Leaf’s wet weekend at Silverstone

Just returned back from a very wet weekend at Silverstone and despite being soaked, I was extremely happy to see some fantastic racing action at the track and afterwards a live music show.

I stayed at my friend’s house on Saturday night, but getting there from London was tricky. I left my house quite late in the afternoon and took the ‘tube to Victoria. Brought my rail ticket (which was quite pricey despite being a single…) and when I looked at the boards, I couldn’t see my train… I thought there was a direct route from Victoria station, but no. Every train went to a complete different direction and I had to change on route, to get to my destination… That would take too long I thought so I asked the train conductor if there was a direct train leaving from London. He pointed me to Charing Cross, so I pop back on the tube, arrived at the station and got on board the right train.

The journey took a while and I sent my mate a text message letting him know I was running late. By the time I arrived, it started to rain… He picked me up in his car and we immediate went back to his place to get away from the bad weather.

Spent the night at his house and he told me to expect a long day tomorrow. And we needed to get up quite early to get there (Around 5am)… This was tricky for me, as I usually go to bed really (and I mean REALLY) late on Saturday night – around 2am if I’m feeling tired… So getting up at the crack of dawn – on a Sunday – would be difficult for a lazy person like myself! But strangely, I did get up on time (Perhaps I was feeling exciting to going to Silverstone for the first time?) and after eating breakfast, we made our way to Northamptonshire and towards the Home of British Motor Racing.

Alas, I feel asleep in the car as my mate was driving up the motorway… It was a two and a half-hour drive, but it didn’t felt like it as I was drifting away in my sleep…

I awoke to find Silverstone lashing down with heavy rain! “Great…” I thought as we stepped out of the car heading for the entrance. Luckily I had my coat and ‘monkey’ umbrella to give me shelter from the foul weather.

As we made our way around the track, the racing cars were just out on track preparing for the race. I could see the ‘spray’ and the noise was just sensational. Not as loud as a Formula One car of course, but still ear-splitting loud…

We went across a bridge on the start/finish straight, as this allows you straight into the pits and paddock area. Usually you will find security guards patrolling here so that no one can enter the paddock without the right pass. But there wasn’t any.

We were now in the paddock at Silverstone and this is where the racing cars are prepared and if you are lucky, can spot the drivers themselves. We decided to hang around here looking for familiar motor racing faces to sign our race programme or ticket. In the space of one hour, I met several legendary racing drivers like Nigel Mansell, Emerson Fittipaldi, René Arnoux, Patrick Tambay, Stefan Johansson, Christian Danner, Andrea De Cesaris, Jan Lammers and Hans-Joachim Stuck! Impressive, non? Got my race ticket signed by these racing stars and at the end of the day, I was left with a priceless and special ticket pass (see above).

After that, we made our way to different parts of the track to get the best vantage point. Silverstone certainly looks very different when watching on TV… You can’t beat the experience of being there.

We were later joined by others and we decided to watch the main Grand Prix Masters race at Club corner (at the far end of the track). Perfect for taking photographs as the fence wasn’t that high up spoiling the view.

The race itself was entertain. Saw many overtake moves in the hour-long race, and we even saw Nigel Mansell spinning twice at Club! In fact, Nigel Mansell experienced a mechanical problem with his ‘red 5’ car meaning that he was unable to race against the others… It later transpired that the differential had broken on his way to the grid, causing an uneven distribution of power between the rear wheels and making the car impossible to drive…

Such a shame to see Mansell out before the race but at least he put on a good show by spinning three times on one lap!

The race was won by Eddie Cheever, who drove a near-flawless drive in tricky wet conditions.

The 48-year-old American took the lead on the third lap, passing Stefan Johansson the long way around at Club Corner (which was spectacular), and quickly built a sizeable lead.

But by lap eight he was fending off the advances of Eric van de Poele, who had scythed his way through the field from the back of the grid after sitting out Saturday’s qualifying session.

The pair waged an entertaining duel throughout the remainder of the race, van de Poele initially looking faster but making several mistakes in his attempts to find a way past.

