Posts in Category: Cars


Sunday 14th February 2010

It’s a pretty interesting thing, really. When we romanticise something, it seems to me that we hardly ever think about that thing in the way it actually was (or is); we ignore the negative aspects and focus purely on the positive ones.

There’s a space on my bedroom wall at home which I’ve wanted to fill with a poster for some time, but I’ve never been able to decide which one. When I was at school, one of my German teachers clearly liked his motorsport, because all around his classroom were prints of vintage posters, mostly for the Le Mans 24 hour race. I love these sorts of images, because they all seem to capture the spirit of the era. Especially posters for the “classic” races – I think they resemble art more than they do advertising. Look at this poster for the 1961 24 hours of Le Mans, for instance – I think that image is wonderful. The drawing is stunning; you can almost hear the engine, smell the warm oil. Or this poster for the 1937 Monaco Grand Prix. Same thing – to me it perfectly sums up both Monaco, and the era.

Motorsport is amazingly romantic. I couldn’t tell you why, but it really is. I love that many of the circuits have been around for years, because the sense of history surrounding those events is really nice. There’s something special about a Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, something that an Abu Dhabi or Chinese Grand Prix can never have (not picking on those events for any particular reason).

Actually, if there’s something special about Spa, then somewhere like Le Mans is almost sacred. I absolutely adore everything about Le Mans. For the uninitiated, it’s a 24 hour race around an 8.5 mile long circuit, a lot of which is made up of normal roads. It’s been going for years at the same place, and there are some absolutely legendary stories about the race. It’s basically an entire F1 season packed into 24 hours, and I love it for that. I also love that it feels like a proper racing event – like the equivalent of a music festival for petrolheads. You go, set up a tent, drink lots of beer, watch lots of racing and have a jolly good time, and to me that is basically heaven. I’ve not been yet (money, time, exams…), but I will one year and I can’t bloody wait.

You see, I could carry on for ages talking about the wonders of places like Le Mans, Monaco, Monza, Silverstone, Hockenheim, Spa… But I’m romanticising. These places have always been – will always be – very dangerous. We specifically remember the amazing races and stories that happened at these places, and lots of people hark back to the good old days, but when we look back it can be very easy to forget the bad things. The 1955 Le Mans disaster, Stefan Bellof at Spa, Jim Clark at Hockenheim, Jochen Rindt at Monza – to name but a few examples.

I suppose there’s a lot to be said for passion, too. That is probably what carries people through the bad stuff. One of my favourite moments from F1 in 2009 was in the closing laps of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Jenson Button was 2nd, Lewis Hamilton 3rd and lapping quicker. A podium for McLaren at that time was a very good thing – it’d been a pretty bad year for them – but you could tell that Hamilton wanted that 2nd place and he was pushing as hard as he could for it. Too hard, because he span and crashed on the last lap.

I know people who said afterwards “oh he was stupid. He was on the podium anyway, he shouldn’t have been pushing so hard”, but that misses the point. It’s racing, and any racing driver that would’ve settled for 3rd in that situation really doesn’t deserve the name. I suppose that fundamentally, motorsport is very pure – more so than many sports. You have a certain distance to travel, and whoever does it quickest is the winner. It’s a lot purer than, say, football, which is a game that is basically composed of completely arbitrary rules. I think motorsport attracts a certain type of competitiveness, and I for one absolutely love that aspect of it. Yes, Hamilton at Monza could have backed off and ensured he got 3rd place. But why? He wants to win, to prove he’s better than the next guy. Taking the safe course is never going to achieve that.

It’s hard to convey the reasons I like racing to people who have never even seen a race, or any sort of competitive motorsport. One day, I intend to take all my friends who say they don’t like it to something like an F1 testing day, because I think seeing the cars “in the metal” is a really phenomenal thing. It’s hard to appreciate what they can do without having seen them – it really does amaze you. Actually it’s probably worth them seeing a proper race too, because I can’t think of a way to convey the atmosphere when 20-odd cars fly past you on the track, all of them trying to get ahead of the others. Anyone who doesn’t find that exciting is clinically dead. FACT!

Anyway. Romance. Passion. Idealism. They’re all really good things, but I guess that it’s important that they’re balanced by a decent dose of realism. Because really, that’s the only way that things can develop healthily.

