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17 Feb 2018

Bathurst 12 hour action










More action photos from this year's Bathurst 12 hour race. The great thing about the Mount Panorama circuit is that there are so many great viewing points. For Warren and I this our fourth year at the 12 hour race and we now have a pattern for our spectating. We start at the topside of the last corner and watch the start in the dark and then we migrate on the inside of the track to what was known as Caltex Chase on Conrod straight for an hour or so. Then down to the food area in the paddock for a bacon and egg roll and a coffee.
This year we then watched the race from inside the first corner for a while before driving up the mountain. Whilst at the first corner an Audi went straight on after the pit straight at the very second I was putting the camera into my bag. It hit the wall hard and made a big mess-another safety car . I missed it all. By the time I looked up the dust was just settling-literally.
We spent a few hours walking and watching from the top of the mountain then back down again and into the paddock for food area for some refereshment and a look at the action in the pits before watching the last hour or so from the first corner.
It's a big day out and it involves a fair bit of walking but it's much more fun than staying at home and watching the race live on Channel 7 and there was live timing on my phone on the 12 hour race website which gave all the race positions in real time.

15 Feb 2018

Too hot, too long...

Too hot for me

Some people are never satisfied. We hate the mild Australian winter because it is too cold and now when summer comes we're whinging again. But I reckon that we have some justification this year. It's hot and humid here on the Central Coast in summer-that's a fact. But not usually so hot for so long and with such day after day high humidity. Yesterday according to my electronic weather station it was 27ºC at 6.30am with  92% humidity. The water temperature in the pool at midday was 30ºC-hardly refreshing and the temperature in the shade was 35ºC
This couple were on the beach at Terrigal on Tuesday mid morning. It was so hot on the sand whilst I was taking the photo that I could feel the heat through the thick rubber soles of my sandals.
A cool change came through last night and it has lowered the temperature somewhat but it was only a very short respite and the temperature and humidity are already climbing this morning.
Our poor very old Himalayan cats are really suffering. I try to put the fan on them as much as possible but Phoebe who really has a thick coat is a very unhappy lady. Some people give their Himalayans so called Lion cuts in summer but ours just would not cooperate and they would be so stressed we would not attempt it.
I am almost tempted to say roll on winter.

Too hot for Phoebe

13 Feb 2018

On yer bike....



Most early mornings nowadays I see Riley, the unicycle rider, pedalling along the Terrigal seafront. A month or so ago he bought an all terrain unicycle so now he can venture off road. He tells me he has been unicycling for over ten years and that it is difficult to learn-a statement of the obvious-particularly getting on.
The sodium street lights put out a very pervasive yellow colour cast which I cannot fix in Lightroom so in a break with my usual practice I have converted the shots to black and white.

11 Feb 2018

Morning has broken....


Even more spectacular sunrise than usual at Terrigal, Central Coast of NSW, Australia today, 11th February. The watchers are not dangling on the cliff edge. It is above a lower ledge and quite safe. 
Photo taken with my LeicaX1. The perfect camera for an early morning walk.

8 Feb 2018

Safety car blues



A sight seen too often in the 2018 Bathurst 12 hours-the safety car board and a yellow flag.

One of the disappointments of last weekend Bathurst 12 hour GT race was the number of safety car deployments particularly in the first 6 hours of the race. Some of the deployments were to recover cars which had stopped out on the circuit due to mechanical failure but most were for accidents. The mixture of widely varying levels of driver experience, car speed differentials and the very demanding and unforgiving track leads to many accidents.
Going back 20 years or more they did not have the safety car system at Bathurst and when an ambulance or a tow truck was out on the track the drivers merely had to slow down on the yellow flags around the incident and as they passed the ambulance or tow truck. It was a very dangerous system.
Now as soon as an incident occurs the safety car goes out and picks up the leader and then leads the field around at a reduced pace until the incident is cleared. The disadvantage of the safety car system is that it bunches up the field so in an endurance race a driver can work up a decent lead and it immediately evaporates when the safety car comes out. Secondly the safety car introduces an element of chance in the timing of pit stops. A team can make a pit stop for a driver change fuel and tyres and next lap the safety car comes out and a rival team can pit under the safety car and lose much less track time.
I cannot see any alternative to the safety car system imperfect though it is. It has made the racing much safer. My only real whinge with the safety car process on Sunday was that sometimes it looked as if the safety car should have come off a lap earlier.

