Lotus Exige / 340R track day

Seeing as Lotus comes in for a fair amount of flack, I thought I would post something positive about them!The recent Exige / 340R track day was, in the opinion of everyone present (both attendees and Lotus personnel), a great success. In the end, there were 5 Exiges and 7 340Rs, split into 3 groups of 4. The instructors, who did a sterling job, were (from memory) Dave Minter, Alister McQueen, Tony Shute, and Ken Brockie. The event was very well run, the food was excellent (both at Lotus and at the hotel), and a great time was had by all.Just to get Exige owners going, Jonathan Stretton, the Track Manager, very kindly allowed his privately owned Exige to be used to demo a prototype short shift mechanism and ultra-low-ratio gearbox. I don’t know about everyone else, but I have always regarded the gearshift to be the weakest aspect of the Elise / Exige, it having a rather long travel and a not very positive feel. The prototype was brilliant! The shift is much shorter, and very positive, and the ultra-short-ratio gearbox really make a difference to the acceleration as well as to the top speed that could be reached on the circuit. Mich�le Evans, the Accessories Manager, was present to gauge reaction, with the threat that they could make the accessories catalogue if there was sufficient interest. There was! Every Exige owner (myself included) were threatening Mich�le with credit cards, although she said it was too early to talk about taking orders. However, Mich�le has promised to keep me posted, so watch this space�And just for a bit of 340R baiting, the 340Rs weren’t any quicker than the Exiges! [image]http://www.exiges.com/ubb/NonCGI/images/icons/wink.gif[/image] OK, OK, I’ll come clean: the track did vary between wet, damp, and almost dry, which wasn’t ideal for the 340R’s slick-like tyres. However, somebody from Lotus who knows very well (whom I won’t name), did say that even in ideal conditions the 340R is only marginally quicker round Hethel than an Exige. [image]http://www.exiges.com/ubb/NonCGI/images/icons/smile.gif[/image]Finally, if there are Exige owners out there who haven’t had their cars on a circuit who are interested in knowing how mine stood up to being thrashed round a circuit for 5 x 20 minute sessions, post a reply and I’ll provide some details, although in a nutshell the answer is: extremely well.So, my heartfelt thanks to all involved for putting on a great event. Well done Lotus.[This message has been edited by Tony Whitter (edited 27 March 2001).]

Of course I may only speak for myself - but I’m rather sure all of us are interested in your in-depth experiences - especially, if I remember correctly, because you are (or were) a professional racer. So go ahead and post!Cheers, Marcus


