Tuesday 28 May 2019

A Bitter Heart that Bides it's Time and Bites

Contains Spoilers. Stop reading now if you haven't finished playing "The Secret of Monkey Island" or you haven't finished watching "Game of Thrones".

In 1990 or 1991 my friend and I deliberately spoiled the end of a computer game for his (annoying) younger brother. The Secret of Monkey Island was a funny and compelling adventure game. The main twist is that it's not actually set in the piracy era Caribbean but in a theme park. We told him that and I think we might also have told him how to solve the final couple of puzzles. He swore revenge on us and promised that he'd ruin something dear to us.

During some football tournament that my friend was watching a day behind real-time in Seattle he got a spoiler email from his younger brother with the final scoreline and a description of the critical goal. The match was ruined.

Last week the final episode of Game of Thrones was broadcast late Sunday night. I tend to watch it on a Wednesday. On the Tuesday morning there was an email waiting for me from the younger brother. The subject line was about the lottery syndicate and I opened the email to read these seven brilliantly chosen words.

John Snow kills Daenerys, Bran becomes king.

It's concise enough that you read the whole thing before you can flinch away. It's almost every important plot point from the conclusion of around 70 hours of television.

Richard "Revenge is a dish best served very cold indeed" B

Sunday 19 May 2019

Lawnmower Preservation

The elderly lawnmower at my mum's house is getting harder and harder to use. Every aspect of the carburettor is worn out and it is always either too lean or too rich. My brother correctly suggested that I should replace it. After a bit of searching I found a cheap Chinese carb that would fit and that was for a 2-stroke engine. 3 weeks and £18 later it had been shipped from Shenzhen and I started fitting it. Other than being smaller and less well made it is virtually identical to the old British made one from the 50's. The layout and operating principle is identical and all the controls are the same. It has to be a direct copy. It's now 2019 and this new carb has a tickler for God's sake. I can't believe that anyone who isn't me, an OAP or a vintage motorcycle enthusiast knows what that is, let alone how or when to use it.


And new.

Surprise surprise! The throttle cable doesn't fit and I had to make a new nipple.

It works after a fashion but it is running very rich. I often have to clean and dry the plug to start it.

It's sooty and oily after I cut the grass.

This is what the main jet looks like and I now have a selection of sizes on order from the scooter racing people.

Now I just need to find out where the local garden machinery dynamometer is...

Richard "trial and error stoichiometry" B

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