A very bad day at the Mountain.
The driver of this Marc sports car - an Australian special-had a really bad 12 hour. In fact he did not make the first lap ! He hit the wall up the top of the Mountain right after the start so we had the safety car out for the first racing lap. Imagine the atmosphere in this team's pit. All that effort and money to get the car into the race and this happens. Of course it may well not have been the driver's fault. He could have been nudged but that would not have eased the pain. But at least their Adelaide Panel Repair sponsor will come in useful - although I suspect the damage may well be beyond repair

5 Feb 2018

A great weekend


Just back from a really great weekend at Mount Panorama, Bathurst for the 12hour GT race yesterday. I had a really good time. The weather was kind this time unlike last year when we fried. It was cold first thing Sunday morning-see photo bottom-but warmed upto a very warm but not too hot day. The race was good although too many safety car deployments in the first half were frustrating.  We were eagery anticipating a dash to the wire at the end when 3 cars had a massive accident up the mountain and the race was stopped with 15 mins to run. It could easily have been a Porsche victory but when the race was declared the winner was an Audi R8 followed by a Mercedes AMG GT3 and two Porsche 911s. A good day for the Germans.
It was great to catch up with so many old friends and to make some new ones. Thanks to Justin Reed and Warren Starr-pictured below-for being such good company. As I was lying in the Royal North Shore Hospital last August barely able to walk after my major operation I would never have thought that 5 months later I would be walking all over Mount Panorama watching the 12 hours for all 12 hours and loving it. Thanks to every one who helped me recover so well.


I tried out a Lumix FZ1000 a-a camera apparently well suited to action photography. I did not take a Leica but I wished that I had. I came back with some good photos from the Lumix but as last year's photos show- see header photo for example- I would have done better with a Leica.

31 Jan 2018

Darkest Hour

I went to see the movie, Darkest Hour, at the cinema this morning. It is superb. Highly recommended.
The cinematography is stunning and so are the settings. You almost think that you are inside the palace in the Buck House scenes. Gary Oldman is quite extraordinary as Churchill. I felt that I was actually watching Churchill himself in a wartime newsreel. Surely an Oscar winning performance.
To me it was weird seeing the scenes and thinking how all this happened only 6 years before I was born.
When I first went to primary school in Putney in south London the school was brand new as the old school had been bombed and the area around the school was populated by prefabricated homes -prefabs as they were known-and bomb sites. I remember that even in 1955 they were still grim times but I did not appreciate the deprivation and terror my mother who stayed in Putney through the blitz had been through.
I had my personal encounter with Churchill or at least his coffin in January 1965. During my gap year between leaving school and going to university I was working at Barclays Bank Borough High Street branch in Southwark just over London Bridge. I had to work on the Saturday morning of Churchill's funeral and I was on London Bridge when his coffin was loaded onto a boat at the Tower of London and came down the river to Waterloo. See the photo below. I had bought a half frame camera to work that day. I think it belonged to my brother. I cannot remember the brand but I suspect it was either an Olympus or a Ricoh. Half frame gave 72 photos on a 36 exposure roll of 35mm film. I was using Kodak Plus-X film I can see from the negatives. It was probably in the camera when I borrowed it. Being London in January it was pretty gloomy and I force processed the film to push up the ISO or ASA as it was then known.
The slow passage of the boat carrying the coffin was a most impressive sight and all the dockside cranes had their jibs lowered as a mark of respect.
Now all the docks have moved way down the river so it is a scene which will never be repeated.
A few seconds after I took this photo a V formation of RAF English Electric Lightning jet fighters flew overhead and I took a photo of them over the flotilla. It is a great photo but I put the negative in a safe file and I have mislaid it!


My journey home that day took me my usual route by foot to London Bridge Station where I caught a train to Waterloo Station on a little back line. I then caught a train home to Ewell in Surrey where I then lived.
When I came onto the concourse at Waterloo I was surprised to find that my suburban train was on the next platform to the train which was carrying Chuchill's coffin and the funeral party to Oxfordshire where he was going to be buried in the churchyard at Bladon.
The funeral train departed just ahead of mine but we soon passed it and I took the photos below of the engine and also the wagon carrying the flag draped coffin which is just visible. Spectators are on the balconies of the public housing block behind the train.
So that's my personal connection to the Darkest Hour. The quality of the photos leaves a lot to be desired but they had a difficult birth and like most of us they are showing their age.


Photos are the IP of the author and may not be used in any media without approval.

30 Jan 2018

Dawn


Dawn at Terrigal Beach this morning 30th Jan. Another sizzling hot,steamy day coming up. Relief is forecast for tonight after a very long hot and humid spell which started so long ago that I have forgotten when.
We and the cats need a break. Lawns are brown, plants and people are wilting.
I am off to Bathurst for the 12 hour race this weekend. The great news is that the Bathurst weather for Sunday is forecast to be just 24ºC and sunny. A great relief after the last two weeks and the 40ºC+ temps we experienced there last year.

28 Jan 2018

The Pavlova makers


Granddaughters, Poppy and Scarlett, assembling our Australia Day pavlova on Australia Day -26th January. Pavlova is a traditional NZ and Australian dessert named after a Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who toured the two countries in the 1920s. It was invented in New Zealand but has been adopted by both countries. It consists of a meringue base layered with whipped cream and topped with a sauce and strawberries or as it is now out of the strawberry season raspberries and blueberries.
Here's Poppy below with the finished pavlova she helped assemble on Christmas Day.




