Monday, 22 August 2011

Rent4Ring Nurburgring car rental

It's silly really, I have a kit car for track use, and a Nissan R35 GT-R for road use, and I didn't want to take either of them this time on our annual Nurburgring trip. The kit car is too much work with trailering it out there etc. and the GT-R costs too much money on tyres and brakes.

That said I still wanted to drive some laps whilst out there so I began looking up companies that offer Nurburgring car hire. I was aware of a couple of companies, but then I came across Rent4Ring, and their all inclusive prices are excellent.

I hired a Stage 1 Suzuki Swift. Only 130bhp, but with racing brake pads which were amazing and offered superb confidence in the braking. They also come with sticky tyres and a half roll cage. Best of all, they can offer right hand drive cars which was perfect.

The cost to take the car for a half day and do 6 laps was €389 which sounds like a lot, but in actual fact it's incredibly cheap when you consider driving your own car there would cost €200 in fuel and lap tickets alone!

In essence, it costs €189 for half a day in the car and this covers all of the wear and tear - you just give the car back at the end of the day.

Amazing! It was so easy and so much fun, I don't think I'll ever take one of my own cars to the Nurburgring again.

The Swift was absolutely brilliant, and I don't think I'd have any more fun in something that costs 4 times as much!

If you are going to the Nurburgring, look no further than Rent4Ring for your Nurburgring car rental. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Windscreen wipers by post

For those people who spend a fortune having their windscreen wipers fitted at garages, there is now a much better option. I Need Wipers is an online service where you simply choose your vehicle make and model from a list, and then the windscreen wipers which fit your car are shown to you. You buy them online, and then they are posted to you.

The site will tell you exactly how to fit windscreen wipers to your car step by step. Literally anyone can fit their own windscreen wipers, and save a fortune.

Buy your windscreen wipers online now and save a fortune.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Cadwell Park

Many people have always said what a great circuit Cadwell Park is, and how perfect it is for hot hatches and kit cars. Time to find out...

Upon arrival, we found out that there were no pit garages. No problem, but a little surprising for a Motorsport Vision venue. There was a massive amount of mist hugging the circuit too. We had a while before the briefing, so we took a walk around the circuit. I couldn't believe how much it felt like being at Centre Parcs. Just trees everywhere, and not a sound anywhere.

Once we got driving we realised the circuit wasn't nearly as worrying as everyone made out, but I can certainly see how it gets its name of the mini-Nurburgring.

There were literally 15 cars doing the whole day, and probably 5 out on circuit it a time. I've never seen such a relaxed track day. We came off the circuit early for lunch, and I even had a 45 minute sleep under the trees where we had lunch. There was just so much time to get out on the circuit, I didn't feel rushed at all (like you would at Brands Hatch say).

The car felt great and suited the circuit really well. We got speaking to another guy in a Caterham race car. Only a 1.6 engine but he was so fast. We wend out and did a session with him, but I was just trying to drive the car too hard and he ended up passing me quite easily. He was a much better driver than he would let on, and I enjoyed lapping with him and taking his advice on techniques etc.

There was also a tannoy announcement for someone who knew about computers as the photographer has a problem. I spent about 1/2 hour helping him out, and as a thank you he gave is a CD of all of the pics he took of us on the day. I'd call than win/win :)

Steve who came with us took a load of videos, so I made a little video of the day.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Childhood dream, but should you meet your childhood heroes?

Last week I took a Ferrari F430 Spider for 3 days. I took on a well known supercar club as a client, and as a perk of developing their database system software, I have access to their amazing fleet of supercars which is just perfect for someone like me.

I only told a select few people about it until I was sure it was going to happen, but then held off telling anyone again as I thought turning up in a supercar would be quite a cool surprise.

I also owed one of my best friends a birthday present, so I told him to take the afternoon off work, but didn't tell him why. I got to London first thing in the morning for a meeting, and then headed over to pick up the F430. After being shown around the car, I was then asked to take it around the block to make sure I was happy with it, and then I set off back to my house.