When you saw that this post is called “romance”, published on this particular day, I bet you thought it was about something else? Suckers :-p

Posted In: MotorsportSleepStuff Tagged: | 10 Comments

Tweeting the Night Away

Thursday 11th February 2010

As you may have noticed from the new addition to the sidebar, I recently joined Twitter. I’d managed to hold off from joining for a while because I didn’t really get the point – my writing is quite verbose at the best of times, so what on earth is the use of 140 characters? What can anyone say in that tiny space that is of any worth to anyone? Well, a few people (well, 3) told me that it’s good and that I should join, and so I did, just to see what it’s like. Besides, when I joined it was exam period and at that time joining Twitter seemed a better use of my time than revising for the geotechnical engineering exam I had a day or so later…

Anyway, I quite like it. Turns out there’s a lot that can be said in 140 characters – generally stuff of the form of  “wow, this just happened!” or “ooh, look at this…”. There was a specific thing which made me realise just how powerful a tool Twitter is, and that was the first F1 test of the season, which took place last week. This was the first time that many of the teams showed their 2010 cars to the world and the first time that any of them had a chance to run their cars properly and see how good they actually are (or aren’t). For lots of reasons, people not intimately involved in the teams can’t really read too much from the times, so whilst this early testing isn’t really good for starting to map out the relative competetiveness of each car, it’s still pretty interesting and exciting – there’s not been any F1 since early November, and us F1 fans need our fix!

To me, Twitter really came into it’s element during that first test. There were a number of people at the test circuit (people from the F1 teams as well as journalists) who were tweeting away; keeping the hive mind informed as to who was on track, what laptimes they were doing, what the weather was like, pointing out different technical aspects of the cars, and all sorts of other interesting things which made it really easy and enjoyable to keep up with what was happening. In the past, the only coverage of pre-season testing would have been a short report at the end of the day, listing the times that each driver did and the number of laps, as well as some photos. Following the event on Twitter was really good because getting information throughout the day meant that it was easier to get an “overall” picture of each day of testing, and to try to work out what the times mean (if anything). It was also much more involving – getting an almost-constant stream of information made it seem like much more of an “event”.

I’m really looking forward to using it during the races this year. I can see that it’d be really cool then for much the same reason – taking in multiple sources of information all relating to the same event. That, in conjunction with the live timing app on the F1 website (which – although it sounds really geeky – is surprisingly useful for watching the races. Helps keep track of the strategies, because you see lots of things which aren’t ever picked up in the commentary and helps you to read the race better) should make watching the races even better.

I love technology for things like this. The way I can use different tools to change the way I do certain things, so that I get more out of them (as in this example) or to save time or make it more convenient.  Things like Google Reader and Calendar and the way they interact between all the devices I use to access the internet (phone included – calendar sync on the iPhone is one thing in particular which makes me want to shout “witchcraft!”). The way all my documents are stored in a Dropbox, so that I can work on the same thing on any computer – I love that I can work on a document on my laptop in the library, then come home and work on the same document on my desktop, and the whole transition being pretty much seamless. I don’t have to worry about syncing files between computers or making sure that they’ve all got the most up-to-date version – it’s all just done for me. Clever stuff. All relatively simple stuff too, but it’s amazing how much a difference they make.

Posted In: GeekMotorsportSleepTechnology Tagged: | 5 Comments

The Relevance of Engineering

Thursday 14th January 2010

Exam Time. I have 3 next week, had one already this week. My last one next week is Structural Analysis, and a part of that is Finite Element Analysis. We first encountered this in the 2nd year (where it actually wasn’t taught to us as such, we just had to use the concepts for some coursework), and it’s pretty powerful.

Anyway, you’ll be more than aware that as well as being an engineer, I’m also an F1 geek. F1 teams use FEA too, to model various aspects of their cars. Earlier on I came across this on iTunes, an Open University thing about, uhm, how an F1 team uses FEA. This has got to be the best distraction from revision ever; not only is it F1 related and so therefore interesting, it’s actually vaguely relevant to what I should be doing anyway. More relevant than, say, watching past episodes of Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe on YouTube, which I of course haven’t done at all…

Posted In: EngineeringMotorsport Tagged: | 2 Comments


Monday 19th October 2009

Twas the Brazilian Grand Prix a few hours ago, and some of you might know the result.

