Will I be on TV?

I think tonight (Wed 12th July 2006) is the most likely time that I’ll be on TV. The name of the programme is “So You Want To Be An F1 Driver”. It’s on at 8pm on Men & Motors TV. It used to be 6pm Wednesdays and 8pm Sundays, but that’s changed for today at least.

I had a good time at karting practice on Monday with my friend Colin, and beat my personal best lap time by about 0.5 seconds. Very consistent times, I’m pleased to say. Can’t wait to go again.

After karting, we went to Lakeside where Colin bought a new camera and accessories. He spent a lot on it, but I think his wife is paying for it as a gift. And I thought I could shop!

What’s the plan, then?

Oops, nearly forgot to post this. I had it on my laptop but needed to boot the PC to resize the photo. In the F1 post earlier, I posted a picture showing less of this car. Can you guess what car it is? It should be easy now, if you look hard enough. No prizes, though. If you think you know, post a comment (click Comment below). I’ll post the answer in two weeks time.

I would have been attending Round 5 of the competition last Wednesday, had I not gone out in Round 4. Instead, I tidied up this blog, tidied up my diary (removing future Rounds), organised my files, chased a couple of potential sponsors, and planned a little racing.

I learned from the competition that I need more track time in two respects. For sure, I need more time on a proper track, not just a karting track. I think this is the area that let me down in the last round. Trouble is, it’s so expensive. If I take my own road car, I’ll be going though tyres by the dozen (well, four at a time, but quickly), plus the cost of the session, plus the risk that I’ll crash and it’s not covered on the insurance. If I book a day in the circuit’s car, it’s expensive too. On tip of that, it’s a day I should be working. This is one of the reasons I need some cash sponsors. Until I know what competitions I’m going for, I won’t do anything in this respect. When I know the competition, I’ll practice for that track and car.

The other track time I need is with other people on track, and I’ll do this karting. I usually practice about once a month with a friend (whose is also named Colin). I enjoy that a lot, but I need more drivers around me. I need practice overtaking and defending my position. I handled this okay in round three (a karting round), but it didn’t come as easily to me as pounding round a track shaving tenths off my time, something I’ve done a lot. I’d make a good test driver.

With my Financial Services business and my IT business I usually see clients in the evening. Seeing clients is the bit that actually earns the money, so evenings are precious. Because I work evenings and my wife does a 9-5, I like to spend time with her at the weekends. The problem is that most karting competitions are held on weekends. The solution, I think, is to go to my local karting track on a Monday night. That’s the club night where members get two sessions for the price of one. It should be busier than my normal daytime sessions so I’ll get the practice I need.

So, the plan is: Keep karting during the day with Colin about once a month, and visit the local track occasional Monday nights to mix it with a few other drivers. I’ll also continue with my gym work (getting back to my regular visits, but improving my fitness even further) and occasionally go out on my bike.

I’m not booking anything else in at the moment because I’ve got my eye on a couple more competitions to enter, and I’ll probably organise a charity karting event later in the year if it’s worth the time and effort.

There probably won’t be any posts for the next week or so because I’m away and won’t have good internet access. Subscribe to the RSS feed to keep updated. If you don’t know how, leave me a comment and I’ll do a post explaining how to. I want to do some tech posts anyway.

Round 4 – Lurpak & Diet Coke

Edit: What a stupid name for a post. I thought it was good at the time. 20 Jan 2009.

That’s it folks, I’m out of this competition.

This round comprised 600 miles and nine hours travelling, £ 60 worth of fuel, another nine hours at the circuit, and all for only 6 laps.

After arriving at Croft (a circuit in North Yorkshire), the 75 remaining contestants signed in and took our seats in the briefing room.

On signing in we had been randomly allocated a group letter. Each group would have one of eight instructors for the first of two sets of laps. Each instructor was allocated one car. There were two BMW 325 M5s, three Mini Cooper S’s, and three open-top Ginettas. However, one of the two BMWs blew a piston on a test lap, so the two BMW groups had to share one car, slowing down completion of the session.

The instructor would take us out for three laps. On the first two, he or she would explain the racing line, gear changes and speeds. He would then remain silent while we did one flying lap, pitting at the end. For each corner, there were points awarded for hitting the right breaking, turning, apex and exit points. No overtaking was allowed, so we would have to slow up if we caught another car.

I was second out in the BMW with Chris as my instructor. In a strange car, having never been on a racing circuit before, I had to remember all the cornering points and gear changes, and the racing line, all in two laps. Talk about overload.

The BMW – it was like driving soft butter. There was no feedback at all; I couldn’t feel the engine, steering or grip. Anyway, The instructor seemed okay with my laps. If I could have done a few more, I would have done much better.

Before the session I had been interviewed by Paul Musselle, Executive Producer of PMA TV. He interviewed me again as I got out of the car, then I had to go back to the briefing room to change out of my race suit. Blanche (my wife) was with me for the event and as all good team members do, she had her ears and eyes open. As I changed, Paul interviewed my instructor.