I planned to drive with the roof up just to avoid attracting too much attention in an unfamiliar car in a busy environment, but it was so hot that idea was thrown straight out. I left the roof down and was loving it. A couple of roads away and I was already amazed by the car. The noise is just superb. I noticed that at 3k and slightly more than normal throttle opens a valve which literally doubles exhaust noise. It was so pleasing to do.

Unfortunately I got stuck in a load of traffic and it took me about 2.5 hours to get home, so I headed straight to Kriss' place. He looked pretty surprised when I turned up and couldn't wait to get in. We took the car for a nice drive to a pub, had some lunch whilst I told him about my new perk, had another extended drive back, and then dropped him home.

I made lots of excuses to just go and take the car out. Eventually I stopped coming up with excuses altogether and decided that, "I'm going out in the Ferrari" was good enough. I experimented a bit with the different modes, and Race Mode gave the car the best feel. It was the most responsive, although it allowed the car's rear to move a little, you never got into any trouble. CST or "Schuey mode" as it's affectionately known, took off all of the help except ABS, so naturally I didn't do too much experimentation in this mode in a car that's not mine, but you can feel the difference, especially when the ground is less than perfect.

Video of race mode here

I spent a lot of time with the car over the next few days racking up quite a few miles. As a young'un the Ferrari and Lamborghini models are always the best of the toy cars you have, and always the most prominent posters in your room. Did my first drive of a Ferrari live up to its expectations? Yes.

I just have to work harder because I need a supercar in my life. Sure the Nissan GT-R I have on order will be nice and definitely "supercar" in performance terms, but the exotic nature of the Ferrari is something I just have to buy into as soon as I can. During the 3 days I couldn't have asked for better weather, and really didn't want to give the car back!

One thing I did notice is the amount of people who "don't notice" the Ferrari drive past them. Of course, they do notice it, but they hate to give you the satisfaction of looking. They forget you have mirrors though, because the moment you pass them and think you can't see, they are all over it, looking as much as they can. I just found it quite funny :)

I'm really looking forward to taking the Gallardo Spyder next to see how that compares with the F430.

Full album can be found here:


Friday, 12 June 2009

New Electro mix - Stink 182

It's been a while since I've done anything on the CDJ1000's and people keep asking me when I am going to do another mix. It's nice to know they are appreciated, which inspired me to do another one.

This is a collection of electro house tracks. Some old, some new, but all carefully put together to create a nice flow from start to finish.

Two thirds of the way through the mix I was at that difficult point of deciding whether or not I should squeeze an extra track on and still keep to 80 minutes (CD Length). Eventually I did, but the result is that some of the last mixes are brought in earlier than I would normally start, so they sound a little heavy at times. The plus side is that you get to enjoy "Starwaves", which I didn't originally intend to include.

Track listing:

1) DJ Pierre - Destroy This Track (Seamis Haji Remix)
2) Future Funk - Wildberry Tracks 2008 (Jerome Isma-Ae Original Vocal Mix)
3) Shakedown - At Night (Seamus Haji Remix)
4) D.Ramirez & Dirty South - Shield (MastikSoul Remix)
5) Sebastien Leger - The People (Eric Prydz Remix)
6) Adam K & Soha - Question (Original Mix)
7) Wolfgang Gartner - Wolfgang's 5th Symphony
8) Jean Elan - Killer (Jean Elan Mix)
9) Alex Metric & Sick Rick - Space Hopper
10) Deadmau5 - Ghosts N Stuff
11) Goodwill & Tommy Trash - It's A Swede Thing
12) Gold Ryan - Clean Track
13) Esoterik & Kirk Degiorgio - Starwaves (Spirit Catcher Remix)
14) Funkagenda - Breakwater - (EDX's Ibiza Sunrise Mix)
15) Sebastien Leger - Majuro

Download here (Right Click -> Save As):
Frosty - Stink 182

If you enjoy the mix then please leave me a message :)


Friday, 5 June 2009

Nurburgring June 2009

As a fairly last minute thing, I went off to the Nurburgring with Andy to meet several others out there. Originally we were due to go on Friday, but then Andy had an interview for a new contract, so we decided to go on Saturday first thing and catch the 8am ferry from Dover to Dunquirk.

