First track day in my Exige S
I’ve been hanging back on track days whilst I appraise my businesses and prioritise expenditure, but come Wednesday of this week the desire to get back out on circuit again got the better of me and after a quick converstion with DaveP we booked on to Anglesey for the Friday. Dave’s S1 Exige Honda conversation hasn’t had much running time so he wanted to get some hours on it before the next race at Oulton Park.
An early start greeting me with rain
The prospect of my first day in the Exige in wet conditions filled me with apprehension, but what can you do, so off I set. Thankfully the hours drive west to Anglesey saw the conditions drying and a smile returned to me.
A bone dry track greeted us and after on of Johny’s (BookaTrack) entertaining briefings we were ready to get going. It was a sessioned day, 30mins alternating between novice and advanced. I was running in advanced, a gamble considering there were several sprint cars running as preparation for the weekend’s sprint competition.
For the first session I was all over the place. Driving the Exige is such a different experience to the CSL. The level of grip is outstanding. The Toyo A048’s work well from cold and the short wheelbase and mid-engined layout give the Exige fantastic balance in the corners, so much grip and allow the power to be applied much much earlier than in the some of the popular German track cars.
It takes some getting used to. Applying the power as soon as you hit the apex in many corners took several sessions to get use to.
Likewise the lack of weight allows the braking to be done so much later than in a heavier car. It amazed me how quickly the car could stop with its 2-pot front and 1-pot rear calipers. I am running Performance Friction PF01’s up front, Brembo OEM pads in the rear, SRF fluid and rubber lines. Even after 30 mins of 1 minute laps with two severe hairpins I did not get any brake fade whatsoever. The car is very poised under heavy braking, no twitching at all and its assisted by good engine braking.
I found myself initially braking too early and having to come off again. With increased trust I could brake later and later.
The circuit itself was short but great fun. Technical in its nature it also requires confidence to attack School bend. Its the fastest corner on the National circuit at the end of the start/finish. To be honest I struggled with most of the day.
With so little time in the car I didn’t have the confidence to attack the corner and power all the way through it. I gained about +5 mph during the morning, but no more gains until I did some laps following Dave in his S1 and then gained much more when Dave sat in with me in the last session of the day.
Dave’s car was having problems with water temps and he was only able to run in short stints, spending a lot of day doing this…
As always Dave didn’t let this dampen his spirits and its always a good track day when day attends :tu
There were some very nice cars there, a real eclectic mix as there is a sprint competition on the circuit this weekend. A northern Porsche Club were there with lots of different Porsche’s including a super-charged 944 that I spent a lot of time lapping with. Ninemeister’s 993RSR going really well.
There were no noise tests in the morning so I asked for one as I wanted to know what level the Quicksilver exhaust I have put on was. As I suspected it was 102db! So I think it will have to come off for a quieter solution.
After lunch I tightened up the front ARB to its stiffest setting and made marked difference. In corners it gave much more forceful resistance on the steering wheel but this was good as I could feel so much of the grip levels. I can’t imagine having a track car with power steering again. With power steering you lose so much of the information needed to extract the most from the tyres.
I filmed all the sessions and have plenty of footage to review my technique. During the afternoon I filmed a section when Dave first followed me and then we swapped over and he showed me how to do it He helpfully slowed at points to wait for me and was busy watching me in his mirrors at the end of School and nearly missed his turn, locking up a little.
The video is here… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pivD-C7QGyk
During the day I did get tyre squeal from the fronts, but no loss of grip or understeer. I believe it was mainly my inputs and in a small part to the factory geometry settings. I’ve deliberately stayed away from changing too much on the car before getting to know it well on circuit.
Many of us have spent lots of money buying all of the latest, greatest modifications without really exploring the potential of the car in its vanilla form. I now will take my time with modifications, carefully assessing whether the return on investment is there before spending money on such improvements. At the same time its going to be balanced with the potential of myself being able to obtain the perceived performance gain. There’s little point in spending ï¿½2k on suspension unless you are able to a) set it up to the conditions b) drive well enough to gain from it.
So for now I will get some basic geometry improvements in place as the next steps and work on my driving skills.
All to quickly the end of the day came. For the last session Dave sat in with me. Immediately he was able to help me smooth out some rough edges and gain time. Crucially he helped me get confidence in School and on the power in corner exits correct, thanks Dave.
Recognising I am a novice driver I have come away from the experience very happy. I still have mixed feelings about selling the CSL. I loved the car and it was a very capable car. But I am now convinced I did the right thing getting the Exige S. I am looking to develop technically and I believe the pureness of the driving environment of the Lotus will help tremendously. Sure 220bhp (for now ) is not exactly shoddy, but its so much useful once the car is setup for the exit well, something I am getting better at.
I believe time spent in a slower but better handling car will benefit me longer term than continuing to use high levels of power to compensate for poor technique. And once the technique is honed I will be quicker when returning to a more powerful car.
If anyone is considering a focus on technique I can whole heartedly recommend getting a Lotus, you won’t regret it.
Most importantly the Exige has now been christened with good amounts of track rubber