live sound situations so they're part ear-defenders and part high-fidelity headphones. They should be perfect and when I drove with them it was much less tiring and much less boring.

I have had those headphones for about a decade and never had a problem with them. Rock shows are a harsh physical environment (just look how sturdy all the flight cases are and how heavy all the hardware is). Those headphones have survived scores of shows with me (and the associated loading, unloading and van rides). They failed after less than 500 miles of motorway driving in an open-top car. I broke them open and effected a temporary repair at the motorway services, but I think I'm going to have to buy something more focussed towards driving (or flying).

Richard "Dave Clark" B