“He was very nervous to start” he said, then went on to say something complementary about the rest of my session, to which Paul concluded “So he could be one of the first ones to go through, then?”

We waited around for ages in the sun while everyone else went out, then the judges retired to make their decisions. After lunch, we gathered in the pits and Tim read out the two lists. Five drivers were deemed good enough to go through based on what they had done already. Ten were told they were out. I was in the other 60 who would go out again to be judged a second time in a different car and by a different instructor.

Between sessions, I decided that I had been thinking too much about what to do, and trying to remember every gear change and minute detail given to me by the instructor. I decided to drive more naturally in the second session, to drive more by instinct and to enjoy it more.

I was first out in a Mini Cooper S. That was much more to my liking. In fact, I loved it. Compared to the BMW, it was like Diet Coke; light, crisp and fizzy.

Phil was my instructor, and explained things again for two laps, during which I easily caught the car in front. I would catch him, slow down to give myself space, then easily catch him again. Only having three laps, there wasn’t enough time to give myself a really big gap.

Where I did have space it was amazing with great acceleration, hard braking and plenty of tyre squeal in the corners while maintaining control. I really wanted to carry on and do more laps, but everyone was limited to three.

In the long wait that followed, I thought about my chances of going through. I thought it had gone well. I needed to polish up my line on a couple of corners and perfect my timing on a couple of gear changes, but a few more laps would have achieved that.

Talking to the other drivers, most had raced competitively before (I have not), and most have some track experience beyond karting (I have none). There’s no way for the judges to know that unless it comes up during the track sessions and a note is made. Anyway, I just thought I’d get my excuses in there.

The judges decisions were made. Only another 15 went through to round five, and we all went home. So, 20 went through, and 10 of the 75 had gone out after the first session. That puts me in a group ranked 21 to 64, out of over 2000 competitors initially. Let’s say the top 3%, shall we? I’m pretty pleased with that.

Overall, I’ve achieved quite a bit. Since we were told we would need sponsors and advertising just over three weeks ago, I’ve found a sponsor (ik Software at www.ik.com), I’ve been in touch with several other sponsors (but not secured any due to limited time), and produced this blog.

That’s not the end though. I’ll keep racing and keep blogging. Over then next week, I’ll be taking some time to organise myself and work commitments, and organise my plans for more racing. I’ll be posting non-racing stuff too. So, please keep coming back, and leave me some comments!

A busy week ahead

I won’t bore you with my work and personal commitments for this week, suffice to say it’s going to be busy.

Blanche (my wife) leaves work early Wednesday so we can start our journey to North Yorkshire at 4pm. It will take 4.5 hours if the traffic is good. We’ll stay overnight, and we have to be at Croft Racing Circuit at 8:30am Thursday for Round 4 of the Shell Optimax f1 Drivers’ Challenge 06. This round is in saloon cars; they’re the type you see on the road, but have up-rated brakes and suspension, and are capable of around 150mph – I’ll practice that speed on the way to Yorkshire ;-). I hope we don’t finish too late as we have to drive home that night too.

There’s Silverstone F1 Quali on Saturday, so I’ll watch that, then the race is on Sunday. Blanche is taking part the charity event Race For Life on Sunday. I’ve told her to run fast so we can be back in time for the F1 TV coverage.

I’ll do my best to post some stuff about last year’s F1 British Grand Prix too.

[Addendum: This competition was renamed for subsequent years; “So You Want to be an F1 Driver”

So what’s happening?

It’s very busy at the moment. I’ve got the next round of the Shell Optimax F1 Drivers’ Challenge ’06 next week, and I’ve received notification of another competition that I can enter. I’m waiting for a call from a newspaper that want to write a piece on me, and I’m in contact with several new sponsors.

The other competition is a corporate karting competition with a charity angle and celebrities willing to race too. It will be televised (as will my current competition). I’ve been given a £ 10,000 reduction in the entry price, so I’m looking for a company who wants to put forward the fee plus some charity money, and have me and three of their staff competing with 20-odd other teams for the £ 50,000 prize. Lots of good advertising opportunities for the company involved. If you know of a company who might be interested, leave the telephone number as a comment and I’ll call. BTW, I won’t publish the comment, so the telephone number won’t appear on the web.

If you know of a company who would like to sponsor me personally, please leave a comment too.

I’m hoping to post about my trip last year to the British F1 Grand Prix before the next one on 11th June. I’ll post a few photos too, including a shot of Michael Schumacher I took from about 10 feet – time permitting.

Gotta run!

Round 3 – the judge’s decision

So, what happened after the two races of Round 3? Well, all the drivers went to the hospitality suite and were told that we’d have to wait while the judges made their decisions.

About an hour later, Tim Matthews (the promoter) came out and read out a list of names. These people were taken into a separate room. I wasn’t on that list. I assumed that these were the drivers that had gone through, but then Karen (Tim’s wife, I think) read out another list and those drivers were also told to go through to that room (Room 101, I thought).

As Kim read out the list, I began to think that the first and second lists would not go through to the next round, but the people left in the room would. I was not sure of that though, because some of the quicker drivers had already gone through.

