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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Part Three - McLaren Technology Centre

OK, here we are.

It's 6pm on Friday, there's a queue of traffic ahead as we waited to enter the grounds of the McLaren Technology Centre.  You had to be on another planet not to know that Lewis Hamilton was crowned the World Champion in 2008, taking the points he needed at the last race of the season in Brazil.

Following a competition run by Vodafone (the title sponsor of the McLaren racing team), I, along with 299 other people were invited to visit the home of McLaren, and see where the 'magic' takes place.

This was an unprecedented opportunity to enter the confines of a centre of excellence. A place which is clean, tidy and represents an organisation that is totally focussed on winning.

Once inside, with a drink (non-alcoholic of course) we wandered the main boulevard; the cars beckoning us into their home.  Professional photographers were on hand to take pictures of us with the Championship winning car, and trophy; having a go at beating the clock in a pit stop challenge; or even standing on the top step of the podium, with Lewis and Heikki.

Then there were the workshops.  The work areas; almost goldfish-bowl like, behind glass, the workers busying away, as we stood in awe.
Cars stood, on their plinths, their insides on show.

We were also treated to snacks and drinks in the staff canteen. Except, this is no ordinary canteen.  Every detail thought through carefully.

The Star in the Formula 1 Car arrived, driving along the main path to the front entrance. The sound of the engine, permeating the large windows, as he 'roared' towards us.

When Lewis Hamilton stepped out of the car, he was greeted to shouts and cheers from a very appreciative crowd.

After an interview on stage, talking about the 2009 season; and once the lucky 20 were selected to a private meeting with the World Champion, Lewis re-appeared to launch the latest Vodafone promotion; Vodafone 360.

A few more questions and he was gone; off to prepare for this weekends Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi.

We were left to have a final wander, stare wide-eyed at the extensive trophy cabinets and cars, before we were taken back to our cars.

It was an unforgettable, money-can't-buy experience.

I hope I've managed to convey the excitement.  If you want to know more, then drop me a line.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Part Two - Brooklands

A short walk from Mercedes Benz World is the home of British motorsport - Brooklands.

Excuse me if I copy from their Trail Guide:

"Brooklands is unique.  The World's first purpose-built motor circuit, constructed at Weybridge, Surrey, by wealthy landowner Hugh Locke King in 1907, was more than a great sporting arena.
Brooklands was the birthplace of British motorsport and aviation and the site of many engineering and technological achievements throughout eight decades of the 20th century.

The museum displays a wide range of Brooklands-related motoring and aviation exhibits, ranging from giant racing cars such as the 24 litre Napier-Railton (see picture), to a unique collection of Vickers/BAC built aircraft - Wellington, Viking, Varsity, Viscount, Vanguard VC10 and Concorde."

The museum is located in one corner of the race-track, inside the Members' Banking, the steepest section of the track, nearly 29ft high, before it curves on to the Railway Straight.
On the right is a picture of a 1924 35HP Long Chassis Tourer from Aston Martin.  
This particular car was rescued from scrap in 1939, and it's chassis used for a tractor for the Home Guard during WW2.  It has since been restored to its original condition, one of only two vintage Aston Martin tourers that 'survive'.

There is also a Grand Prix exhibition, including this McLaren Honda show car from 1991, as driven by Ayrton Senna.

Which leads me very nicely onto the next part of the day.

The purpose of my journey from Manchester to Woking.

Our visit to the McLaren Technology Centre, and a chance to see reigning Formula 1 World Champion - Lewis Hamilton.

You'll have to wait until tomorrow though!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Part One - Free Text Friday

"Ladies and gentleman, please give a huge, warm welcome to the current Formula 1 World Champion, Lewis Hamilton...!"

Wow! Was I really here? This sort of thing never happens to me.  I never get to do exciting things like this; well, not without paying for them!

Let me take you back to the beginning, which wasn't long ago.  Only a couple of weeks in fact.

I, like millions of others, received a marketing email from Vodafone, inviting me to register for free Formula 1 text updates for the rest of the season.

Nothing amazing there, and since they were free, I accepted.

What I had failed to notice, or at the least, register, was the line at the end that said all registrations to Free Text Friday would be entered into a prize draw, to win a trip to the McLaren Technology Centre.  The Mecca for McLaren fans worldwide.

So, it was with amazement when I got a text message telling me I was one of the chosen few (hundred!) and the date was set at 23rd October.

Now; I live in Manchester.  McLaren are based in Woking.  A not insurmountable journey, but a long way to go for 3 hours, on a Friday evening.  I called my dad, who also enjoys his racing, and asked him if he'd like to join me.  We then arranged for a day out that would be the envy of many car enthusiasts.

First stop Mercedes Benz World, in Weybridge.  It's what can only be described as a super-sized showroom, with service centre.  Except, it's on 3 floors, and houses historic Mercedes Benz cars, restaurant and cafe, as well as the opportunity to experience Mercedes like never before, on their own track.

This S 65 AMG (on the right) has a price tag of £155,844. 7G-Tronic, 7-speed automatic; 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds.  I ordered two!!

There were also some older models on display; which made for some nostalgic viewing.

Across the road is Brooklands.  The world's first purpose-built motor racing circuit, also at Weybridge, was built in 1907.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you all about it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lewis Hamilton - F1 Overtakes

Before I post my next blog about my visit to McLaren, here's a taster of what Lewis Hamilton is all about...


Last Friday was a dream day out.  Well for motor-racing and Formula 1 fans anyway!

After being selected as a winner by Vodafone, I (along with 600 others) was invited to visit the McLaren Technology Centre, and to see Lewis Hamilton.

Wow! Amazing!  A real, money-can't-buy experience.