Interlagos usually makes for a good race, and this year’s was no different. It was really entertaining watching the different strategies play out over the race distance and trying to work out how it would pan out – and more importantly how it would affect the driver’s championship. There was plenty of overtaking (especially from Button, who drove an absolutely sublime race), a lot of drama and passion and the odd bit of fire. Basically, all the things that make F1 great were in abundance and it was an absolute joy to watch. Anyone who doesn’t get the attraction of motorsport and has never watched a race I implore you to get on iPlayer now and watch it (or the highlights if you’ve got the attention span of a newt), because you might find you enjoy it.

So what did one of my housemates say was the best bit? “When Kovalainen left the pit too early and showered fuel on Raikkonen and it caught fire!!!”. Dick. (Raikkonen finished 6th by the way, despite getting petrol in his eyes and – im not sure if this is true – burning his face slightly. Not a bad effort)

Most importantly, BrawnGP and Jenson Button won the constructor’s and driver’s championships respectively. So that’s 2 British world champion drivers in the field now, and another British champion team. As a country we’re very quick to denigrate ourselves when it comes to sport. People say we’re crap because we never win anything, but motorsport is the one thing that we absolutely dominate. As a country, we’ve won more F1 world titles than anyone else and most of the cars are built here. When a young driver wants to make a name for themselves, they come to Britain because our junior racing series are the best in the world, because most of the best teams are based here. Yet how many people know that much about it, compared to football say?

In Italy, Ferrari is as big as the football team is here. It’s a Big Deal when they launch their new F1 car; it makes the national news. Everything that goes on at the team is scrutinised by the Italian media, in the same way that everything to do with the England football team is scrutinised here. Ferrari isn’t just “an F1 team”, it’s basically the Italian F1 team and if you drive for them you’re driving for Italy.

My point is that we have the Williams, BrawnGP, McLaren, Force India, Renault and Red Bull teams all based in Britain. Why the lack of support? Meh.

Anyway! The real reason behind this post:



Posted In: MotorsportRantSleep Tagged: | 3 Comments

Waiting for a train…

Thursday 17th September 2009

So the WordPress iPhone app has suddenly decided to work for me. I have no idea how or why it’s happened, but it’s probably best to just accept these things and move on…

I realise that I’ve somewhat gone off the boil with the htpc thing (thankyou Callan :p). I spent a few days tinkering as I was writing the entries, then had to go to Cardiff for a day and since then I’ve sorta been distracted by other stuff. Ironically, as the project started as a way to reuse an old pc, I’ve essentially ended up building a bespoke system for it. Really I need now to finish doing that, rejig Windows, then actually install it in Cardiff. Anyway, I’ll continue this in another post…

So I start back at uni next week. Well, it’s freshers week and lectures actually start a week on Monday, but you get the idea. It’s been a good year and an especially good summer. I’ve been doing a job which I enjoyed, travelled up and down the country for various reasons, spent time with various friends that I don’t generally get to see much and just generally had a good time. I’m really reluctant to go back to student life. Really i’m dreading having to motivate myself somehow. I keep telling myself to treat it like a job; get up, go to uni, spend the days working or in lectures and then go home and forget about it. If I do that I’ll enjoy it. I’m worried that I’ll do my usual trick of leave it all to the last possible minute, do crap in exams, then not be able to get a good job…

There was some point I was gonna blog about which I’ve now forgotten. Frustrating.

I think I’m gonna miss driving this year. I’m still gonna have my car, but I no longer have reason to do a few hundred miles every week. I used to really enjoy my Monday morning 6am drives to work. Driving through the dark with not much else on the roads and some good music on the stereo, it’s a really good way to relax, gather your thoughts.

I generally find driving therapeutic though. I think it’s because driving is partly automatic; you pay attention but part of what youre doing you basically don’t think about, so you take a step away from thinking about Whatever, but can still churn things over in the back of your mind until suddenly something clicks and things seem clearer.

Also, driving is really fun…

Anyway, I ceased to be waiting for a train about 10 minutes ago, and I’m worried that if I keep writing I won’t notice my stop. Also Ive basically been rambling, and I probably shouldn’t embarrass myself further by continuing…

Posted In: CarsGeekRandomStuffTechnology Tagged: | 4 Comments

Can’t They Just Move It Forward a Couple of Weeks?