The story of how we got from Leatherhead at 6:45 to Dover at 7:40 in order to make the 8am ferry and avoid a 2 hour wait for the next one is not really one for the Internet, but it certainly kick-started the holiday. Once on the ferry, the idea is to make a B line for the breakfast bar otherwise the queue gets massive. 2 breakfasts, a sea view, and we'll be in France in a couple of hours. The Dunquirk port cuts about 50 miles off the journey, so it's quite a good way of crossing.

We saw several nice cars on the way through France and Belgium, and a couple even ended up at the 'Ring with us. My favorite was a yellow Gallardo Spyder who gave us a wave.

On the way down, Sam had driven her Audi S3 over a breeze block at the Brunnchen viewing car park, and broken an auxiliary water pump for the turbo. Luckily an English-speaking German had waited with them to translate what Audi Assist were saying. They then took her off to the nearest Audi dealer where it was fixed. Excellent service.

Once in Germany, the last 50 or so miles of the trip and all superb and the mountainous roads and scenery is fantastic. I photographed it, but it's really hard to make it come out well. You'll see what I mean if you ever drive through it yourself though. During the German country roads, Andy and I decided to make out own Fast & Furious trailer which you can see on the left.

We got to where we were staying (Haus Marvin) and checked in. We were told that because of our late booking (3 hours before) we would be in the guest house next door to our other friends, but this was no problem at all. Haus Marvin is such a nice place to stay. It's around 1.4 miles from the 'Ring entrance, but really quiet, friendly, and very much like renting your own house instead of a hotel.

Once we dropped our stuff off we headed to the 'Ring to meet the others. Munch, Alex, Scott, Sam, and Jaymond. What I was surprised about on the way in was the sheer number of Megane R26.Rs around. I did worry that most of the owners of these cars would all buy them and never track them, but I counted no less than 6 just driving into the place! It's nice to see them being used properly.

Andy bought 4 laps as he wanted to do the trip on a bit of a budget, and we went straight out for a lap which felt really good. Unfortunately the track suffered a lot of closures, so there was a lot of waiting around. With lots of us there though, time passed fairly quickly.

I then headed out for a lap in Jaymond's Smart car. He wanted someone to come along who knew the circuit, so I jumped in with him just to give him an idea where he was going. We got overtaken by a Police car on the circuit. We didn't realise it, but he was going to tend to an accident just ahead of us at Eschbach. When we got to the accident we were asked to stop which was a bit unpleasant, since there was 1 car and 3 bikes all smashed. One of the bikers was not in a good way at all. He was laying completely still and they had a neck brace on him and were supporting his head. Eventually we were told to move past carefully.

We heard the biker died, but I'm sure these were just car park rumours as always. I very much hope they were anyway since it's never nice to see. Unfortunately, bikes always come off worse.

Apparently, a couple of the bikers saw a racing Porsche dropping oil and felt this was the cause of the accident. The Police came over to talk to the Porsche owner who is a 'Ring regular, which turned into a bit of a which hunt as everyone crowded. There was no oil though. The car seemed mechanically sound.

The rest of the day was very much the same, more closures and not much driving. We called it a day, got back to the rooms, and then headed out for dinner at a great restaurant called Pinochios down in Breidscheid. They do massive pizzas for virtually no money. For me though, the best thing about meal times is weissbier (or white beer). I love the stuff. Not as much as Alex does though. He ordered 4 litres of the stuff as photographed!

