Driving A Car On A Race Track

Driving A Car On A Race Track

“So what was it like to drive a car on a race track, Nasty Evil Ninja?”

Well, I wish I’d had more laps!

Two days after my ARDS test, I’m sat here watching the British Touring Car Championship and my adrenalin is going mental.  How can fate put me on a racing track for the first time (in a car) and then say “Well, actually you might get another go next year at some point.”?

Very frustrating!

It was essentially a road car I was in at Silverstone.  I didn’t know that they’re supposed to me pretty rapid cars until afterwards – 2 litre turbo with 225hp.  One of the hottest Hot Hatches around.  I thought it was a bit slow…

I had a Hell of a lot to take in, and many things to adjust about the way I was driving.

I made sure I was trying to use every inch of the track – keeping right to the edge on the corner entry, getting two wheels up over the curb on the apex, and then drifting out with two wheels over the exit curb where it was safe.  The racing line is where you will make up most of you time, especially on a damp, greasy circuit like it was all day long.

I know I could make up a few seconds a lap straight away on the brakes just by braking later and harder.  I could make up more seconds by pushing harder in the corners, as I had more traction to go.

But that’s where I’m kind-of in unknown territory!

I have no comparison.  I know it’s advised to go at 80% of your ability on the test, but where was I?

50%?  100%?

As I’ve never done it before I have absolutely no idea.  Thinking about it, nobody else overtook me all day – apart from two sideways Nissan 350z’s driving by those super-fast Playstation 3 Nissan GT Academy geeks.  I did try to hang on to the back of them but I just got a bit more ragged, and as soon as we hit Hangar straight their 125hp more took them well away.


I overtook some of the others, but that doesn’t really tell me much because I don’t know how hard they were pushing.  I didn’t get a chance to actually follow anyone around, which is a bit of a shame.  Or a good thing?  Who knows!

One thing I am well impressed with, is that when the time came to sting my test laps together I instantly dropped into The Zone.  A huge calm came over me, and I was totally relaxed and focused.  Even my breathing was perfect and normal – not hyperventilating or holding my breath at all.

That bodes very well for the future.  If I CAN drop into that state at will, then it means I can think clearly and feel everything that’s going on, rather than feeling rushed and having get by purely on reactions.

I’m hoping the actual feel is much better in a Formula Vee single seater.  I expect it was all feel much more accurate than a hot hatch, and I think I’m ready to have that.

Compared to a riding a bike on track… I don’t want to say driving a car is ‘easy… but it’s far less busy.  Because I’m used to having to brake from 170+mph and deal with acceleration of 0-60 in under 3 seconds, plus having massive forces working against your whole body the whole time, actually getting a car around a track is far less challenging.

Of course, getting a car around a track faster than 30 other people will be a whole new ball game, and the difference between a respectable pace and pushing right to the performance limits will be massive.

I know now that I can at least string some solid and consistent laps together, and that’s a huge relief.

It’s a base.

I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of balls it takes to jump off that base, and what kind of rush it gives me!


Doing A Suicidal 129mph!

Doing A Suicidal 129mph!

That’s the actual line I heard in an episode of ‘Police, Camera, Action’ the other night, as they filmed Police following a driver on a UK three lane motorway: “Doing a SUICIDAL 129mph!!!”

As if 130 would have made him instantly drop dead from speed?!

Because we all know that speed kills…

Never mind lack of skill, inattention or a poorly maintained vehicle.  Nope – these are all perfectly safe as long as you NEVER go above the speed limits that were set for the vehicles of 46 years ago

Don’t get me wrong here – we need some limits and I’m all in favour of 30mph zones and respect them totally.  They’re almost always there for a reason (schools, dangerous roads, old biddies crossing etc).  40mph zones are a bit more dodgy as they seem to have changed a lot of previously 60mph roads to 40mph limits for no known reason… But 70mph on a modern three lane motorway is ludicrous!


Let me just put that into perspective for you.  Here is an ‘average’ car for 1965:

1965 Triumph 2000
This kicked out a mighty 89 bhp

And here is 2010’s ‘average’ car:

2010 Ford Focus
This wheezes out a measly 140 bhp

The braking road holding abilities of cars has come just as far, too – and that’s without any electric aids such as stability control.