I’ll gladly provide some detail, but first let me clarify one thing: Yes, I have done a bit of racing, I’ve even raced alongside world champions, and have had a modicum of success, but I am very definitely an amateur. Accordingly, I don’t claim to be an authority, just an enthusiast with a bit of experience. Also, to be meaningful to other people, I think it would be helpful if I outlined the spec of my car and the conditions, so that people know the context of my comments. Accordingly, my car is a six-month old Chrome Orange Exige with 1,300 miles on the clock and the following mods: o 340R competition seats & 4-point harnesses (with harness pads - call me a wimp if you want!) o Competition brake pads o Braided brake hoses o Castrol SRF racing brake fluid o 190 BHP engine upgrade o Sports exhaust o Sports catalyst o Carbon-fibre air box o Air restricter valve & secondary air filter removed o Competition splitter (although a standard splitter is fitted at the moment) o Radio fitting kit (but no radio) o Factory alarm / immobiliser o Alcantara trim o Mobil 1 Racing engine oilWhile running in, I limited the revs to 3,000 RMP for the first 600 miles, and then increased the revs by 1,000 RMP per 100 miles, until it reached 1,000 miles, when I had it serviced. All mods were done at this service. Since, it has been driven hard but sympathetically, although it does live at 8,000 RMP whenever possible! [image]http://www.exiges.com/ubb/NonCGI/images/icons/grin.gif[/image] In terms of the track conditions, the weather was overcast, the ambient temperature was cool but not cold, and the track itself started off wet but got drier as the day progressed, to the point where it was virtually dry.So, how was the car? The acceleration was as you would expect for the spec, although it did appear to be slightly slower than the other Exiges, all of which had cat bypass pipes and / or 1,000 to 2,000 more miles on the clock. The owners of the higher mileage cars seemed unanimous that their cars were getting quicker and quicker as they put more miles on them, so I’m not sure how much of the difference was down to the mileage and how much was down to the cat bypass.Fuel consumption wise, it’s anecdotal evidence only I’m afraid, but there did seem to be a big difference in fuel consumption between the 177 BHP cars and the 190 BHP cars, with the more powerful cars drinking fuel significantly faster.Temperature wise, the car was very well behaved, the water temperature hovering around an indicated 86 degrees most of the time. Even after coming off the circuit, while the car was left running to absorb the heat soak, the temperature only went up to around 94 degrees before falling back to below 90.The brakes were really impressive. Granted my brakes are non-standard, but the pedal feel was as firm at the end of the last lap as it was at the start of the first, despite fairly hard use. There was absolutely no fade, no softening of the pedal (which is very firm), and no smell. They really felt as though they could go on all day. This was in stark contrast to at least one of the other cars that I tried, although I don’t know how good the brakes were on that car before the event started.Handling wise, the car generally went exactly where you pointed it, and was superb in the combination corners. When pushed to the limit, the car did understeer, but in a gradual and progressive way. Trail braking could be used to alter the balance of the car, but I wasn’t being too adventurous as I wanted to drive home in one piece! Although the Exige is a brilliant car, it still deserves to be treated with care and respect; one Exige owner momentarily forgot this and demonstrated a beautiful triple spin in front of the clubhouse, to rapturous applause! Fortunately, no damage was done to his or any other car, but he wasn’t the only spinner, with Exiges and 340Rs spinning in similar numbers (and no I didn’t, before you ask!). I did prove that you could intentionally get the car sideways to get round the very tight top corner, and power out beautifully, although I didn�t indulge in too much of this for the sake of my back tyres. I know that the Lotus guys can do this all day, but I was encouraged that the car was friendly enough for me to do it. [image]http://www.exiges.com/ubb/NonCGI/images/icons/smile.gif[/image]Because of the damp track, and possibly because I was trying to drive “cleanly” without sliding the car around too much, tyre wear was minimal, and certainly no cause for concern. This was encouraging, because I had been worried about the effects on the tyres.All in all, therefore, from my point of view a very impressive performance, and certainly one that has encouraged me to do more track days in the Exige; it seems to take them completely in its stride with, no ill effects. Brilliant! [image]http://www.exiges.com/ubb/NonCGI/images/icons/smile.gif[/image]I hope the above hasn’t been too rambling, and that it has provided some useful feedback. If there’s anything else that anyone wants to know that I’ve forgotten to mention, just ask.

Thanks for the report. Very interesting - and very close to my way of thinking/driving. Pushing it hard but avoiding wheelspin and slides as much as possible. Have you got an impression how different the 177BHP standard car compares to your 190BHP modified car. Engine wise - not considering the racing brake pads and brake hoses? I’m evaluating that kind of tune up at the moment. And I will too stick to driving WITH a catalyst. Marcus.

TonyMany thanks for a most interesting write up [image]http://www.exiges.com/ubb/NonCGI/images/icons/smile.gif[/image]

nice one, tony. erm… I did a triple spin myself in hockenheim last week…cheers,bruno

Hi Marcus. To be quite honest, I can’t say that I noticed that much difference in grunt when I upgraded, but then 13 BHP isn’t that much of a power hike, even in such a light car. What I think it probably did do was to make the engine more responsive and more eager, which is a worthwhile improvement in itself. Although I love my Exige, I’m used to driving a 600 BHP car, so I’m afraid 190 BHP feels pretty tame to me. It doesn’t help that the Exige chassis feels as though it could cope with 300 BHP without too much trouble! FWIW, I understand from people that I know that have driven them that the motorsport cars, despite having only 200 BHP, are much quicker, underlining the fact that its not all about BHP. Regards, Tony.