On lap 12 the Belgian swept around the outside of Cheever in a bold move at Bridge, only to be repassed soon afterwards when his rear tyres started to overheat on the drying track.

Van de Poele tried to counter-attack but, after two more 360s(!) at Woodcote and Vale, had to settle for a worthy runner-up spot.

Poles Position driver, Christian Danner recovered well from a first-lap spin at Luffield to claim the final podium place.

After the Grand Prix Masters race, we made our way to a different viewing spot. We watched the F3000 race at Corpse (the first corner) and at the entry to the Becketts complex (the fast S-bend). The sight, sound and the speed of the cars were breathtaking.

At the end of all the track action, we went back to paddock to see if there were any other stars whom we can get our stuff signed. And we did with spectacular results! Murray Walker was there. Nigel Mansell again! Susie Stoddart (DTM woman driver) and Andy Rouse (legendary touring car driver).

As the day drew to an end, we were treated to a free and lively concert performed by Katie Melua. Her voice was amazing as she sang her songs from her hit album ‘Piece By Piece’.

So a wonderful day out at Silverstone. Meeting the star drivers and enjoying the live music from Katie were the highlight. Okay, the weather was horrible but it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.

Eternal Sunset Podcast

Last Friday night (August 11th), we tried to record our Skype conversation as a podcast for Eternal Sunset. But it didn’t go according to plan as Skype was experiencing lagging and we didn’t prepare enough material to talk about… so instead we just improvised some stuff, talked briefly on Chase HQ and it’s gay references and in the end, we started singing!

But in the end, it was a good way of rehearsing for the real thing as we should have planned what to talk about and have a script to follow. Only Mike and I were brave enough to talk while everyone was listened in. We should be more relaxed about this and don’t feel the pressure or become shy just because it’s recording…

In fact, once the recording session was over, everyone was more confident in themselves and the conversation was more interesting/amusing than the podcast itself! But at least, Yas recorded around 1 hour worth of (good?) material to edit on. Looking forward to hearing it later!

Anyway, we need to work on the next – proper – one with some topics to talk about and include some sound effects to make it more entertaining.

Off to see some ‘Masters’ this weekend

This weekend I’m going to see some fantastic motorsport action at Silverstone, the home of British motor racing. I have received my ticket in the post and will go along with a college friend to experience the racing action from the Grand Prix Masters.

What is Grand Prix Masters I hear you ask? Well, it’s one-make motor racing series featuring retired Formula One drivers (who are all aged over 45 years old). It’s similar to the Golf Masters or Senior Tour in tennis for retired players who haven’t lost their competitive spirit.

The first race event, at the Kyalami circuit in South Africa took place on 11-13 November 2005. The second race at Losail International Racetrack in Qatar on 28-29 April 2006. Both races were won by Nigel Mansell, the 1992 Formula One World Champion.

The list of drivers taking part is impressive including Riccardo Patrese (team-mate to Mansell at Williams in 1991-92), Pierluigi Martini (Minardi driver in the late 1980s and early 90s), Emerson Fittipaldi (the two-time F1 and Indycar champion), René Arnoux (veteran French racing driver who won 7 Grands Prix), Patrick Tambay (another ace French driver) and many more racing legends.

As for the cars, the drivers race identical open wheel race cars, which are based on 1999 Reynard Champ Cars. The chassis are built by English constructor Delta Motorsport, and are powered by naturally aspirated 80-degree 3.5-litre V8 engines produced by Nicholson McLaren. The engines are based on the Cosworth XB engines previously used in Indycar Racing, and according to the series organisers produce more than 650bhp at 10,400rpm with over 320lbft torque at 7,800rpm. Still pretty quick but not as fast as a F1 car obviously…

Gearbox operation is fully manual, and controlled by a contemporary paddle shift arrangement. I like this feature as it allows the driver to manually change gears and put more skill into the driving.

Grand Prix Masters promoters boast the 650kg cars will reach 200mph. They claim that the combination of stable aerodynamics and considerably simpler technology than is in use in modern Formula One will better demonstrate driver skill and promote overtaking. Which I approve of, I like to see some real ‘wheel-to-wheel’ race action.

