Life with a modern classic - the Lotus diary, Part 8

Lotus Elise

The Lotus does its best imitation of a canoe at a very wet Anglesey trackday.

 I’ve been a bit remiss at updating this blog. Sadly this isn’t due to excessive usage of the Elise; it’s been woefully underused, and of course now that the perfect weather to enjoy the car is here, naturally it’s back in the garage.

I’m writing this now in the midst of a glorious heatwave, sporting a fine truck driver's tan thanks to 2 hours driving the Elise with the roof off, and it’s hard to believe that the last track outing in the car was so wet! I guess that’ll teach me not to go camping in Anglesey at the end of May Bank Holiday!

Unsurprisingly, my anticipation levels were at fever pitch ahead of the Anglesey trackday thanks to the previous brilliant outing at Donington. This anticipation was compounded because of my love for the Anglesey circuit and the fact I’d not been there for nearly 4 years. However, a few days before the event, my dreams of an idyllic bluebird day at the coast evaporated, to be replaced by 40mph winds and enough standing water to test whether my car really was an overpowered canoe!

Over the years I’ve learned to really love wet trackdays, though this is primarily thanks to my E30’s very controllable chassis and (ahem) racing wet tyres. However, the Elise is an entirely different proposition and I was acutely aware that the mid-engined featherweight spins up the wheels for fun in the dry. The several “wall of champions” reminders trotted out in the briefing really didn’t help either.

That said, I’m pleased to say my concerns couldn’t have been more misplaced. It was an absolutely cracking day. This was the first time I’d booked the Elise onto a day at the same time as the E30 since normally my Dad and I share a car. This meant that I had the chance to do plenty of back to back laps trying different settings and getting used to driving the car in the less than ideal conditions.

To give an idea how bad the conditions were, I had to shield my eyes every time I came through the hairpin since the wind would blow the rain in through the ½ inch or so gap I had opened at the top of the driver’s window. Also, as the morning progressed I had to switch my braking point marker – not because there was any less grip, but because the line on the road I had been using was now submerged in standing water!

This leads me onto the Elise’s handling on the day. In summary: lively. My first session lasted 2 laps. Even the smallest application of throttle was rewarded with a puckeringly massive oversteer moment, at any speed in any gear. I’d softened off the suspension 3 clicks before going out, but after that first outing I set the dampers to full soft in an attempt to dial back the oversteer.

I’d like to say it was a revelation, but that would be overstating matters. Nevertheless, it made it significantly more driveable and it gave me the opportunity to learn and start to push the limits of the car in the wet. The car definitely wasn’t the quickest thing on track as the conditions really hampered progress. Every application of the throttle needed a measured approach, but after a few laps I swapped precision for outright hoonery – frankly, I was never going to be the quickest in the conditions and doing big skids was more fun!

It was the first real test of the AD08 tyres pushing on in the wet and they coped well; definitely better than any other tyre I’ve run to date. Most impressive was the grip in the worst conditions, especially under braking. Reassuringly, when they did break away under power it was gradual and predictable, though you do still need to remain hyper-alert when the conditions are greasy.

By the end of the day my confidence and comfort levels with the car were on a real high, so much so that it felt completely normal doing full throttle 85mph power oversteer exits from the first corner, lap after lap. A far cry away from the first tentative morning laps!

Sadly, it seemed that many drivers didn’t share my stubbornness, as many people left very early on in the day. I think this is a crying shame, as my progression and how much I learned about the car throughout the day proved it was well worth sticking it out.

My passenger seat had plenty of willing occupants all day, and once again everyone that jumped in seemed to have a blast, though funnily enough everyone also seemed to mention how loud it is…

The car was mostly trouble-free all day, though there are now enough small niggles to mean that the Elise is now back at base to get the list sorted out before this year’s sole Nürburgring trip. These niggles (and hot off the press updates shown in bold) are as follows:

  • Fix the intermittent front driver's side headlight (dodgy connection)
  • Fix the intermittent horn (it’s a Lotus, so the horn is currently fixed but could go wrong at any moment)
  • Fix or replace the near side window mechanism (fixed)
  • Diagnose the grease on the near side rear brake piping – looks like grease leaking from the CV boot (I'm assured it’s all OK but they do have a habit of lunching drive-shafts so I’ll need to think about ordering spares at some point)
  • Investigate the definite flat spot that was evident just before coming on cam which was especially evident when accelerating from low revs (hopefully fixed by replacing a frayed wire that was responsible for air/fuel mix)
  • The lambda sensor wasn't being recognised properly on the software – electrical / charge issue (fixed when the loose connection was sorted)
  • Fix the fog light /reversing light (wires needed swapping!)
  • Corner weight it again (sorted - apparently I can’t count)
  • Service and MOT (oil changed, new plugs in)
  • Checkup (engine still screwed in place...)
  • Add a shim to the 'Meccano' roof to make it fit better (done)

Thankfully it wasn’t a major list, and now the car’s been checked over she should hopefully be ready to go to Nurburg at the end of the month.

That said, I have started to compile an additional list of tweaks to think about in the future (funds permitting), including sorting a spare wheel (or set) to replace the somewhat second-hand items I have, tidying up the pedal box to help improve heel and toe and adding oil pressure and temp gauges. Mind you, a nice four-pot brembo brake conversion would be nice too!