August 2001 ramblings

Wroughton airfield day, toe, blind van driver, starting problems, Seven Club meeting report, Quaife visit, PDA decisions, comparing Sevens.

Wroughton airfield day

I went to the Sylva Sportscar Register airfield day at Wroughton on the 17th. I got there early (it only took 50 minutes down the M4), and got chatting to a couple of nice Westfield owners who arrived even earlier than me.

Although it's fun to let the car off its leash occasionaly, Wroughton's not a particularly entertaining track. It's basically a series of straights joined by 90 and 180 degree bends, with the odd chicane thrown in to try and spice things up a bit. Saying that, the 180 corners were good fun when nobody was behind. I enjoyed going in hopelessly fast, and playing with the resulting under- and oversteer.

The open pit-lane worked very well. I never experienced more than about two cars ahead of me in the queue for the track, and it suits the way I like to drive on track. I didn't have many sessions, but each one was quite long (I did about 120 miles on the track).

I checked my tyre tread depths afterwards, and I'm getting close to needing a new set.

Inside (mm) Middle (mm) Outside (mm)
Front left 3.5 4 4.5
Front right 4 4.5 4.5
Rear left 3 2.5 3.75
Rear right 3.25 3 4

I don't think I can draw any conclusions from the wear pattern, considering that I've played with the toe settings, and there's a combination of road and track wear. But the rear tread is getting a little shallow, and the fronts are getting to the stage where they will be losing their ability to cut through standing water (given that there's not much car pressing them down). The search is now on for what to replace them with. This time I really am going to go for something stickier. The current front-runners are Yokohama A021Rs, because I know how well they grip, and they look like they should be OK in the wet. I'd really like to try some Toyo Proxes RA1s, but they aren't available in 14", and they don't seem to sell them in the UK.

Thursday 23rd August 2001. Link to this ramble.


A few of us have clubbed together to buy a cool little toe guage (a Gunson Trakrite) that's really easy to use - you basically just drive over it. I went round to Steve's the other week to try it out. Initially I had just over 2 degree toe in. The Caterham build manual recommends 0.25 degree toe out, so that's what we changed it to, and I like the difference. The initial turn-in is now lighter, but the steering weights up more as lock is applied. There's also more self-centring action, but the main thing is that the car feels more keen to turn in to corners. It's also no less stable at high speeds on the motorway.

When I get chance I will play with the geometry some more. Just going by eye, there looks to be way too much camber.

Wednesday 22nd August 2001. Link to this ramble.

Blind van driver

Any recommendations for tyres that are better in the wet than Yoko A539s? I had another prang at about 9:40 on Monday the 6th... A van pulled out in front of me, forcing me to slow down. The road was clear, so I pulled out to overtake him, but unfortunately he immediately turned right again in front of me (without indicating until the last minute, and he couldn't have checked his mirrors before simultaneously turning and indicating). I braked, but because it was wet, just skidded and eventually stopped when, after a short distance, I hit the side of his van. I think it was fundamentally his fault, but if I hadn't been overtaking it wouldn't have happened, so let's be charitable and call it a draw.

The damage has fortunately proven to be light - there's a hairline crack in my (shiny, new) front left cycle wing, and the wing stays were bent. The suspension looks and feels OK (confirmed by the toe check above). Also fortunately, the other driver wasn't bothered by the slight dent in the side of his (BT) van, so this one hasn't cost very much.

The two wing stays needed to be pulled down and out. I'd tried putting my back into it, with little success, so I called on Steve for some help. His ingenious solution was to use a lock-down strap, threaded around the hub (after removing the wheel), and a bolt stuck into the open end of the wing stay. Result: one perfectly positioned wing. Hopefully most of the scratches will polish out, and it will be nearly as good as new.

Wednesday 22nd August 2001. Link to this ramble.

Starting problems

I've fallen behind with these Ramblings, so this happened a couple of weeks ago, not the other day. Anyway, my car wouldn't start. It was fine on the way home from work on Thursday evening, but come Friday morning all I got when I turned the key was a loud electro-mechanical clicking noise (like a machine-gun). To cut a long story short, it was the battery that was at fault, not the starter motor or alternator. To make the story a bit longer...

Initial tests (ha!) lead me to believe that the problem was with the starter motor. I tried to find somewhere that stocked one before I removed it so that I could do the job all in one session, but failed. The only code I could see was stamped in white on black plastic at the front of the solenoid (77198H 43 95). On removing the motor I found another label. It was a Magneti Mareli but the code number had faded so much that it was just about unreadable (looked like M20/09 or M49 or M79).

I ended up having to order a new starter from Caterham. It was a Magneton, and the label on it says "CZ / 443 115 141 380 / 12V". It's completely different to the old one, indeed the solenoid is now at the bottom. If you ever need to fit one, fit the ali spacing plate over the studding before screwing it into the bellhousing, in order for the plate to clear the engine block. I don't think it would be possible to fit the plate after screwing in the studding. It's also very difficult to get to that nut to tighten it; I had to use Steve's cut down spanner that we had previously used to adjust my clutch cable.

Same problem.

I then did the tests I should have done in the first place:

James Whiting had a Banner in stock; fitting it cured the problem instantly. So, about £200 wasted on a new starter (although it does sound curiously cooler than the old one, and I've now got a spare). I later read on the Sevens list that the cheap alternatives are a Halfords HSM407 (£75 new, £50 exchange) or a Lucas STR543 (~£40 exchange).

Wednesday 22nd August 2001. Link to this ramble.

Seven Club meeting report for June

Added Steve Foster's report for the June meetings of the L7C North Hants. & Berks. area.

Friday 3rd August 2001. Link to this ramble.

Quaife visit

Simon, our departing area organiser, arranged a trip to the Quaife factory to see just what goes in to making gearboxes and diffs.