What's so nice about evening times is the cars that drive around and park up. There are always plenty to look at. We sat opposite a new Titanium coloured GTR with a really cool number plate as pictured We spent a bit of time there, had a few drinks with out food, and then went off to paint the ring.

I drew a mural for Sam, which featured an Audi logo (which Scott had to draw for me), and then a breeze block to commemorate what happened earlier with her car. Then we drew a giant thumb and a face. This was spawned from when Andy gave a lady a "thumbs up" earlier to express happiness instead of use our limited German, but Scott pointed out it was about an inch from her face when he did it, so that was "documented" on the 'Ring too :) After a bit of messing around we then headed back to the hotel as it was getting late.

The idea was to wake up early on Sunday and head to the 'Ring as TF started at 8am, but Andy and I didn't even wake up until around 9:30. We got up, showered and got ready, had breakfast, and then met the other guys at the circuit. Andy went straight out for a lap, but once again the circuit got closed due to an accident.

A group of girls were in the car park promoting a "Fast & Furious" style car event that was to be held at the GP circuit and the loud music and dancing was very poorly received by the average Ringers, so we told Scott that if he went up to them and had his photo taken with them, we would buy him his steak at the Pistenklause restaurant. Well he didn't disappoint (see photos). The track was shut more than it was open today, so we headed off to a jet wash to clean the cars, and then have some lunch at a really good cafe which is literally under the bridge at Exmuhle. It's cheap, and really good.

Sam was unsure of the circuit, so I did lots of laps with her just telling her what was coming up next, which became known as "Frost-nav" :)

Sam let me drive her car which was really nice of her. I would normally say no, but since I didn't have my car there I thought I would, so just put in a gentle lap as I didn't want to damage anything. Andy took Sam's car out, and towards the last third of the lap had locked horns with a Subaru. Andy really wanted to get past him, but the extra weight (4 of us onboard) made it difficult. It was very funny to watch though.

Once the circuit closed we went back to out rooms quickly to freshen up, and then to Sabine's parents restaurant (Pistenklause) for fillet steak on the stone. It was up to its usual high standard. We stayed there for a bit, and then headed down to a bar in Adenau for a few drinks to finish the evening and reflect on the day.

Monday was a national holiday for the Germans so there was literally a whole day of TF available. Andy and I had of course overslept again, but so had the others so we made breakfast with the others, put some sun cream on, and headed to the 'Ring. Thw weather was scorching hot and the car park seemed a lot quieter as a lot of the weekenders had gone home. Today promised to be a much better day than the previous two.

I did a few more laps with Sam and Andy, then the rain came in and the circuit closed due to an accident just as I was due to go out and do a lap with Alex in the 205. I really wanted to see how his car drove, but the rain spoiled that. There was so much heat in the ground though, so once the rain stopped the track dried really quickly. We went out for a lap and I was really impressed with the Pug. It doesn't really drive like a hot hatch and I was suprised at how precise Al could be with it. It could do with another 20bhp though as the hills are its only downfall. A very well sorted car though.

I then went out for another lap with Sam, and then she lat me do another lap in her car. I drove carefully once again, but still had lots of fun. The S3 really drives nicely. Scott filmed the lap which I'll be posting up in the near future. After this it was back to the Pistenklause for more steak, and then out for drinks again. Today was a much better day than the other two in terms of driving.

Once again, Andy and I overslept, but Sam had stayed in our room also so she too became a member of "Team Oversleep" that morning too. We had breakfast and then met the others. Jaymond was taking some really good photos of Alex's 205 and they were at a viewing point near Hoe Acht so we met them there. Once the shoot had been done we started the journey back which took no time at all.

On the way, Andy (who is a big of a connoisseur of the 80's music period) dug deep into the collection and treated the neighbourhood to one of his particular favorites. "Enjoyment for everyone" he exclaimed, but no one enjoyed it more than he did (see below).

Not having my own car there really didn't drag like it has before, and the closures were a pain, but did not cause too much of an issue as I was with a really great bunch of people, so plenty of laughter etc. between closures.