And we shouldn’t forget how much road building technology has advanced, and the signage on the roads…

I think most cars in 1965 struggled to even reach 70mph!  Now most will cruise at 100 without too much stress…

If you actually DO 70mph on a motorway these days, you’ll find just about everything will come streaming past you.  85 is the new 70, baby!  And to be fair that probably is a nice sensible new speed.  There are people who still do 50mph on motorways, so you can bet they’ll still be doing that speed even if limits are raised, and for the rest of us it makes life a lot easier…

Or how about going even further and introducing an advanced license to let people do faster speeds – only on motorways.  100mph?  Unlimited?  You’d have to prove you could pay attention and display forward planning, and if you did cause an accidents penalties should be severe…

And put motorway driving in the driving test – focusing on making sure people stay in the -ing left hand lane unless they’re overtaking!

You know – just common sense?

It’ll never catch on…


Car Vs. Bike

Car Vs. Bike


I always heard that although bikes will slaughter cars accelerating in a straight line, in the corners and on the brakes is a cars domain.

Your average 190 section superbike has a contact patch around the size of the palm of your hand to put close to 1000hp per tonne through.  For a start you won’t get many cars these days with tyres less than 190 wide – and of course they have two or even four driver wheels to get their power onto the asphalt.

Plus when hard on the power the car won’t be trying to flip itself over backwards, so you’d think a decent car would be able to whupp a bike from a standstill.

Unfortunately bikes are a Hell of a lot lighter, us bikers are able to get our beer bellies weighted over the front end, and even a bad start will see 60mph in around 3 seconds.  Most car drivers don’t understand this when they see us “Shooting off from the lights like a drag race!!” – the chances are we’re taking it easy but your car does 60 in more like TEN seconds.  Think about it.

To quote myself whilst explaining how fast bikes accelerate:  You know how you walk at, say, 4mph?  And you sort of take that very first step and are already at maximum walking speed?  That’s like how a sportsbike hits 30mph.  I could pull out into traffic between two cars (leaving your obligatory 2 second gap, of course) and be up to speed without anyone having to brake to avoid me.

If you haven’t ridden a fast bike you can’t even comprehend it.  It’s a blessing.  It’s silly.  It’s far too fast for the roads.  And to even begin to think that a lot of cars don’t have a rev counter?!  WTF?  I have no idea what the Fiat revs to, but I can only guess that it’s less than my ZX9R’s 12,500rpm?  And the Fiat certainly doesn’t do over 80mph in first gear…

Now, as any of my regular readers will know, after 10 years of riding sportsbikes I took and passed my car driving license a few months back.

OK, so I’ve only got some skinny-tyred Fiat Uno, but it’s weird.  I still find myself driving sometimes and think “What the fuck??  What the Hell am I doing in a CAR??? How did this happen?”.


This is often followed by muttering about “Monkey drive car!  Oo-ooh OOKA OHH!!!”.

I have to recalibrate my whole brain to deal with the road speed differences.  The car is like being in one of those nightmares where you’re trying to run but can’t go fast.  Everything happens in verrrrrrryy slowwwww motionnnnnn….

And I’ve done a skid control course, tried to push the car, and fully intend of getting a racecar on a track ASAP.

Other than pulling out on islands and at junctions which require about five times the space of a bike in laziest mode, the thing that’s getting me is the corner speed.

Four tyres and loads of grip, and I’ve always just assumed cars are faster in corners… but that just isn’t the case!

In the Uno I’ve tried the Redditch Cloverleaf a few times and the ‘safe’ speed is about HALF what it is on a bike  I was horrified the first time as I drove into the first corner at a very conservative speed and still felt I had to brake.  And what a weird viewpoint it is compared to having your head banked over all the way to the left about 18 inches from the tarmac!

I’m still to drive a high performance car, but I just can’t see it pushing my limits like the bike does?  It’s too easy!

And riding a bike at 190mph is possible, and feels ‘OK’.  To be doing 120+ ina  huge metal box of a car, with all those forces involved if you do come a cropper???  Terrifying.