Electronic ‘drivers aids’ (such as traction control, power steering and ABS) are absent, and brakes are made of steel rather than carbon (as is used for many contemporary single seater race cars) to increase braking distances. Great news as this aid overtaking and focuses more on the unique talent of the driver.

The racing series sounds great and the opportunity to meet all the racing heroes is a dream come true! I will have a blast at Silverstone on Sunday.

More details on the Grand Prix Masters can be seen here on the official site: http://www.gpmasters.com/

Autosport goes British Racing Green

This week’s issue of my favourite motor racing magazine, Autosport, features the familiar colour of British Racing Green on the masthead. The ‘green’ is to signify a momentous sense of occasion in British motorsport and in this particular case, the first Grand Prix win for Jenson Button last Sunday.

I have always enjoy reading this magazine as it provides me all the news with detailed analysis and fasinating stories on my favourite sport. I’ve never miss a copy and this week’s edition is a cause of celebration for Button’s maiden victory.

Photoshop challenge

On the Eternal Sunset forum, there are two threads challenging members to create some adverts for the Nintendo Wii and possible film posters featuring video game characters. Well, this looks like fun I thought and spent the next few minutes producing my masterpieces in Adobe’s Photoshop CS2.

My first image is a believable press advert to promote Nintendo’s new console, Wii. Playing around on the idea of a ‘hands on’ approach with the Wiimote and the slang for pleasuring yourself… In addition, included one of my favourite character in Super Monkey Ball. Nice.

The second image took me a while to do – finding the required elements on Google, adjusting the filter features in Photoshop – but the end result looks fantastic. Based on a movie I like. 😉

I wonder what everyone wil say about my Photoshop skills?

Villeneuve leaves BMW Sauber by mutual consent

Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve has left BMW Sauber with immediate effect in a move which could bring his Formula One career to an end.

The French-Canadian’s contract was due to expire at the end of this season, but has been terminated by mutual consent.

Vileneuve was replaced by test driver Robert Kubica for last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix after the Canadian told the Hinwil-based squad he was not ready to race following his shunt at Hockenheim.

But it now seems that the crash hastened his exit from the team, although he still had five races to run on his contract.

BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen said in a team statement: ”Jacques has performed well for us this year, scoring the team’s first grand prix points in Malaysia.

“He has made a significant contribution to developing the newly formed BMW Sauber F1 Team and the performance of the car.

“However, after Jacques’ accident in the Hockenheim race the team decided to review its options for next year, including assessing Robert Kubica in a race environment.

“Our decision to look towards evaluating our driver line up has naturally impacted Jacques’ position for the remainder of this season.

“We fully understand that it is difficult for Jacques to maintain his natural level of commitment in circumstances of uncertainty.

“We respect his position and wish him well for the future.”

Such a shame to see Villeneuve go as he was driving so much better this season compared to 2005. I will miss the Canadian’s driving in Formula One and his unique, fun personality. I wish him all the best and would love to see him drive a race car again…

…And if the rumours are true, we could see Jacques racing in NASCAR, like a certain Colombian who left Formula One last month. Two F1 stars racing on ovals? Oh yes.

Victory for Jenson Button – at last!

Finally Jenson Button has won a Grand Prix. After 113 starts in Formula One, the Honda driver charged though to take his first win of his racing career and it amazing considering he started the race in P14 on the grid!

The Hungarian Grand Prix was filled with incidents and action throughout the 70 lap race. It was the first time in 21 years that the Hungaroring was a wet race and the first rain-effected Grand Prix this year. Wet weather conditions always provide a real challenge to the drivers and can often provide top racing entertainment. And in this case, the Hungarian Grand Prix was the best race of the season and it surprising to say the least considering how difficult to overtake on this narrow and twisty track.

Anyway, at the start McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen led the 22-car field from pole position. The Finn was leading in the early stages, but lost the lead to the flying Renault of Fernando Alonso (who started in P15). Then on lap 26, he collided into the back of Vitantonio Liuzzi’s lapped Toro Rosso.