Wednesday 29th July 2009

Schumacher back in F1. The circumstances are awful, but it’s fucking brilliant that he’s coming back. I really can’t wait for the next race. Pity I’m gonna be at V that weekend and will miss it; I despise not seeing races/qualifying live at the best of times…

I mentioned in a previous post (if you can remember back that far…) that I was moving away from Brize. Well, I spent 2 weeks in the office in Erdington (which was amazingly dull), before starting on another site. This time I’m in Cardiff, doing the hospital that I was meant to be working on back in January… It’s nice not working away. I like the actual travelling – I quite enjoyed my Monday morning blasts to work – but it’s shit being away from home for the week. It means that when you get back you’ve got a list of things that you want/need to do, but it’s the weekend so you just want to chill out. And, daft as it probably sounds, it’s nice to get back from work and be in your own space.

So anyway, I’m in Cardiff now. I was actually one of the first people to get on site and get everything set up for the job to start, so it’s cool to see it all progressing now. It’s actually gonna be kinda crap to leave, because I wanna see the rest of the job through. But, uni beckons. Which is another reason why it’s gonna be crap to leave. I fundamentally enjoy my course and whatnot, but work is just so much more interesting. And uni means homework, which is just crap. At least with work, I get there at 8, do whatever it is that I need to get done, then leave at 6 and after that I don’t have to worry about it. It doesnt feel like a chore or anything like that, because it’s work and thats what I’m there for. The problem with homework is that it’s done in your own time and I can never really be bothered. But then if I don’t do it, there’s the nagging guilt that I really should be doing some work. It’s shit.

I’m telling myself that I’m gonna try to stick with working 9 to 5 and sort of treat uni like a job. If I can get into the discipline of going down to the library (the only place that I can reliably get stuff done), then I’ll be ok. I’m not sure what the likelihood is though…

Apart from work, it’s been a fairly busy few weeks. Went to Silverstone a few weeks ago for the Renault thing; then the week after I went home for a gig/general drunkenness, then straight to London for, uh, a gig and general drunkenness. Then last weekend went to North Wales. Lots of good times. There’s much less planned for the next month (except for V, which I’m sorta regretting saying I’d go to), which kinda sucks.

I’m really tempted to go to Monza for the Italian GP in September. There’s gonna be a great atmosphere with Schumacher racing again (the Tifosi love him, for obvious reasons). I’d love to be there. And I’d love Schumacher to win a race. It’s probably contraversial for a Brit to like him after what he did to “Our Damon” in 1994, but fuck it. He’s an absolutely amazing driver – anyone who can finish 2nd in a Grand Prix with a car that’s stuck in 5th gear for most of the race, deserves some serious kudos.

Also, Hamilton vs Schumacher. Now there’s a battle that I hope we get to see…

Posted In: EngineeringMotorsport Tagged: | 2 Comments

I Really Can’t Think Of A Decent Title For This Post

Monday 25th May 2009

Watching the Monaco Grand Prix yesterday, I was extremely jealous of everyone who was there to watch it. I’d love to go to any Grand Prix, but rarely do I watch and wish I was actually there. But the idea of watching the race around the streets of Monaco, over the gorgeous harbour and under a fantastic blue sky, then retiring to a bar for several (probably overly-expensive) cold beers, really appeals.

The race at Monaco is definitely one of the worst. It’s fairly (very) processional, with very little overtaking. Unless it’s raining, it’s very rarely a massively exciting race. Yet if you ask most F1 fans, it’s the race they most want to go to. That’s because even though it’s a crap race, it’s a unique opportunity to see massively powerful, massively fast cars racing on a public road; cars doing an average speed of 100mph on roads that otherwise take normal traffic, and doing it in close proximity to barriers which punish the slightest mistake. On a properly fast lap, the drivers actually brush the edge of the tyres against the barriers. At over 100mph. Oh, and because it’s all really cramped, it’s also the race where you can get the closest to the track and see all this taking place. Great stuff.