Hi Bruno. I trust man and machine are in one piece. Just out of interest, what did you do to cause it (just so I can try to make sure I don’t do whatever it was! [image]http://www.exiges.com/ubb/NonCGI/images/icons/wink.gif[/image])?

erm… yeah, man and machine are ok. have got an exige as well. it was very wet the whole two days in hockenheim. so, I was just too fast and had to do a bit of overbraking before the chicane and so it happened. I did even more spins being too early on the throttle coming out of bends…didn’t that happen to you as well??? I can hardly believe it that you never spun…

quote:I can hardly believe it that you never spun… Oh I’ve spun all right, but not for a very long time, and never in my Exige. I’ve been driving mid-engined Lotus’ for over 25 years now, so I ought to be getting the hang of it by now! Now, where’s that wood? [image]http://www.exiges.com/ubb/NonCGI/images/icons/wink.gif[/image] Seriously though, my question was simply to determine if the car had done something unexpected, or whether you knew what had caused it. Thanks for the info.

I’d guess, it is mostly the much tougher clutch and the super short ratio gearbox in combination with decreased overall weight and increase in “horses” that makes the motorsport Elises considerably quicker than a roadgoing Exige. Thanks for your help, Tony.The only reasons for me to “evaluate” the upgrade (which sounds terrific to me) are - that the kit would make my car illegal to drive on public roads and THAT again forces me to pay three times for the upgrade: fitting now, unfitting in three years for legal checkup (T�V) and refitting again… That’s a lot of fuss for 13 BHP…

Tony pleasure meeting up with you and the others guys on Saturday. Thanks for leaving the embarrassment of the triple spin for me to own up to. I have just come back from Disneyland and even the ride on Space Mountain did not compare to that spin.

quote:Thanks for leaving the embarrassment of the triple spin for me to own up to.My pleasure! [image]http://www.exiges.com/ubb/NonCGI/images/icons/grin.gif[/image] I too enjoyed meeting other owners, and had a great day. I’m off to Cadwell Park on the 4th of April. If you’ve not driven there before, it’s absolutely brilliant, a really enjoyable drive. It’s often called the mini-Nurburgring, and IMHO is one of the best tracks in the country, especially for sub 300 BHP cars. There are now apparently 25+ Lotus’ registered for the event. See you there? If anyone is going and wants to find me, my reg is X848ABN, not that there will be too many Chrome Orange Exiges around! [image]http://www.exiges.com/ubb/NonCGI/images/icons/cool.gif[/image] Regards, Tony.

quote:Originally posted by X1 GUN:Tony pleasure meeting up with you and the others guys on Saturday. Thanks for leaving the embarrassment of the triple spin for me to own up to. I have just come back from Disneyland and even the ride on Space Mountain did not compare to that spin.I know exactly what you are talking about…he-he…tony, I was just silly enough to brake too hard (blocked wheels…) and off I went. I suppose, there must have been spills of water laying exactly there where I had to brake too hard…no, the car hasn’t done anything unexpected during the two days on the track. was all my fault or well… I blame it on the weather… he-he…

quote:Originally posted by Tony Whitter: o Competition brake pads o Braided brake hoses o Castrol SRF racing brake fluidIs this brake fluid DOT5.1 but with a higher boiling point ? I really need to flush my fluid and bleed as it boiled on last track day. Have heard that the racing type stuff needs to be replaced every 200 hours though ? Oh, and I not managed to find anywhere selling the racing type of fluid.

quote:Originally posted by Tony Whitter: o Competition brake padsWhat brand / type are these pads ?