I think if I’d done this the other way around (i.e. had a car for 10 years and THEN a sportsbike), I’d just be absolutely terrified of the bike every time I threw my leg over it.

They’re an awesome vehicle to be privileged to ride – and I mean that ‘awesome’ in the truest and most lost meaning of that word.


All The Ovens In China Are Knackered

All The Ovens In China Are Knackered

(Originally written in 2009 – I now have a working oven again)


Anyone who knows me will know I’m partial to Chinese food.

The REALLY lucky ones will have actually got to taste my Chinese cooking.

I’m good.  I mean good to the point that there are now several dishes that I make much better than any Chinese restaurant!  I’m still learning and still experimenting, but I seem to have a knack for this stuff!

It’s a bloody good job I’m good, too!  My oven is knackered, and takes three or four times longer to cook anything, and even then it only cooks from the bottom electric element.  Oh how I long to eat pizza again that isn’t sloppy on top with a rock hard bottom…  So using the wok for anything and everything is most definitely on the cards!

I’m also a perfectionist, and am constantly refining everything from how long and how I cook stuff for, right down to how I cut the meat and vegetables in preparation!

I’ve just had my first crack at Prawn Kung Po – one of my favourite dishes from the local restaurant (Called ‘Trans’!!!  “HARRO TRANS!”) – although they batter and deep fry all the meat in theirs.  Deep frying in the wok is next on my list to do Kung Po their way and also Crispy Shredded Beef.  OM NOM NOM NOM!

So I’m going to let all you buggers in on a few of my secrets that you’re welcome to try for yourself.

First off has to be the base of many meals:


Egg Fried Rice

Ideally, you’ll be using cold leftover rice that’s been in the fridge for about a day.  This hasn’t happened for me yet, so I have to improvise a bit!

Boil up your rice (white long grain) in a saucepan of water for around 20 mins until the grains are soft but still a little firm.  Some people do all that crap where all the water is gone just as it’s cooked etc but they’re witches and I’ll report anyone who can do it.  I mean, what’s wrong with just tipping the stuff out into a sieve like normal people do?  Right?  So do this.

Then give it a good running under the cold tap.  The colder you get it the better, because if not it all goes clumpy and mushy and you’ll have to tell everyone you’ve cocked it up in your Facebook status.  So get it all nice and cool and then leave it in the seive while you prepare the rest of your food so it drains off as well as it can.

For the egg fried rice my style, this means chopping the green leafy part of a spring onion as finely as you can.  If you put peas in this I will find you and kill you.  Also make sure everything you’re going to need is easily to hand with the top off/open.  One thing I love about Chinese cookery is the preparation and then the way it all happens at once and makes you wish you had about another five arms to sort it out!  Intense, baby!

Probably the most imprortant tip I’ll give you is to use Peanut Oil or ‘ground nut oil’ in your wok.  Seriously, this tastes far better than any other oil – mainly because you can’t taste it – and also has a higher boiling point so you won’t burn stuff and catch fire!  If you have peanut allergies it’s tough titty and it sucks to be you!

Put the wok over the gas on high for a few seconds then add a splash of oil.

Now I have two methods for this.  I used to fry/scramble the eggs first and add the rice last, but I’ve tried the more traditional method tonight and may well stick to this…

So whack the rice into your hot wok.  At this point in any cooking, if you haven’t done it already, I would STRONGLY recommend that you have a good old Hurdy Gurdy Shurdy Flurdy Birdy.

What?  I’ve lost you???

Ok, ok… Go and watch a clip of Chef from The Muppet Show.  I’ll wait.

Got it now?  Yes!  This improves ANY dish you ever make!

So you fry the rice for a few minutes so it’s all nice and hot.  Make a kind of nest in the middle of the rice (so the bottom of the nest is your wok and all the rice is around the sides) and crack your egg into there.  Give it a poke around until it’s scrambled and cooked, and then fold it into the rice.  Add your sliced spring onion and a bit of garlic powder (if using fresh crushed garlic add this to the oil at the start), and fry for a while longer.  I’ve found the ‘secret ingredient’ here is to add one to one and a half drops per serving of Sesame Oil.  If desired you can add a few dashes of soy sauce here or on the plate.