I can't wait to go back, and I'd quite like to do it again in the Evo before it's sold. In reality though, I think I want to drive the Megabusa there more :)

Full photos of the trip here:

Nurburgring June 2009

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Anglesey trackday 17 May 2009

On Saturday Matt and I had booked a track day at Anglesey. With the recent arrival of the trailer, we can now take the Westfield to some more distant places since we don't have to rely on the weather being nice in order to drive the Westfield there.

Anglesey is a coastal circuit in north Wales, and the only thing putting me off was the forecast of nothing but heavy rain from Thursday to the following Tuesday. There was not even a window of dry weather, and we then found out that Anglesey do not have any pit garages. I have been looking forward to doing a wet track day for a long time, but not when there is nowhere to shelter. Once you're wet, you stay wet, and with nowhere to shelter I got Matt to call up Circuit Days and see if we could take a credit not for another day.

They explained that with so many kit cars that attend, they do not allow cancellations unless they are over 7 days before the event since no one would turn up if the weather looked bad. This is fair enough, so on Saturday we made a few tweaks to the car (routine maintenance), and then loaded up the trailer and tools.

We headed down to Jonny's house who was coming with us in his BMW 135i, and bringing up 2 of his friends. Around 2pm we left Jonny's and then headed up. Matt and I had covered the car with a waterproof sheet over the cockpit so the inside of the car would stay dry in the rain that was certain along the way. We tried a basic car cover on the trip before to Oulton Park, but we failed miserably. The air got underneath within just a few metres, and we drove under a mile at 25mph and the car cover ballooned up and we thought it would take off, so we abandoned it, and luckily it didn't rain.

This trip was different though - we KNEW it would rain, and heavily, so the second go at weather gear (codenamed WG2) had to work a lot better. The sheet was wedged under the bonnet, and then just covered the cockpit - the idea being the air would pass over it and hold the sheet down, as opposed to WG1, where the air got underneath and blew it up.

We had about 5 hours of driving ahead of us, and once onto the M25 the cover looked pretty good - certainly much better than the old one. However, within a few miles, the sides and rear started flapping about loads. We were tempted to pull over and fix it, but we decided it wasn't going anywhere, so we made it to Toddington Services on the M1 after about 1 hour and fixed it there.

Jonny had a really good idea. The front was fine, but he punched a hole in the cover at the sides, wrapped the cover around the roll cage, and then cable tied it. We did 2 each side, and then one at the rear. Any air that did get under the cover could easily escape out of the rear, so no pressure would build up at all. High pressure in - low pressure out. We code named this WG2.1 since it wasn't a completely new revision, but just modified a little. Jonny did an excellent job, as it stayed on perfectly.

Many miles later the weather was still looking fine, that was until we arrived at the RAC control centre on the M6 when the sky turned BLACK and just opened up. The rain was so heavy that a few cars had pulled over as they didn't deem it safe to drive, but WG2.1 looked as stable as ever. We thought that a puddle might have formed on top though so we planned a stop once in Wales to remove the puddle on the cover.

The rain didn't last long, and blue sky was ahead so we carried on into Wales. My girlfriend went to uni in Wales and always told me how beautiful it was, but I just thought, "How good could it be?" Once we arrived on the A5 I was just amazed at how beautiful the drive was. Rock faces right next to you, amazing scenery, vast hills, and everything so green. The rest of the journey seemed easy since there was so much to take in.

The plan was to drive along the A5 and then do a lap of the "Evo Traiangle" which is a favorite road section of the evo magazine staff that joins up into a triangle. Unfortunately it was raining though, so we decided to leave the Busa on the trailer and press on, so we only drove one of the 3 sides of the triangle.

