Monday, June 20, 2016

Petrolhead ? Indulgence

After watching most of Le Mans over the weekend, I'm currently watching another kind of motoring ...

Definitely better than what's outside the window !
Yep. Spotted this one on the Facebooks this morning and it's too good to not steal/borrow/recycle. Although, I think there is a trace of sun outside there ... Could be my room light reflecting in the window again.

Yep. Le Mans was pretty good this year. One thing they've introduced is a Slow Zone, effectively a virtual safety car where if there is an incident, the cars go through the incident area extremely slowly (for race cars capable of 200mph+). It lets the marshals deal with the incident with less fear of someone else being caught out, lets them get cars out of gravel traps and back on track and lets them fix the safety barriers.

Would something like this mean that a driver like Max Bianchi would still be with us ? (He crashed into a tow vehicle that was extracting another crashed car - was he speeding under yellow caution flags ? We shouldn't speculate, that doesn't change anything). Maybe he would be - the slow zones definitely make for better racing as they can keep going with the ZOOM on the other areas of track without the SnoreFest which is a full track safety car.
Oh and I was putting the Lego Le Mans car together as well. That's the basic chassis together, with engine firewall ahead of the engine and rear suspension/differential assembly. It has pistons ! That move !

Lego Technic has changed a fair bit - when I built the Lego Technic car maybe 30 years ago, Lego hadn't evolved much past the rectangular blocks. There were pins and axles but the special moulded components like the hubs at the back there, weren't in the Lego component set.

Just like the real cars ! Hybrid race cars have ruled Le Mans since they were allowed in a few years ago. They aren't as advanced as the Formula 1 hybrids (they have restrictions on the amount of hybrid energy they can use) but they're getting there. I think the Porsche has a MGU-H, which harvests power back from the turbo.

I was anticipating some car-carnage at Le Mans and the Formula 1 this weekend. From Le Mans, the weather conditions were bad enough (heavy rain) that the teams didn't have enough time to get all of the practice and qualifying in. The Formula 1 was on a circuit which was a mix of old roads and new roads, where some of the old roads were very tight.
I don't think that one is coming apart any time soon. The pins that hold it all together are pretty intricate. The back section even folds back on itself to fully frame the engine bay. Here it is with the mechanicals in and the bodywork starting to appear.

Notice the shadows and the potential daylight ... I was getting more and more tired on Saturday and didn't trust myself with adding more bricks, clips and gears (as demonstrated by me missing whole pages and finding out later!), so I gave in and had a short sleep/nap. Yep, still not managed to watch through a whole Le Mans. Must be getting old !

How was Le Mans ?

It has its usual classes, LMP1 for the fastest cars, LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype) for not quite so fast non-road race cars and 2 GTE classes for very fast road cars (Aston Martins, Ferraris, Ford GT40, Corvette, Porsche). The GTE classes are divided up into Pro and Amateur with the drivers allowed to race being controlled more strictly now than in the past. Remember I said about an incident which cost Ant Davidson a few fused vertibrae ? He's still racing but the idiot who caused the collision isn't.

The race started under safety car conditions due to heavy rain making the track dangerous but that cleared up after an hour. But ... what's this ? An Audi in the garage with major difficulties. A blown turbo ... and they get it back on track within 20 minutes. It's miraculous how quickly they can repair the damage on these cars. And because it's Le Mans, a blown turbo doesn't mean end of race, it just means they're a few laps behind and still in with a chance.
Quicker even than the time it took to put the Green Machine together.

Modern Le Mans cars are built like that, they're built modular so they can be repaired and put back in the race quickly before they drop out of contention. The stricken Audi finished a few laps behind and ... because of certain other events, almost finished on the podium.

Lots of incident in the race, lots of changes of leadership and position. A very even race all told, with the leading 3 cars being on the same lap until ... (I'll get to that) with the Audis keeping them honest. The lead in LMP1 was changing with every pit stop and on the track too as cars were in different states of tyres.

Toyota were incredibly confident and while it looked like they didn't want to jinx it by celebrating early, you could tell the excitement bubbling up from under inscrutable Japanese engineer faces. I wanted them to win too !

How cruel it was then that with only 5 minutes to go, after 23 hours 55 minutes of racing, that the lead Toyota (with a Porsche only a minute behind) would suddenly break down. There are no prizes in Le Mans unless you cross that finish line after 24 hours with a car that can run under its own power. And the Toyota broke down just after crossing that finishing line.

Heartbreak for Toyota, jubilation for Porsche and their surviving car. And very close finishes in LMP2 and GTE as well. No wins for Aston Martin this year - boo hoo.

After that kind of epic racing, the Formula 1 with its processional nature and foregone conclusions was a bit meh (as usual).

I've been watching Top Gear too, I'm warming up to it. Matt Le Plank is thawing out a bit (although his section with the idiot in the muscle car around London last week was stupid) and the other presenters are more than earning their place too. They had a Tesla Model X on this week and I think I know who I will move to after Lexus don't do it for me any more ...

Alternative fuel cars like the all electric and the hybrid are definitely the way forward for me.

Hybrids are the best of both worlds at the moment, with electric power supplementing the fuel engine. But ... they do have an extra cost and the mechanicals take up a lot of space and add weight. You have two propulsion systems in the car, with some of the bad bits of both. Like a big lump in the front that takes up space and, in mine, a propshaft that means it's a 4 seat and not a 5 seat.

Electric cars, like the Tesla, are hugely interesting. They're solving the range problem, they're getting massively more acceptance now (because cars like the Tesla go fast) and because they're just electric, there are none of the compromises on interior space that come with the hybrids.

Perhaps soon ? Maybe 5 years in the future ? We shall see.
Saying that though, I could make the Lego Le Mans car electric now, albeit just for the doors and engine cover.

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