19 Jan 2018

More Formula E


There are three structural components in a Formula E car. The monocoque from the front to the bulkhead behind the driver is from Dallara and is mandated - standard on all cars; as is the front suspension, all the bodywork including aerodynamic appendages and rear crash structure, and all four wheels and tyres. Behind the driver is the battery pack and control electronics which is a structural member. The battery pack and control electronics are also mandated and currently come from Williams Advanced Engineering. (Next season batteries with more capacity from McLaren Technologies replace the current pack.) Bolted on to the back of the battery pack is the motor(s), drive train (some cars do not have gearboxes because of the torque from an electric motor), and rear suspension, all of which is non-mandated - i.e. proprietary - and varies from team to team - some use single motors, some dual.

The battery pack is immensely powerful. Peak output is 200 kilo watts, which is a serious amount of power. This necessitates special safety requirements. Lithium batteries not only pack a punch but they also emit flames if pierced. So the inside of the battery pack is made of zylon which is 1.6 times stronger than kevlar. If you look closely at the Dragon car in photo 4 of my article you will see a green light on ahead of the cockpit and an obscured green sign on the roll hoop which says 'Green Light On'. This means the car is safe to touch. If any of the electronics go open circuit as a result of a crash the light turns red and the marshals must not touch the car until the electronics are made safe. 

The photo above which was not used in the article highlights the safety concerns graphically. Electrocution causes the hand of the person being shocked to lock - so if a mechanic gets 200kW through their hand they cannot let go of the car. In the photo the battery pack is being worked on. So not only is the mechanic wearing protective gear, but the rules require another mechanic to stand behind him with a yellow plastic hook - seen in my photo - which is used in the event of electrocution to literally drag victim off the car.  

They may not sound like racing cars but there is much of interest in a Formula E car, and I don't think the story about them has been told very well.

Next year - season 5 - Formula E has a new 'standard' car from Dallara  which is very futuristic.See photo below.
 Spark is the French company that actually services the teams - provides the parts to Dallara's specs. At Marrakesh one team shunted their car in qualifying and crushed the nose. The mechanic trotted off to the Spark shipping container/shop with a credit card and bought a new nose. They don't paint the cars, the colour schemes are all vinyl wrap applied with a heat gun to fit it to contours. Note the season 5 car does not use the controversial 'halo' adopted by F1, instead it uses a raised windshield.

16 Jan 2018

Electrifying Marrakesh-Formula E



I have never seen a FormulaE -electric racing formula race so I am not really qualified to comment on it but my brother went to the Formula E ePrix in Marrakesh, Morocco last weekend and he has kindly let me use his story and photos. Formula E is gaining traction with many of the world's leading car manufacturers including Porsche already entering or about to field cars in the series. Over to my brother's story.
 Crosby, Stills and Nash's 1969 Marrakesh Express famously sung the praises of "Colored cottons hang in air, Charming cobras in the square, Striped Djellebas we can wear at home" and half a century later that image of Marrakesh as a city agreeably stuck in a touristic time warp remains. Which could not be further from the truth. Yesterday I attended the Marrakesh ePrix at which the accompanying photos were taken. This is an international race for cars that superficially resemble their more familiar Formula One counterparts but which differ radically under the bodywork, because they are 100% electric powered.
 Formula E, which races in many major cities including Hong Kong, New York and Berlin, is a laudable attempt by motor sport to clean up its environmental credentials. The standard objection that electric cars require fossil fuel to generate their electricity is overcome by using specially commissioned generators that run on glycerine which is a byproduct of bio-diesel, to recharge the cars. The generators are transported with the cars and associated kit from race to race using transport that minimises the resulting carbon footprint. Other environmentally aware policies include limiting the number of team personnel at races and eliminating the lavish hospitality facilities that are a feature of Formula One. To cap costs and limit competitive advantage many parts are common to all cars, including the chassis (monocoque), bodywork and battery pack. View video of Marrakesh ePrix highlights via this link. C




The Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex in the Moroccan Sahara came on stream in 2016 and when completed will be the world's largest concentrated solar plantwith the potential to power one million homes. Marrakesh has a fleet of Chinese manufactured buses. Renault and Peugeot both plan to build electric vehicles in Morocco, as does Chinese corporation BYD which has a 13% share of the global electric vehicle market. One of the teams competing in the Marrakesh ePrix was NIO backed by the eponymous Chinese electric autonomous vehicle manufacturer, while the winning car came from the team of  Indian auto and technology company Mahindra - see photo below.
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As can be seen in some of the photos, 52% of the Moroccan population is under 25 and they are raring to go places. Preconceptions about charming cobras in the square and about the perils of majority-Muslim nations need to be ditched before the West is caught napping. And it is not just the President of the United States who is guilty of damaging preconceptions about countries beyond Western comfort zones. While taking these photos a Moroccan boy of about ten tapped me on the shoulder and proffered a bottle of water. I waved him away brusquely, thinking he was an urchin trying to make a few dirhams by selling refilled bottles. But he persisted and finally explained by sign language that the bottle had fallen out of my daypack a few minutes earlier.