October 2012


Nothing really conclusive so far about the oil level drop on the Subaru. There's no evidence of a significant leak, so its pointing towards either a sudden appetite for oil, which would be a concern, or the garage simply didn't top the level up properly after they changed the oil. Their advice is to monitor the level for the next 3-4 weeks and see if it drops. If it stays the same, then the garage has offered to replace the oil free of charge at the next service, to reimburse me for the oil I had to buy, as it means they didn't top the level up. Can't say fairer than that. I've still not fitted the Whiteline drop links on the Subaru's front anti-roll bar, so I'll see if I can get that done this week. I'm travelling quite a bit at the moment, mostly to customer sites, so the mileage is racking up at a fairly alarming rate. Last week I was up in Lancashire, and I came across a great road, from Hebden Bridge, to Colne, which took in some really twisty and narrow country lanes. Not the best roads for throwing the Legacy around on, but fun all the same.

View Larger Map


One of the front anti roll bar drop links sheared on Saturday as I was driving around a roundabout. Made an almighty twang sound which made me dip the clutch and look in the rear view mirror for bits of car on the road. When I checked the car later I spotted that the offside front anti-roll bar drop link had disintegrated, so on Sunday I removed it and I've ordered a set of Whiteline heavy duty drop links to save the problem from ever happening again.

Next job was to check the engine oil, as the car had travelled 2000 miles since it was serviced three weeks earlier. I was shocked to find that the dipstick was bone dry! I had to buy a 4 litre can of 5W30, which cost me £55.00. and it took 2.5litres to bring the oil level up to Max. I've spoken to the garage and they are concerned that the oil filter may be leaking. But theres no oil on the driveway where I park the car, so I can assume its either used the oil, or the garage never filled it up properly after they drained it. Its going to be inspected on Thurdsay.


The final nail in the coffin for the World Rally Championship ?
Ford withdraws works support for the WRC team


I went to Santa Pod on Saturday, with my 75year old father for his first taste of drag racing. We got there around 10:30am, I paid my £25 for a wrist band, and we warmed the Fiesta up ready for her first Duratec powered attempt at the quarter mile. I'd already removed the rear wing, to reduce the drag on the car, raised the rear tyre pressures, and checked there was some fuel in the tank, and I then made my way down to the end of the queue. My first run was a cautionary 13.56s, my second a 13.74s and on my third and final attempt I ran a 13.41s @105MPH, which the datalogger recorded my quickest ever 0-60 of 5.1 seconds.

The axle tramp that started at Loton, was getting progressively worse, so much so that even moving forward in the queue resulted in the dreaded tramp. So my third launch was my last attempt, as I didn't want to break anything. I'll drop the engine and box out the car, and make a proper subframe to support the underside of the engine, not to bear any weight, as the engine and box are already suspended on the M-Sport mounts. But I need to fit some mounts underneath to arrest the fore/aft movement under accel/braking.

During my last visit in 2004, I ran a 14.44s with the Zetec 2.0 engine, so I'm quite pleased about the >1second improvement, however, I reckon another couple of tenths could be shaved off with less camber on the front wheels, the axle tramp cured, and a little more determiniation.

This is the data table from the RaceTechnology datalogger, showing the 0-60 times on the first column
Santa Pod performance table

The results for the Midland Speed Championship are now on their website. I finished first in the 2.0 Saloon Libre Class, and 29th overall. Congratulations to Fred Currell who finished first overall in his Audi S4 Quattro.


I've been making some more changes to the website. I've now converted several of the images to what are called CSS Sprites. This is a technique used to reduce the number of 'fetches' that a web browser needs to make to display all of the page content. The six images on the top left of the page, which refer to our Facebook page, Youtube page, etc etc, were loaded as six seperate images. I've joined the six seperate images in to a single vertical 'sprite' PNG file, and I've used CSS to show each image. That is, the CSS refers to the sprite image, and says display the 48x48 pixel image, starting at coordinate X,Y. This results in the web page loading one single image (the sprite.png file), and the browser then showing each seperate image held within that sprite, thus making them look like six seperate images. Sounds complicated, it isn't in reality, but it does definitely speed up the loading of web pages. I've done the same for the smaller 24x24 pixel images that appear at the foot of the page in the 'Find us on...' section, so in total I've reduced the number of fetches that the page required from 12 to 2.

I used a tool called Page Insights from Google, to establish how my pages can be made to load more quickly.
I've used http://csssprites.com/ to create the single sprite image from the various small pictures.
And I read this article on CSS sprites.

I've also modified the .htaccess file to enforce expiry dates on the various components delivered by the website. When you visit a web page, the browser checks if a picture or style sheet has changed. Without the ExpiresActive setting, the browser assumes that the components are new, and always downloads them. This modification seems to have made the biggest difference to the browsing experience for the site, and should make the biggest single improvement to the download times.

The section added to my .htaccess file:
ExpiresActive On
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/png "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType text/css "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/pdf "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/x-javascript "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access 1 year"
ExpiresDefault "access 2 days"

Never stand still is one of my many motto's, so if there's no work to be done in the garage, you can be sure I'm focusing my skills elsewhere :D

The Subaru Legacy Diesel was serviced on Monday, and flew through the MOT for the 2nd year. She now has 59,500 miles on the clock and goes from strength to strength. The amount of soot that is produced when I accelerate after cruising on the motorway is still a little alarming, but it proves useful when you want to make a quick getaway from some tailgating low life.