Anyway, there are a few things that I’ve been meaning to blog about (and how many times have I said that now?). I’m gonna try to write some of that stuff down though soon. To sort of nudge myself into doing it, I’m gonna list some of the topics here. Hopefully that’ll shame me into writing it, cos in a month or two I’ll look at the list and think “oops, I said I’d write about that”…

  • Technology
  • Photography (this one could be contraversial…)
  • Alcohol
  • Business/economy
  • Politics
  • Life, the universe, everything
  • Driving
  • Engineering/work

Some of those could get amalgamated (“Alcohol” and “Life/universe/everything” are good candidates for that), and I might think of something else to write about before I do any of the above. The list is just there to prod me into writing more (and maybe someone else will prod me, “Oi, you said you were gonna write about x and you still havent!”).

I was somewhat amazed to read the comments on Flix’s blog a while back, with people saying they wouldn’t wanna change uni-world for the real world. I’m the exact opposite. As much as I moan about it sometimes, and as much as I’m utterly bored of getting up at quarter to 7 (or quarter to 6 on Monday mornings), I much prefer work. I like being finished at half 5, I like the feeling of Getting Something Done, and I absolutely adore being out of the Student Bubble. Being paid really doesn’t suck, either. I was back in Cardiff on Friday and went to the pub with a load of my mates down there, and all of us who have done a year out this year agree that we prefer working. In some ways, I’m kinda dreading going back to Uni.

Anyway, 3 months left and allegedly I’ll be moving away from Brize soon, to work in Head Office on another project. Be annoying to be off-site during the sunny summer, but it’ll be interesting to try yet another thing this year. Reduce my fuel bills a hell of a lot, too…

Posted In: EngineeringMotorsportSite Tagged: | 1 Comment

F1 ’09, Four Races In…

Sunday 3rd May 2009

And they’ve all been rather good (if short, in the case of the Malaysian Grand Prix).

It’s great that the established order of the last few years has been shaken up, and Jenson Button is really showing his skill. The naysayers will say “oh he’s in the best car”, which was mostly true for the first couple of races, but not now. At the last race in Bahrain, he started 4th with a KERS-equipped McLaren in the hands of Hamilton right behind him. That’s a fairly formidable combination to beat at the start; KERS allows the driver to get a better start than drivers with non-KERS cars and Hamilton is probably one of the best racers out there. The fact that Hamilton got past Button on the first lap was fairly predictable, but the way Button got past Hamilton at the end of the first lap was absolutely sublime. Also, Button didn’t have the strongest car out there on the day; the engine was turned down to keep it from overheating and I’m fairly sure Vettel had the pace to win, given his qualifying performance. Button managed to win though, partially thanks to a good strategy, but also thanks to a great drive. Really, you’ve gotta say he’ll be challenging for the championship this year.

Not so easy to say who he’ll be fighting. I don’t think his teammate is gonna be up there; he’s not really that great. My instinct is to say that it’ll be between Button, Vettel and Hamilton. Vettel will be really interesting to watch; I don’t think the Red Bull has the raw race pace that the Brawn has, but I think that he’s one of the best drivers out there. Actually I think he could well turn out to be one of the greats and win several championships, judging by his performances so far (winning in the rain – from pole – at Monza last year, in a Toro Rosso… That’s special). I rank Hamilton in the same sort of category, based on the way he demolished Alonso at McLaren in 2007, his win at Silverstone last year (over a minute ahead of the guy in 2nd place, and he’d lapped everyone up to 3rd), and how well he’s going this year in a sub-par McLaren (actually I also have a theory about last year; I reckon the McLaren was a bit slower than the Ferrari all through the year, but he managed to get more out of it to put himself in contention, and to eventually win. Tbh I can’t see any other reason why McLaren would keep Kovalainen on as 2nd driver). The McLaren seems to be coming good now with the new parts they’re adding to it, and if you give him a sniff of a chance I think Hamilton will be there.

It’s gonna be an exciting year, and I really hope Button wins it. He’s driving fantastically well so far, so if he keeps that up and can at least match Vettel and Hamilton, hopefully his early-season form will give him the advantage. To be honest though, I’m really excited at the thought of those three really racing each other. The prospect of more races like Spa, Hockenheim or Brazil last year, when I was pretty much on the edge of my seat, is really cool.

