Karting Meetup

Following the visit to the Autosport show last weekend, a few of us moved on to the centre of Birmingham to meet with some more people from the online motorsport community at the Bloggers & Friends Karting Competition, organised by Alianora La Canta.

It was a good evening’s racing with good organisation from TeamWorks Karting despite their being understaffed on a cold January Saturday evening. There were a couple of instances of technical issues with the karts which were resolved in a professional manner, and they did try and get through the programme quickly as they previous group were a little late leaving, though I did think they were moving a little too quickly at times.

Unfortunately one of those issues happened to me during my best race of the day! I was 2nd at the time and confident of finishing in that position, having run 5th or 6th in the 6- or 7-strong heats all night. Then the power in my kart just died. All the worse – it was my final heat of the day. Still, a good time was had and the karts and circuit posed a bigger challenge than I had expected, so it was satisfying after each heat to realise you were getting faster in every race.

I was more surprised because the karts were electric and we were warned not to brake and accelerate at the same time. My expectations were therefore low, but those things accelerated well and certainly felt quick through the left-handed sweeper after the starting grid. It didn’t feel underpowered at any stage (well..apart from when mine died on me) and for novice/occasional karters such as myself, they are the right speed for the course.

The circuit is very bumpy in places, and it felt fast, partly because karts are so low they always feel quicker than they are, and possibly because the karts were squirming around a lot on the slippery surface. Despite the bumps and slipperiness it was actually a well-designed layout featuring every type of corner you can think of, from sweepers to hairpins to the tricky double-apex right-hander where you have to brake later than you think.

Needless to say, like any racing driver I’m convinced I could have done better with a few more laps and without the technical error, but those are just excuses – it was a great night out and in reality I wouldn’t have got that much higher up the rankings given the strength of opposition – our group of 8 or so had been joined by what seemed like regulars to the circuit, to make up numbers. Eventually I came 17th of 22 (was it 20 or 22?), but I think I beat Chris and Alia and wasn’t far behind some of the others, so I was pleased with that.

Scott deserves a special mention because a) he kicked the asses of everyone in our get-together, and b) managed to get himself among those people who had patently been here a few times before, and he made the Final of the top 8 karters of the day (including beating his Dad). Sadly there was a bit of a Trulli Train going on and he couldn’t get around the group of three holding them up (in fairness neither could the others also stuck) so he finished 8th overall – yet that was a fantastic achievement having never seen the circuit before, or this type of kart.

It was really great to meet everybody even if they decided just to spectate, and if I go to Autosport again next year I will definitely be joining in with the already-announced karting meetup. I may even come up anyway, we’ll see what the money situation is like nearer the time.

Note – There are plans afoot for a summer karting event. Contact Alia for details. Unfortunately I doubt I can’t make it as it looks like it will be held somewhere North of Birmingham and I am on the South coast.

Report: 2010 Autosport International

Autosport International
Autosport International

This weekend I went to the Autosport International show at the NEC in Birmingham. This is the ‘Racing Car Show’ put on by Haymarket, the people behind Autosport, and features two trade days followed by two public days. I went on Saturday which was the first of the public days.

First of all I should say I last attended the show in 2004, and before that in 2002. I purposely hadn’t returned for some time because even visiting two years apart, it seemed there was nothing new the second visit. A group from the VivaF1 website and a few commenters from Sidepodcast mentioned they were going, I was already going to the nearby karting event, and I was interested in how the show had changed since 2004 so I decided to go back – not to mention the ideal opportunity to meet some more bloggers and racing fans!

This entry is quite long so please click the ‘More’ button to read on..

Continue reading “Report: 2010 Autosport International”

Heading to the Autosport Show

Autosport International

Tomorrow, Saturday 15th January, I will be attending Autosport International, ‘The Racing Car Show’ for the 3rd time.

I attended previously in 2001 and 2004 and as you can see from the albums I’ve linked, the lighting at the NEC is diabolical. I shall try my best and I won’t be relying on a disposable camera this time.

The attractions such as they are, include the ‘live arena’, the interviews on the Autosport stage, the F1 Racing grid and a lot of trade stands featuring displays of racing cars. The live arena can be fun, it isn’t fantastic but it is an entertaining way to spend an hour. The F1 Racing grid is a collection of recent cars roped off, with the ropes getting in the way of good photos. Hopefully I’ll be able to time it right to hear someone interesting on the main stage, it can be a bit hit and miss.