quote:Oh, and I not managed to find anywhere selling the racing type of fluid.Hi Rod. Castrol SRF is a Castrol patented special purpose racing brake fluid. It is technically a DOT 4 fluid, but don’t be mislead into thinking that a DOT 5 will be better. Although I have never proved it, I have heard many times from people who should know that SRF if the brake fluid used in Formula 1 cars. One key attribute is its extremely high boiling point (wet 270 degrees C, dry 310 degrees C), which makes it just about impossible to boil it. I have used it in all of my high performance cars for years now, and have never once had a brake fluid problem. There are only two drawbacks. Firstly it is very hydroscopic, and accordingly needs to be changed at least every 18 months, although every 12 months is ideal. Secondly, it is quite expensive at �45 including VAT per litre (ideally, you need two litres to flush and fill an Exige, although this will leave you with spare for topping up). SRF can be used in all braking systems except systems requiring mineral oil, and it will mix with standard brake fluids, although obviously you want the SRF to be as pure as possible for best results.As for buying it, although I don’t want to be seen to be using this BBS for commercial purposes, I can supply Castrol SRF to you, by mail order if necessary. Just so you know how (what I’m about to explain is public knowledge), I have recently purchased the assets of Kinsey Jones Limited from the liquidators and have formed a new company, Ian Kinsey Limited, with Ian Kinsey and Ken Sexton. As a long-standing Lotus enthusiast with no connections to the retail motor trade, I wanted to help mould an operation that met my extremely high standards, that could also offer services that are not so easy to find such as race preparation and set-up. I am also hoping to build up a motorsport division that is actively involved in racing, which is something I have done before. We are already able to offer everything that Kinsey Jones used to offer, and more besides, with the exception of new car sales. Accordingly, if you want to take this further, please contact Andrew on 0161-486 9966. Sorry, sales pitch over now! I would have resisted the temptation, but SRF is very hard to find unless you know where to go.Admin5 (I don’t know your name I’m afraid!): I will check the brake pads on my car and let you know.[This message has been edited by Tony Whitter (edited 30 March 2001).]

As a 340R owner who attended the Lotus day I must admit to being impressed by the Exige drivers who were an enthusiastic and competent bunch of drivers and true Lotus Enthusiasts.By way of apology for the moderate pace of the 340R’s, it really was too cold and damp to get enough heat into the A038R tyres. Most owners were reluctant to apply the usual amount of sideforce to the cars and this was evident at the end of the day by the state of the tyres which looked as if they had been out for a pleasant jaunt on the public roads (the usual track day slugs of rubber not evident)Just to add to the debate of which is quicker 340R or Exige, my feelings are that the performance of the standard cars is similar and the answer as to which is quicker is as always : it all depends on who is driving !If the 340R does have an advantage it is because of its slightly reduced weight and its ultra sticky tyres which have levels of grip similar to slicks in the dry but which are pants in the wet.Yesterday at the RMA track day at Silverstone Grand Prix I sat out the wet morning (apart from 1 lap) whilst the Exige owners went out and had fun.In the dry afternoon I was able to go out and enjoy myself (after first learning the unfamiliar track) but I must admit to letting a very quick orange Exige pass which was spitting orange flames through the exhaust pipes on overrun. I was later informed that this car was fitted with a motorsport engine.As Exige owners now start to modify their cars and increase power I think that they will find that they end up with cars which are exceptionally fast on the track and capable of keeping up with everything bar the race cars.I still think a 340R is more fun though - if totally impractical.RegardsPeter Crook http://www.340r.net

Hi Peter. Thank you for your gracious comments. If you read between the lines of my post, I was suggesting that the Exige and 340R were pretty evenly matched on the day, but that I would expect a 340R to be slightly quicker in better conditions. You are of course right that it is down to the driver, but I suspect that if you put the same driver in an Exige and a 340R in quick succession that he would be slightly quicker in the 340R. On the other hand, given the additional downforce of the Exige, I’m not sure that you can take that for granted! [image]http://www.exiges.com/ubb/NonCGI/images/icons/grin.gif[/image]