I really wanna go to the British Grand Prix. Not really got time to do it though. Might go to Spa in September instead (if I can afford it…)

Posted In: Motorsport Tagged: | No Comments


Tuesday 6th January 2009

Lewis Hamilton. Damon Hill. Nigel Mansell. The last three British winners of the F1 World Drivers Championship. Hill and Mansell got OBEs, Hamilton got an MBE. They also both won Sports Personality of the Year for their title-winning seasons (and their not-quite title-winning seasons in 1994 and 1986), and both of their titles (1996 and 1992, respectively) came in Olympic years.

Rebecca Adlington – the girl who won 2 golds in swimming at the Olympics – got an OBE. I’m not sure how winning two golds is a bigger achievement than winning the WDC, but there we are. Chris Hoy got a knighthood, and I really don’t understand that; Steve Redgrave got knighted after 5 golds in 5 olympics, something which really does deserve a knighthood.

Sir Chris Hoy. Ron Dennis CBE. One won a few medals, the other runs a team which – amongst other things – has been at the forefront of the sport for the last 25 years, won 162 races and 17 World Championships, and become the second most successful team in the history of the sport (behind Ferrari, who have been there since 1950). I’m not saying the Olympians aren’t deserving of honours, just that it all seems a bit unfair.

Britain is the best country in the world for motorsport. We have the best teams and some of the best drivers. Our national championships are regarded as the best and most competetive in the world; if you want to make it in motorsport, you come to Britain. As such, there’s a massive industry based around the sport, employing thousands of people and worth a hell of a lot to the economy. Also, motorsport benefits the country in terms of the engineering skill it breeds and that spills over into other industries, especially the Automotive and Aeronautical industries.

The Olympics in 2012 is costing a huge amount of money, and will probably not have a massive benefit to the country. After this year, Britain is at risk of losing its F1 race, partly because the Government refuses to put any money into it. They’re more than happy to spend untold billions for the Olympics, but not a few million for a race which highlights something we’re actually good at. We’re the most successful country in the world in the sport and the industry undoubtedly benefits us, yet the Government won’t support it? Stupid.

Posted In: MotorsportRant Tagged: | 5 Comments

Can’t Find My Way Home

Tuesday 23rd September 2008

I moved back to Cardiff last week, and to get my room sorted has taken a few days (between other stuff, obviously). The last thing I needed to get to sort it completely was a decent desk. So, I decided earlier to drive to Ikea to pick one up. Obviously, I looked up where I needed to go. I thought that I’d got it all worked out. That it’d be a simple matter of going left, right, left again and parking up outside the shop to get a shiny new desk. I was wrong. I got lost instead.

Initially, I started thinking about Backtrackin’, about trying to work out where I went wrong and how to get back on the right track. In fact, I did get back on the right road fairly quickly, only to make another wrong turning and end up in places I’d never seen before and didn’t know where they were in relation to Ikea (or, indeed, Cardiff). At that point, I decided to rely on the tactic of taking what seemed to be the be the best turnings. I guessed, basically. Now, I have no doubt that some of those decisions made the situation worse. I have no doubt that if I stopped, got a map from somewhere (I only have an A-Z in the car. A Birmingham A-Z…) and worked out what to do, I could’ve probably got back on track much quicker, and at less cost (£1.10! A litre!). But, I carried on. Couldn’t be bothered with stopping.

I actually started to enjoy the journey. Sure, I wasn’t getting where I wanted to go. I was getting rather hungry, was using up expensive petrol and probably getting further away from Cardiff; but it was quite enjoyable in a perverse way. I jest kept driving along, taking a turn when I felt like it and hoping that it’d get me to somewhere I at least recognised. Ikea really wasn’t the main objective at this point, just a “it’d be nice if I get there” sort of thing.

Eventually, I got somewhere I recognised. And, as somewhat of an aside, I love that feeling of joy when you go from being utterly lost to knowing where you are. Especially when it’s literally a case of turning a corner, you just think “wow, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”.

Anyway, once I was somewhere that I recognised, it suddenly becamae a possibility. I started to plan, to hope. Maybe if I try such-and-such instead, I’ll get there. Maybe it’ll be different this time. Only one way to find out!

I found what I wanted in the end. I’m glad I didn’t abandon it.

Ikea wasn’t bad, either.

Posted In: CarsSleepStuff | 2 Comments