The evening didn't start out too well for me. About five minutes after I made the decision to take down the hood before leaving work, the heavens opened. I got wet. I put the driver's side tonneau on my lap. At first I smiled, but the rain just got heavier and then it wasn't funny any more. I was soaked to the skin. I aquaplaned doing only 30 mph in the outside lane of the M25. I moved to the inside, and it got to the point where I couldn't see the white line at the side of the road and I was praying the lorries didn't run over me.

Once there, the factory was quite interesting, but not as interesting as it would have been if I'd had a clue what they were talking about! One of the coolest things was the completely custom car which the "guvnor" drives in the GT series. Someone asked how it was doing, and they replied that it would be doing OK, if the engine spent as much time in the car as it did on the engine stand. This was particularly galling since the engine is the only part of the car which wasn't built or designed in-house. The guvnor also had a pretty road car in the same style. Initially I thought it was pointless going to the expense of designing your own car, but someone noted that the whole project was probably completed by apprentices, and people in their spare time. I suppose if you're paying for the time anyway (or it's free), then it wouldn't actually be all that expensive.

Friday 3rd August 2001. Link to this ramble.

PDA decisions

I've bought a Palm!

After a few years away from the fold, I've bought myself another Palm. I stopped using my last one (a Professional with 1 MB of RAM) when I got my Psion Series 7 early last year. However, since I got a laptop at work I've not used the Psion much, and I was really starting to notice the lack of organization in my life. The thing I always liked about Palms is that they are small enough to take everywhere, and this is even more true of the m505 that I have now - it's tiny!

I'd read many adverse comments on the web about the quality (or lack of it) of the screen, so I made sure to see one in the flesh before slapping down the cash. While it's not quite TFT laptop quality, I think the screen is brilliant, definately up to the job for a PDA. A few friends have Palm Vs, and the screen is far better than theirs. The one problem I did see on an example in a shop was with dust sealed behind the screen. Because of this I decided not to buy mail order, and bought from John Lewis instead to take advantage of their two year warranty.

Background research

I'm now planning to sell my Psion, although I don't think their recent announcement to pull out of the consumer market will make that any easier. As part of my search for the ideal pocket machine I took a look at the Revo Plus, and I was very impressed. The power that Psion fit into a package the size of a glasses case (with a decent screen and battery life) is amazing. The trouble is that it uses the same PsiWin synchronisation software as my Series 7, and frankly it sucks. Sync with a PC is one thing you shouldn't have to worry about with a handheld, and Palms are completely reliable on that front. PsiWin is more like Russian roulette, and it's mind-numbingly slow. I'm glad I didn't buy the Revo. I didn't think I would miss the backlight, but the m505 has me spoilt now - the backlight illuminates the Grafitti area too, which is great for bedtime playing.

I did consider a number of Windows CE devices (including the Compaq iPAQ), but I still don't think they are up to it as organisers. They may have great screens, loads of RAM, and play MP3s, but the capability and definitely usability of their datebook, address book, and to do list apps leaves a lot to be desired. Whilst the Palms may be inferior on paper, they make more of what they've got. Plus, they are smaller and if there's one thing I've learned it's that small is good. I'm much more likely to carry a small gadget around than one that is even slightly larger.


One of the other major things that attracted me about the m505 is that Palm have already demonstrated a Bluetooth module for it, and they have promised to release it by the end of the year. Next on the shopping list is a new mobile phone with GPRS, IrDA and Bluetooth, for internet access on the go. IrDA will do for now, and I can then switch to Bluetooth when the card arrives for the Palm.

Third-party apps

I've had the m505 for a week now, and I'm still in the phase of trying to find the apps that will stay on the Palm and become part of my life. Already on the definite list are:

There are also a few apps I'm trying out which might make it onto the definite list:

I'm trying to find a decent email solution. The standard Mail app has an 8 KB per message limit, which is silly. The supplied MultiMail SE can only download mail direct from an ISP, and I want to be able to sync with my desktop email. I've tried several other apps, including Eudora for Palm (which is hopelessly slow to sync). I've currently gone back to MultiMail SE, in conjunction with the MultiMail Conduit. It works, but there are quite a few problems, so I'm still on the look-out for something better.

There are lots of apps which I have tried and have decided aren't for me. Here's a few notables:

Palm Portable Keyboard

Grafitti is fine for the odd bit of text entry, but I've also bought a Palm Portable Keyboard for making notes in meetings. It's great - it's about the size of my original Palm when folded up, so I can leave it my bag until it's neeed, and it only takes seconds to set up. I find that solution much more useful than having the keyboard built in, because most of the time I only want to retrieve information, and losing the keyboard makes the Palm more pocketable.

Friday 3rd August 2001. Link to this ramble.

Comparing Sevens

I haven't written anything here for quite a while, so please excuse today's mega-ramble.

There's a lot of column inches given over to the wilder variants of Caterham, but they aren't what most of us drive. That was the thinking behind a recent, gloriously hot day at Curborough. I got to hammer it round the track in my car, and those of five good Sevening friends. You will have to watch out for the article in Low Flying, but let's just say that some of the results were quite interesting... If anything important gets trimmed from the finished article then I will mention it here. One thing that is unlikely to make it to print are the AP-22 logs for the 0-60 runs we did at the end of the day. I won't put them up now, because that would give away the cars involved, but I will do after the article has been published.

I also discovered that Curborough is ridiculously cheap to hire. It's much shorter than your average race track, but you could easily get together with a bunch of mates and hire it for the day, and it's much safer than your local roundabout for a bit of tail-out fun.

Friday 3rd August 2001. Link to this ramble.

This page is It was first published on Friday 7 September, 2001 and last updated on Tuesday 11 January, 2005.