Tip it out onto a plate then put this in your broke-assed oven to keep warm whilst you cook the main dish.

See?  Easy!

Now go and enjoy!


First Drive On The Snow

First Drive On The Snow

Having ridden bikes in the snow for the last ten years, and not having had any reason to take the car out in recent snows, I decided to make one up!

So, in order to do lots of ‘essential’ Christmas food/booze shopping, and with more heavy snow forecast overnight, I got to see what all the fuss and panic was about.

My garage is on a steep hill up a dirt track.  I figured I could probably get down the hill, but doubted I’d ever get back up.  So I dug out the garage door and went for it.

I was suprised by how much resistence deep snow offered to a car.  Reversing down the hill, where I expected it to roll back through it, I found I had to give it a bit of gas.  Other than that it was stable and did nothing silly.  I turned around at the bottom, engaged first gear, took a deep breath, and turned out onto the road…

And drove.  Nothing else happened.

I drove slower than normal, but to be honest didn’t really have to.  I did put into practice the theory of downshifting and using careful engine braking rather than touching the brakes wherever possible, and there were no dramas.  I was able to pull away with no wheelspin, and turn through corners without falling into hedges or running any kittens over.  Unlike everyone else, I kept a good gap to the car in front (notice to the ihabitatnts of the seal farm that is Bromsgrove: this does NOT mean 6″ away).

So I decided to provoke it.

From second gear I floored it and was chuffed to hear it spin up like a good ‘un!

You have to bear in mind I can’t condone this, but at the same time understand that the last time I drove it was to a skid control course.  I knew what to expect, and the little Fiat seems to have very predictable understeer, but with nice balance to it.

Locking the brakes made it slide straight on with slight squiggles if provoked further.  And it seemed to drift ok, too!

It’s quite amazing what you can do in a car and stay in control.  That much lack of traction on a bike would equal lots of airtime, groundtime and abulancetime.  I wasn’t anywhere near pushing it, and don’t intend to on the roads.

In short, it was exactly what I needed, and allowed me to safely explore the limits of the car at slow speeds and on some empty roads.

Oh, and my 1 litre snorting Italian beast on its skinny tyres also seemed to be one of the fastest accelerating cars on the roads for once!

The fun ended when I found there was no way in Hell the Fiat was going back up that hill to the garage, though… Ah well!

Snow driving is snow- oops I mean IS NO trouble at all – providing you just leave yourself a load of space to do it safely!  Look and plan well ahead, and it’s a lot of fun!

Keep it safe out there you kids – and if you haven’t already GET SOME BLOODY ADVANCED DRIVER TRAINING!  It will give you the confidence to laugh at all the other muppets out there!

There’s also a video of some in-car action and ranting.

First Car Insurance/F*ck You, Your Family, And All Your Family’s Pets

First Car Insurance/F*ck You, Your Family, And All Your Family’s Pets

Today I decided to get some rough quotes to insure me as a first time driver.

I used the links to search engines from www.moneysavingexpert.com (an invaluable resource for EVERYTHING if you’re in the UK), filling in as many of my details as I could, and then sat back and waited for the quotes…

Now, bearing in mind that for a high-performance, 190mph superbike that I’ve ridden for 10 years I’m looking at £170 for fully comprehensive insurance, how much would you think an old 1 litre Fiat Uno worth around £300 will cost to insure?

If you guessed around SEVEN HUNDRED FUCKING POUNDS then you’re right.

Yes, you read that right – £700!!!  And that was for 3rd Party Fire & Theft – which is somehow cheaper than fully comp or 3rd Party Only?!?

Gee, I like you, Mr Insurance Man – you can come over to my house and fuck my sister!

For £700 I could hire a fucking limo to take me to work every day over Winter, and sip on Champagne watching the world go by without being bent over and pounded in my balloon knot by you cunts!

How about that?!


I hope to God none of them phone me up about the quotes.  If they do I might try and record the conversation.