His team-mate Pedro de la Rosa was close behind and witness the shunt between the two cars. Kimi retired on the spot – bringing out the Safety Car – while Liuzzi returned to the pits and was out of the race.

After the Safety Car period, it was a race between Alonso and Button, who both drove superbly from the mid-pack to the front. Alonso held track position and was looking towards a well-deserved victory (to keep his lead in the championship) but after his second pit-stop, his Renault suffered a rare driveshaft failure… And Alonso was out! Now Button is in the lead and the Brit held on to score an emotional victory.

As for Michael Schumacher, who started the race ahead of Alonso and Button on the grid (P11), the German was struggling for grip with his Bridgestone tyres. In fact, he was lapping a couple of seconds slower than the leading Michelin runners (Raikkonen, Button and Alonso). The wet tyres (intermediate) from Michelin was working a treat – offering grip and confidence to the drivers.

Michael Schumacher was overtaken by his championship rival Alonso not once, but twice! The first time for race position and the second time, to lap him! In the later stages, Micheal’s Bridgestones was wearing out and he was losing grip. This allowed McLaren’s De la Rosa to close up and challenge the Ferrari driver for a podium position. The Spanaird had the grip – after changing to groove (dry weather) tyres when the track was drying out – and Michael was in a desperate situation to defend his race position. The McLaren driver made his move on Michael at the chicane, but the seven-time World Champion refused to give way and cut across the chicane. Michael had to let him through but didn’t… A lap later, De la Rosa passed the Ferrari with a clean move at the same corner and he was now in second position.

Now it was Nick Heidfeld’s turn to overtake the slow Ferrari. Nick was watching closely at the Perdo and Michael battle in his BMW Sauber. Once De la Rosa was passed, it was his turn. He went down the inside of the Ferrari at the same chicane but contact was made! Michael turned into him (possibly?) and came out the worst. Heidfeld gained the track position – third – and he went on to finish. But Michael had damaged his 248 Ferrari and had to retire…

With Michael and Fernando not scoring any points this weekend, the championship battle remains the same – 11 points between them – and will resume the duel in Turkey in three weeks time.

But a fantastic day for Jenson Button. Not since the Australian Grand Prix three years ago when David Coulthard was victorious (in his McLaren) has a British driver won in Formula 1. Sixty-three long races past and it so nice to see a new winner on the top step of the podium. Jenson drove faultlessly from fourteenth on the grid. Avoiding trouble and incidents. Was setting faster laptimes than Fernando in the middle stage of the race and held on to a popular win. Will this be the first of many for Jenson?

Perdo de la Rosa finished his career-best with second in the McLaren. His only mistake was spinning during the formation lap! The Spanaird drove a solid race and can be proud of his achievement in the MP4-21. BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld came third and this was the team’s best result since rebranded as a BMW team.

Honda’s Rubens Barrichello finished fourth ahead of David Coulthard’s Red Bull Racing (P5) and Ralf Schumacher’s Toyota (P6). Polish superstar Robert Kubica drove an impressive race to finish in the points with seventh, despite spinning twice and damaging the front nose of his BMW Sauber! And in eighth, it’s Felipe Massa who had a frustrating time in the Ferrari. The Brazilian was struggling for grip. Spun twice and got lapped… At least he set the fastest lap as a small consolation.

UPDATE: Michael Schumacher has gained a valuable single point after the race stewards disqualified Robert Kubica’s BMW Sauber from the result. His car was found to be underweight…

Schumacher is now 10 points behind Alonso as we take a three-week break. Battle continues in Turkey on August 27.

Singing sensation

Today I purchased the latest SingStar game for the PS2 – SingStar Anthems – and judging by the 20-track available on this version of the popular singing game, I feel the music selection is by far the weakest in the series.

Take That featuring Lulu – ‘Relight My Fire’ (No thanks)
Pussycat Dolls – ‘Don’t Cha’ (What?!?)
Charlotte Church – ‘Crazy Chick’ (Err…)

The only tracks that I seem to be able to sing (as I heard it on the radio) are Scissor Sisters – ‘Laura’ and Queen – ‘Radio Ga Ga’ (Looking forward to see that amazing music video).