You may wonder why I’m going if I know what to expect. Well, I want to see what’s changed in the six years since my last visit. My hunch is ‘not much’, though I’d like to see for myself. I’m also going with a group, as I’m meeting the guys and girls of VivaF1 (formerly Pitlane Fanatic), most of them for the first time. It’ll be interesting to see how that changes the experience, if at all.

To perfectly honest though, I had agreed to go to the Bloggers and Friends karting event before I decided whether or not to go to Autosport, because I wanted to support it. Eventually I decided why not, I’m in the area anyway. I’m looking forward to the karting as much as the Autosport show!

It is going to be a long day, I will do my best to take photos and if there is a mobile signal I’ll be tweeting too, and shall report back on Sunday..

EDIT – In the meantime you should check out the newly-relaunched The Feeder Series for Jon’s excellent recordings of discussions with various people at the show on the trade days. Part 1 and Part 2.

Sidepodcast Meetup: Science Museum, London

What: Fast Forward F1 exhibition
When: Wednesday 15th April, 2009
Where: Science Museum, Kensington, London

Background: A few weeks ago Mr & Mrs C, the brains behind Sidepodcast.com, mentioned they planned to visit the new F1 technology exhibition at the Science Museum in London, and asked if any of the commenters from the site would like to join them. I tagged along for the ride.

Arriving into London Waterloo on time, I hit a snag: signal failure on the Underground. Being stuck on a hot, sweaty tube train is not a lot of fun and so I arrived at the museum 30 minutes later than planned, not a good start when you’ve never met the other attendees before. Thankfully from reading the comments it seems our hosts arrived mere minutes before I did, something I didn’t realise at the time and it helps that ‘Sidepodtime’ is fairly relaxed and nobody seemed to mind.

Once clear of the bag-search area ubiquitous of any London attraction these days I made a beeline for the McLaren hung upside down from the ceiling, then up the stairs to the designated meeting place where I found a large group of Formula 1 fans!

McLaren on the ceiling

After a quick group photo we made our way to the adjacent exhibit – it’s fair to say as soon as we saw it we were fairly underwhelmed. There are 20 objects arranged in a rough square in a very dark corner of a mezzanine floor above the main lobby, and you got the distinct impression it had been tucked out of the way.

F1 Exhibits (image brightened with Picasa software)

Each exhibit had a small piece of text underneath it explaining what the object was for, which was actually very interesting, the shame about it was that we’d all read the same information online before visiting the museum and it would have been nice to have found out a little more. Perhaps this information was contained within the touch-screens, I tried one of them and couldn’t make much sense of how to use it – it didn’t respond to touches very well.

Here are a few of the goodies at the exhibition:

Pod for premature babies Wheelchair

Medical telemetry system Wellbeing pod (no, we didn’t know either)

Other items included reinforced materials for soldiers’ armour, a magnetic device for cleaning a house heating system, a bicycle (the one at the Ferrari shop seemed more advanced), and some carbon-fibre stairs. Yes I took a (bad) photo of that too.

There was some tech intended for F1 as well, although this KERS device is not currently being used by any of the teams we believed it was intended to end up in the Honda. It would have been the only ‘hybrid’ KERS on the grid to use a combination of a flywheel with battery packs and is perhaps surprisingly small:

Flybrid KERS – a flywheel/battery hybrid system

The funniest moment was the comedy security guard! He took his job FAR too seriously. There was an invisible ‘barrier’ between the walkway and the glass/plastic cases – if you broke the barrier with your hand, or if you leaned in for a close photo an annoyingly loud alarm sounded until you moved back. This guy kept walking briskly around the exhibit telling people off for activating the alarm. Net result: more and more people did it! Only when he was relieved and another more relaxed guard appeared did the buzzing suddenly stop…

A final look

It took about an hour to cover the exhibits at a very slow pace and we hung around for another 30 or so minutes chatting and looking in closer detail, before getting bored of the whole thing. We were having a good time yet this was much more to do with who we were with than what we were seeing. If you are in London or if you are meeting a few people then it’s worth popping in for a while to check out the exhibits because they are interesting – our complaint was that so much more could have been done.