So fuck all that for now – I’m just going to pass the test and then worry about it all.  I know some bike insurance companies like Carole Nash let you use your No Claims Bonus on both car and bike, so that might be worth looking at.  I’m sure there’ll be some way of getting it down, anyway…

I can totally see why so many people don’t bother getting any insurance and just risk it.


Being Driven to Distraction…

Being Driven to Distraction…

Last night I had my, umm… sixth driving lesson?  Something like that.

I make the odd cock-up, but generally it’s all going well.  I don’t really have any problems just driving around the streets, and can now do a three point turn and stuff.

I still have to try all the reversing and parking malarkey, but I just keep reminding myself that little shitty snot-nosed 17 year olds learn this shit, so it CAN’T be hard!

I don’t have a fear of the car, or of going over 10mph like most learners do.  I’m still well on track for the exam – which is good because I’ve bought a package of 22 lessons plus theory and practical tests for £550.  If I don’t use all the lessons then they’ll even refund their cost!

Brian The Instructor is cool and we’re getting on well, and more importantly we’re working well together!  I think he appreciates my laid-back attitude and sense of humour because it’s close to his own.

One thing I have noticed is that I’m starting to sympathise a bit with car drivers now.

You often hear people say how car drivers should be made to ride a bike so that they appreciate the awareness and skill it takes, and it will benefit their driving greatly.  Well, as a biker moving to cars I have to say that the opposite is also true: that every biker should be made to drive a car.

There are a lot of situations where on a bike normally I’d be ranting at the idiotic car driver, but now I’ve been on the other side I can sympathise and understand that idiotic car driver.  Not that this knowledge will stop me ranting at them next time it happens when I’m on the bike, but at least I understand a bit more now.

The overall impression I’m getting is that driving a car is designed to take your attention off your surroundings and off the act of driving safely.

On the bike I’m ALWAYS aware of my riding, the roads, surrounding traffic… just about everything from birds flying past to the sound of my engine.

In a car I feel like I’m sat in a big lump of heavy metal that’s tenuously controlled by me.  It doesn’t lend itself to concentrating.

It’s boring.

I think of the lessons as a bit of a chore rather than anything I look forward to.  When I’m actually driving it’s ok, but I just can’t get excited about it all.  To me it’s a necessary evil that will allow me to carry lots of shit, take my girlfriend away places, and stop me getting killed on the snow and ice during Winter.

I’m driving now – but I’m still 100% a biker…

Second Strike, Still Deadly…

Second Strike, Still Deadly…

Err, or I could have titled this “Second Lesson, Still A Bit Shit”, but I didn’t, so there!

Last night was my second ever driving lesson.  I knew I was cocking up with my crossed-up go-kart steering technique, and so would have to work on the crappy ‘feeding the wheel’ through stuff.

I was considering buying one of those steering wheel jobbies for my Xbox to get some practise in on Forza II… As I didn’t, over the weekend I even thought about picking up a frisbee, or a dinner plate, or a small round dog just to have a go at practising.  Instead I had a few drinks and may have touched some titty.

The time came, and Brian (the instructor) drove me to the small quiet circuit I’d used last time, demonstrating the steering technique on the way.  As it happens, touching some titty was the way to go, as when I took over, whilst not perfect, I was doing it just fine!

Not only that, but instead of doing a few left-turn-only circuits of the route like I was expecting, I started straight off going around so I was doing all right turns at the junctions, and after doing that twice we headed off down some dual carriageway to drive around the ‘scenic’ town of Redditch.

This was amazing to me, but I was doing ok.  Once I hit the accelerator instead of the brake, but caught it quickly with no disaster…

I’m still not properly doing all the observations that I should, but I think that’s what I’ll be working on in the next lesson.

I actually drove the car all the way back home – which I never expected to be doing for a lonnnnng time, as I live on an awkward road and would rather not trash all my neighbours shoddily parked cars.  For the next lesson I’ll be jumping straight in the drivers seat and driving right from the start.

Still a long way to go, and the slow speed manoeuvres may well still kill me, but I seem to have made a huge jump, and can feel there will be others.

It’s good to have an instructor who will push me to do more than I would if it was my choice, but I guess that’s just confidence.

We’re getting there, and I still haven’t killed any kittens, small children, or Gypsies.