We arrived at Bangor Travelodge around 9:30pm and it was pouring with rain. It looked like none had made it into the cabin though which was brilliant. We stopped at the petrol station next door first so we didn't get wet. We locked the Busa to the trailer, covered the entire car with the car cover used for WG1 (it works just fine at stand-still), and then parked up in the car park. We had something to eat, watched the rest of the Eurovision Song Contest (the Norway song was useless but hey, you can't control the politics of international voting), and then went to bed.

Waking up the next morning, the weather showed that Anglesey was the only place that wasn't going to get rain. We made our way to the circuit and a few miles away it started to rail heavily - so much for the weather report! We got to Anglesey and left the Busa on the trailer covered up to avoid it taking in too much water. The weather was terrible, and nowhere for the cars to stay dry. Circuit Days said it was fine to use the MG (the tow car) if we wanted to. We did the sighting laps in the MG so we would take in the track, and then the rain started to ease. No one else seemed to care about keeping their cars dry though. Caterhams with open tops etc. were just left to get soaked! Maybe we were worrying too much.

The rain stopped and the circuit was soaked, but this was ideal for me as I really wanted to try it out in the wet. I have been looking forward to a wet track day for a while now. I did the first session and it was exactly how I imagined it. We softened off the suspension damping and headed out. You go into the corner carefully and apply smooth steering lock, and then when you power, do it smoothly. If the car is pushing too wide in a corner, you can just dab the power and it will bring the rear round really nicely. You can't go fast, but it's really great fun guiding the Westfield through the corners. I did about 8 laps, and then came off to let Matt have a go.
He had a good time too, but was heavily frustrated that he just couldn't go the pace he was used to going. The rain had stopped though and there was a definite dry line forming, and the sun was out.

I couldn't believe how beautiful the circuit was. After Peel corner, the view over the sea with the sun out and the mountains in the background was just breathtaking. Without doubt the best views I have ever experienced from a racing circuit.

On my second session, the track was mostly dry but wet in places. I increased the pace massively from my last session, but still managed to run out of grip in places, so kept my pace to a reasonable level. Once I came off though the circuit was almost bone dry.
We decided to firm things up to the settings we like on the car, and Matt went out with one of Jonny's passengers and absolutely destroyed the circuit. He came in really hyped up at how much speed he was able to carry compared to the last session.

Whilst Matt was out Jonny took me out in the 135i with the new brake setup we had just fitted, and they performed brilliantly. Jonny drove very well indeed. He's a lot smoother with the 135i than he used to be in the Clio, and the car handles extremely well given its size, and the fact it's totally uncompromised on the road.

I then took Jonny out in the dry in the Busa and had a fantastic session. The car handles so well and was definitely one of the fastest cars on the track. That took us up to lunch, so we headed out to get some petrol.

After lunch it started to rain again. Matt and I managed a few more sessions each in a mixture of wet and dry conditions. The rain was not heavy so sometimes would dry very quickly. We sat in the car between sessions with an umbrella which keeps the car dry and was a lot like being in a tent.

Once we reached 4pm the rain was not letting up so we put the car on the trailer and put WG2.1 back on. As soon as we had packed everything up, the sun came out, so Jonny and his passengers headed off, and Matt and I stayed to watch the track for a little longer before we left.

After 15 minutes Jonny rang to say a woman had pulled out on him at a junction (totally her fault) and caused quite a bit of front end damage to his car. The car looked pretty bad but it's all superficial stuff. The only problem was it had cracked the radiator so the car could not be driven home :( He did everything he could to avoid it, but when someone pulls out on you on a wet road there is little you can do! We drove to meet them, waited for the recovery truck and then headed off. The car didn't look too pretty, but a new bumper, a new bonnet, and BMW's finest bodywork staff will have it back to brand new condition in no time. Not a great end to the day.

Anglesey is a brilliant circuit though. It's a very long drive, so next time I would stay there for an extra night and spend some more time in Wales. There are plenty of good roads to be found, and lots of scenery to take in. Looking forward to the next trip too.

Photo album of the trip can be found below:

Anglesey trackday 17 May 2009