We wandered downstairs to the space section of the museum:

Huygens probe Hubble telescope

The actual capsule from Apollo 10!!

Someone then remembered there is another McLaren stationed at the very back of Museum. We went to take a look and it turned out to be Mika Hakkinen’s crashed car from the 1999 German Grand Prix at the old version of Hockenheim.

Diffuser -1999 style Diffuser

By now we’d got entirely bored of the museum – this may have been due to the stuffy heat in there and the many kids running around, after all it was the Easter holidays. We decided to relocate ourselves to nearby Hyde Park for an ice cream and a chat and we stayed there for a very enjoyable afternoon. I’m sure we were there longer than in the museum, not that it matters.
We even broadcast live via justin.tv/sidepodcast which was an interesting experiment, before the audio gear was set up and a ‘Sidepodchat’ was recorded. I think most of us said at least a few words on that – even me!

After that we adjourned to the pub for a refreshing drink or five, a bite to eat, and a lot of alcohol-fuelled debate about F1 and other sorts of racing which is always fun. It’s been quite a long time since my last alcohol-fuelled F1 debate (outside of text comments) so that was good. With that we were done!

They are all a great bunch of people and the C’s are even nicer in person than on the podcasts, which is quite an achievement. Thanks guys for organising everything. And it was nice to finally meet Gavin after talking online for so long!

The following day I wandered around London for a while and located the Ferrari Store in Regent Street, it was good to see they have a relatively modern car (2003) in the main entrance but not being big on Ferrari I didn’t stay long.
I then found another shop I liked a lot: Pole Position, also in Regent Street towards the Piccadilly end. It was here I found some BrawnGP merchandise and so I promptly paid £19.99 for a hat, and the same again for an Aston Martin Racing hat. I do collect racing hats although I no longer wear them as often as I did. The guys in the shop were amazed at how quickly the BrawnGP gear was selling – the consignment had arrived 15 minutes before I did and they had almost sold out!

Suitable satisfied with a very enjoyable two days I made my way back home. Sorry for the long post but I think it deserved it! Take yourself along to the museum if you are in the area and be sure to pick up some F1 gear from Pole Position.

* * *
An edited edition of the chat in the park is due to be released as a podcast soon, I’ll update this post with a link when it appears – let’s not pressure them though, they have a very big schedule of podcasts to record on each race weekend!

CLICK HERE to listen to the latest ‘Aside With Joe’, the regular feature with Joe Saward of GrandPrix.com who calls Sidepodcast every Friday or Saturday from each Grand Prix – it is always a very revealing chat and well worth the listen.

You can view my gallery here or by clicking the thumbnails above. The photos aren’t spectacular but I’m no photographer! I hope it gives something of a flavour to the day.

This is the website of the exhibution.

To London!

Tomorrow I and a large group of fellow listeners to the world’s greatest F1 podcast will be hooking up with show host Christine and her trusty sidekick known only as ‘Me’ (or Mr.C). We’ll take a wander around the Science Museum in London where the McLaren F1 team have set up a series of exhibits under the title, “20 Ways F1 Is Changing Our World”.

There’s a lot cool techie stuff about applying F1 knowledge to real life and I think there will be about 20 of us going so it should be a lot of fun!

Here is the Sidepodcast post about the meetup including a video from the BBC which I think is UK-only but others might as well give it a go anyway.
Here is the Science Museum web page about it all and the New Scientist had a gallery of it. I hope to bring you a little report on Thursday as well as some photos if they’ll allow us to take any. I also hope to make use of Twitter and Twitpic from my mobile, if I can get them working.

I’ve been to London several times before but only once in the guise of a motorsport fan, this back in 2004 for the “F1 In Regent Street” demo runs where I stood three feet from F1 cars and didn’t see a single one! Pics! But don’t click that, there’s nothing there worth looking at.
Let’s hope that hyped up F1 fans will not be blocking all of the exhibits tomorrow in a frenzy of excitement. Look, a KERS device, crowd around it!

You may think I am mad for going all the way to London to meet some internet people in a museum, and you would be right. I started to wonder about my sanity when I saw the increased train prices..