Near the end of the list, I heard Kim read out “Colin” and my heart skipped a beat. However it was another driver, Colin Pearce. I was called out though, three names from the end.

All the chairs in the room were taken, and the remaining drivers were standing at the back and against one wall. The sponsors and TV crew were also present. I don’t think the drivers from the first list were there, just those on the second list. We were all nervous.

I turned to the driver on my right, who I hadn’t seen all day, and asked “Where did you come in the races?” “Third and third”, he said. “Well,” I thought, “if he hasn’t got through I don’t know who has”.

Tim did the normal “reality game show” bit about hoping we had had a good time, and stalling for effect making it sound as if we weren’t going through before saying “Well, I suppose I have to say…” long pause, “that I’m afraid to say that”, another long pause, “we’ll see you at croft for Round Four”. Huge cheer and relief all round. I was too busy with the relief bit to do the cheering bit.

The feeling was incredible. I had been there about 14 hours, and out of the house about 17 in total, but it was worth every second.

I’m now through to the last 75 people, out of 2000 odd entrants. The best three will fulfil a lifetime dream of mine, to drive a Formula 1. We’ll be flown to Germany to test in an F1 car Germany in August. The best driver will race in a Series 2000 race in August, and probably get some sort of motor racing contract.

The next round though is at Croft (North Yorkshire) on June 8th for some saloon car racing.

Thanks to ik Software

I just want to say how good ik Software has been. They’re sponsoring me by providing hosting and design for this blog. I’m completely new to this, and they’ve been fantastic.

They were so fast in setting this up for me, and have been excellent in reply to my newbie questions and giving advice.

Apart from dealing with newbies like me, they’ve worked with some of the biggest companies in the UK, Local Government, and even the Police Service (I think). I dare say they can help non-UK customers too.

If you’re not getting an excellent service from your service provider, or even if you are, check out ik Software at ik.com.

Race Two

Long post. Get a coffee.

Here’s a link to a short video (no sound). It’s 8MB, so don’t download if you’re on dial-up. You need QuickTime to play the clip. Click here to get QuickTime.

It had been overcast all day, but as the last group went out for race one, it started to rain. These karts run on slick tyres. In the dry the tyres give a lot of grip, but in the wet they’re hopeless.

Group B (mine) was waiting between the pit lane and the track while Group A went out for their second race. Cars were sliding all over the place. I wanted to make up some places in this race, but I don’t consider myself good in the wet – or at least I didn’t before the second race.

It was slippery. Brake too hard and you spin, accelerate too hard and you spin. Turn the wheels into the corner, and nothing happens, you just understeer (push) straight on.

Heading into a corner in a road car under braking, if your front wheels start to skid (assuming you don’t have ABS), you cadence brake. In a kart this has no effect; since the brakes are on the rear wheels only, cadence braking doesn’t increase grip at the front.

To overcome loss of grip on the front (steering) wheels you put the car in oversteer; accelerate so the rear wheels step out to try to overtake the front, spinning the car slightly. Catch the spin at the right point and the car is pointing into the corner.

It’s an odd feeling going into a corner, turning the wheel to no effect, heading towards the barrier, and then giving it some gas to get the back end to slide.

This is where I made some progress. Cars were spinning or just plain skidding off. Car control is paramount in the wet. Using your brakes or accelerator as on-off switches won’t work; you need smooth application of both.

I took advantage of out-of-control cars. I was also just out-driving some of the drivers who were in control. It was quite rewarding.

That’s not to say I didn’t lose control myself. I had a 3/4 spin on turn 3. I had to let at least four cars through before I could recover. Despite that, I knew I had done well over the (approximately) nine-lap race.

As the chequered flag fell, we filed into the pits in order. All I had to do was count the cars ahead of me to see my position. Again, some of those cars could have been lapped by the leaders but not me so would have been behind me, but there was no way to tell for sure. Counting the cars I was 13th or higher. Starting from 20th, I had gained at least seven places.

Regardless of the position, I had had a very enjoyable race. I had passed at least 11 cars (seven places plus four that had passed me when I spun).

There would be a long wait before knowing which drivers would go through to Round Four, but I knew I would go home satisfied with my performance in that second, wet race.

Car on fire

Spectators and drivers had use of the hospitality suite and its balcony overlooking the track. It was busy up there, and some of us were standing on pub-style bench-tables to see over others. This photo shows part of the view.

As a car went round the turn at the beginning of the pit straight, we noticed a fire in one of its engines. The fuel tanks sit on top of the engines, and the flames were licking around the front of the tank.

The marshals were waving flags and pointing, and the driver kept glancing at the flames as he went past. The marshals put out the flags (meaning everyone must stop where they are), but the hapless driver just kept going with the flames getting bigger.

He went half way round the track before stopping, and then took his time getting out of the car, I’d have been out much earlier than that.

I’ve never seen a kart on fire. The marshals were excellent, and were soon there with a fire extinguisher.

Next up, the rain comes down for my second race.