I still prefer the previous SingStar games, with my favourite being the original and SingStar Rocks! In fact, I have achieved some fantastic scores on some of my most-liked tracks:

A-Ha – ‘Take On Me’ (I can easily get 9,000 points on this 80s hit!)
Atomic Kitten – ‘Eternal Flame’ (I am so good on this one. 8,000 – 9,000 points)
Madonna – ‘Like a Virgin’ (Classic but tricky. 8,800 – 9,200 points)
Franz Ferdinand – ‘Take Me Out’ (My favourite. 9,500 points )
The Police – ‘Every Breath You Take’ (Absolute classic. Not a high score though… 7,000 – 8,200 points)
Nirvana – ‘Come As You Are’ (Fab song. 8,900 – 9,100 points)
Kasabian – ‘Club Foot’ (Around 9,000 points)

Impressive, non? And yet, I’m feeling a little disappointed by the reduced track list in the new game. Perhaps the PlayStation 3, with the ability to download new songs, can ‘relight my fire’ (sorry) as a singing sensation?

To be honest, I have been playing the excellent Guitar Hero more than singing. With rockin’ tunes and the ability to pull off amazing chords seems more rewarding for a ‘wannbee’ guitarist than a ‘Pop Idol’. 😉

Forum post > Walking Leaf’s blog

I have decided to upload all of my existing posts featured in the Eternal Sunset forums here on my blog. These will include all of my Formula One race reports, films, TV shows and other interesting stuff. I’ve noticed that there is a ‘post time stamp’ feature in Word Press, so I can post the articles in it’s original posting date.

Right, time to multitask with the ES forum, my blog and ImageShack/Flickr for hosting images. Will take a while…

Pixar’s take on NASCAR and Route 66

Just returned from the cinema after watching Pixar’s latest movie, Cars and I have to be honest, it’s not that great… Sure, the visuals and the CGI work by the talented Pixar’s animators are super impressive. In some scenes, it looked photo-realistic. The car models based on well-known, everyday cars like a Fiat 500, Porsche 911 and Ferraris look like the real deal. The landscape around the famous Route 66 (the road that goes across North America) is breathtaking and the atmosphere is just perfect.

But it’s let down by the story. You would have expected high standards from Pixar (especially after Toy Story and The Incredibles), but you end up feeling disappointed. It starts off with excitement and speed when we see the arrogant race car ‘Lightning McQueen’ (voiced by Owen Wilson) racing in a NASCAR-type race on the verge of super stardom. Then we get the middle part of the movie when the pace grinds to a halt… The story now focuses on the slow life at Radiator Springs, where McQueen is stranded after being left behind on the highway.

The red race car is sentenced to community service by Doc Hudson (voiced by Paul Newman) in order to fix the damaged road. During his time at Radiator Springs, McQueen discovers that racing is not important and that there are other significant issues in life – that of true friendship and helping out each other.

McQueen then returns back to the race track to win the Piston Cup in a three-race duel for the championship. At this point, the story returns back to the exciting and entertaining racing action.

In terms of the characters, the personality gives out as eccentric, loyal, friendly and charming. But I feel there is a sense of stereotyping. For example, the Fiat 500 is a typical Italian who loves Ferrari. The VW camper van seems to be a 1960s hippie. And as for Mater, he was quite amusing (in a disoriented state) but was slightly irritating.

The best performers were Owen Wilson in the lead character role and Paul Newman. It’s nice to hear the legendary actor providing advice to the young hotshot during the final race just like what Newman does in the real Champ Cars! (Paul Newman is a co-owner of the Newman/Haas racing team)

However, ultimately, the cast is somewhat unmemorable and lacking in diversity. Despite some guest voices from motor racing legends like Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Michael Schumacher and Mario Andretti. The UK version of the film features Jeremy Clarkson, leading motoring journalist and Top Gear presenter as McQueen’s manager, Harv.

Overall, I would say Cars is a visual masterpiece but lack the sophisticated comedy we’ve come to expect from John Lasseter and his team. In terms of comparing other Pixar films, this is better than A Bug’s Life but could not match the wonders of Toy Story. A good film, but not fantastic.