I'm going to make this story last, and break it into small chapters, the first of which will appear tomorrow; but here's one photo, just to give you a taster.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day - Climate Change

I signed up to take part in Blog Action Day because I believe we can all do our 'bit' for making the planet a cleaner, greener place to be.

It's seems whoever you talk to, everyone agrees that action needs to be taken, but when it comes to it, no-one does. People always think that someone else will do something, but, if we all take that attitude, as usual, nothing will get done.

There has been plenty of preaching in the past, from companies telling us how we should cut down on car journeys, stop flying in planes... you know the kind of thing.

There is another way to look at this.  Instead of telling us how we could save the planet, why not tell us how much we could actually save in pounds, shillings and pence? (OK, just pounds and pence!!)

By not owning a car, we could save on insurance, tax, running costs and fuel. 

"Not practical" many people respond.  I agree.  I travel to work, and it would be almost impossible not to drive.  However, I have stopped using the car for short journeys.  I'll take the bus - it's convenient and saves the hassle with parking too.
"But the bus costs money?"  Yes, it does, but not much, and the tank of fuel in my car will last longer between refills.

Then there's the train.  There are some terrific bargains to be had, if you can book in advance, plus the facilities are not bad these days.  I'm beginning to sound like an advert for public transport!!!

If you have to drive, do it economically.  Slowly does it, and the fuel will last longer, and you'll be less stressed when you arrive.

What else?  Well, there's the cost in the home. 

Heating, lighting, television - there is so much that consumes power, how can we reduce the overall burden on our bank balance as well as the planet?

Turn off the TV properly - that little red standby light only serves to draw attention in a darkened room.
Sky have already taken the initiative by placing the Sky box into standby at 11pm (if not in use) and still programmes will be recorded.  That's a saving.

Heating - OK, so we're approaching winter, and even I like to be warm and cosy, especially after a day at work, and driving in the dark cold nights.  But consider only having the heating coming on up to an hour before you get home.  Why heat an empty house?

Also, if it's just you, wear a warm jumper.  I'm not being stingy here, it can make all the difference, and I don't see why I should pay my hard-earned crust to the fat cats at the energy company.

As for washing - the powder companies are stressing the use of lower temperatures.  If you're clothes aren't heavily soiled, then go for it.  In reducing the temperature, you also reduce the amount of time the machine needs to be on; a further saving.

Lights too. Turn them off when you're not in the room.  I'm a stickler for it, but it makes sense.  Most of us are taught it when we're younger, and now we pay the bills, we understand why.

Also, keep curtains closed, where possible, to help retain the heat.

So, can I derive a 10-point plan for saving money and the planet?
  1. Walk wherever possible - it's good for you too
  2. Use public transport
  3. Drive slowly to preserve your fuel - the longer between fillups, the more you'll save
  4. Turn off the air-conditioning in the car - that will also save fuel
  5. In your home, switch off unused appliances at the mains
  6. Keep curtains closed, to help retain the heat
  7. Only put the heating on when you're at home
  8. Turn off lights when not in the room
  9. Wear a jumper - you can then turn the heating off a little earlier
  10. Wash clothes at a lower temperature - it'll also save time.
 I know that not everyone will agree on all of these, however, as a talking point, it's a start.  But, seriously, even if you only consider half of the above measures, it will have a positive impact, both on the environment and your bank balance.

Thanks for reading.  You can find out more, and read other peoples views at

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Films made in 3D are gimmicks. Discuss.

Wow! My last post really set the cat amongst the pidgeons!!  Not only through the comments, but verbally as well!! Lucky I have broad shoulders!!

Apparently 3D films are not gimmicks!!  Having said that, why are the only films made in 3D aimed, quite squarely, at the children's market?

I'm not sure a deep, thoughtful film, or action / thriller would have quite the same impact if it were made in 3D.  The audience would be too busy putting on and taking off the 'goggles' at the relevant sequences; and, I think miss much of the film in the process.

So, whilst I am the first to try new technology, and applaud the film-makers for doing something different; until I can sit in the cinema and watch a film, without having to (a) wear special glasses and (b) looking for the on-screen markers to tell me when to do so, then I will watch, and hopefully enjoy, the 2D version.

You're welcome to comment further.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Disney Pixar - UP

Adventure is Out There

What a delightful film.  Once again, Disney and Pixar have delivered.  This is the 10th outing for the animation studio, hot on the heels of Wall-E, Cars, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc etc.

"Up" is the story of Carl, an elderly curmudgeon, who refuses to leave the house he built with his wife, Ellie, as a huge building project takes place around him.  After a lovely, and moving, 10 minute intro to the film, the adventure gets underway.

Enter Russell, the boy scout, who needs his "Assisting the Elderly" badge, and has a hard time convincing Carl to let him help.  When he does, things really pick up apace.

As we've come to expect from Pixar, the story is told on many levels, the adults getting as much from it as the children.  It's also the first Pixar film to be released in a 3D version.  I saw the 2D, and to be honest, whilst I could imagine where the 3D sequences would be, it's not necessary.  I still feel that 3D is a gimic.

The animation is outstanding, the sets, lighting and artwork all perfectly realised, the characters are well-formed and the soundtrack (again, Michael Giacchino) is lovely.

Pixar are on the 'Up' again, with the recent 3D release of Toy Story.  Toy Story 2 is due in the New Year, and later next year will see the brand new Toy Story 3.

You can see the trailer here, and if you like the picture at the top of this post; it's unique.  I created it on the 'Up' website.  Why not create your own?

Finally - when you go to see the film, don't be late, there is a Pixar short, shown just before the main film, which is wonderful.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The new Doctor Who logo

The BBC has released the new Doctor Who logo, which will be seen from next year, when the new series is launched.

What do you think? Like it?

Monday, October 05, 2009


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