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My Owners Diary August 1999

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1st August 1999

What a great weekend, car ownership doesn't get any better than this. Hottest weekend for years and I spent nearly all of it driving around the Suffolk and Norfolk countryside. I did a 60 mile cycle ride last week and decided the route was so nice that I had to do it again in the Elise. Beautiful, empty B-roads through the Suffolk countryside and some excellent pubs along the way.

Up early Sunday morning to whizz up to Snetterton to watch some Elises racing. Hottest day of the year so far apparently. I can recommend driving the Elise barefoot. Not only do you get the ultimate in driver involvement and feedback, but your feet stay nice and cool, especially if you are doing 100mph with the windows down. Covered myself in factor 20 but forgot my nose. Looked like Rudolf reindeer this morning. To most people the A140 is a nightmare road, but in the Elise it's simply great fun, picking the cars off, one, two, sometimes three at a time. Met up with Steve at Snetterton and we wondered over to the pits to find Simon Scuffham and his (240bhp at 8000rpm) Elise. Had seen him in the practice laps and it certainly looked fast but he seemed to be having problems maintaining speed. As we found out when we caught up with him, the heat was proving too much and his car was overheating. We watched a few races then I followed Steve in his Elise over to the Lotus factory via a scenic/drivers route.

Steve's got a new aluminium Elise like mine but its got sports suspension (and sits a lot lower), Motorbuild Stage II, sports exhaust, cat replacement pipe, rollcage, full race seats + harnesses, etc. Sounded pretty good as two new aluminium Elises did a duet through the Norfolk countryside and its villages. Steve knew the roads which meant he was going into corners a lot quicker than I was prepared to but on the straight bits the difference between the cars wasn't as big as I'd expected. Close to the factory we swapped cars to compare driving experiences but Steve's drivers seat is fixed and I couldn't reach the pedals well enough to be happy driving it (I must be mad!) so we swapped back again.

Arrived at the factory to watch some sprint racing and there were Elises everywhere. Bumped into several owners from the Lotus newsgroup and mailing list. Events like this are great way of seeing all the various colour configurations, accessories, or even the latest version of the Elise. Better still you get to meet and chat with lots of other owners and learn even more about the car and it's various upgrades. We didn't stay too long since there was plenty more driving to do.

2nd August 1999

Cool! My dealer has invited me down to a Lotus driving event at Brandshatch circuit on the 11th. The downside is that I now can't go down to Cornwall to see the Eclipse but the traffic and weather are making it less viable by the day. Lotus are supplying all the cars so I won't get to put my car on the track for a while yet.

4th August 1999

Before the accident I'd noticed my throttle was sticking slightly and recently it's been getting worse and the engine remains over 2000rpm after lifting my foot from the accelerator. This doesn't make for relaxed driving and it sounds like you can't drive properly. I lubricated the throttle body and the cable I could get at. I then tried to lubricate pedal assembly which requires you to be both a midget and a gymnast. I adopted a head first approach and pulled two muscles in my shoulder and neck just gettting close but, it was worth the effort since it seems to have fixed the problem.

The complex accelerator linkage, how many places to oil?. Also notice the red chassis glue and the hi-tech bonnet release.
Click image for full size, 640 x 480 pixels (52K)

7th August 1999

Finally found my tyre pressure gauge hiding away in the garage. I've been meaning to check them for ages but I wanted to use the same gauge for repeatability of results. I now know why the handling felt so different. My car was returned with the following pressures; rear-left 21psi, rear-right 22psi, front-left 28psi, front-right 23psi. I've reset them to 23psi front and 24psi rear. It should be interesting to see what changes it makes to the feel and handling. The low rear pressure (gives more grip) explains why I've been getting understeer and the ability to gently drift the back end had disappeared. The difference in the front tyres (high pressure equals less grip) explains why the understeer was different on left and right hand corners. I must remember to check them more regularly because you really can notice the difference. The sticky throttle has completely gone having lubricated the various linkages and cable ends.

8th August 1999

Wow, what a transformation. It wasn't my memory playing tricks on me, this is a completely different car, just like I remembered it. The front end feels lighter, yet more firmly in contact with the road. There's more grip and much more feedback. The rear end also feels like it will hang on for ever and pushing it harder round my favourite roundabout, I find the familiar gentle rear-end drift is back. Hard braking also feels so much more controlled. The understeer has gone and although some would probably say the car is more nervous and less forgiving like this, it suits me fine. I will experiment more with tyre pressures during the week.

Started to rain whilst out this morning (roof down as always) but I was having so much fun with my rediscovered handling that I just kept on going (you don't get too wet above 60mph). Passed a BMW Z3M (roof up) on one of my favourite runs and for some reason he decided to chase me (carving up one lane of traffic to follow me onto the slip road). Now I'm not one to race cars on public roads (but I was curious to see if he could keep up), so I didn't lose him on the first two 90° corners and I didn't see him again until three miles later, where I didn't wait for him at the junction back onto the main road. He did turn off the other way though and it did sound nice.

11th August 1999

Jumped in the Elise at 7am and set off for Brandshatch. A cloudy day but I left the roof off anyway. Arrived in plenty of time for registration. Lotus had block booked a section of an On-Track event so there were all sorts of cars here, from a Ferrari F40 to a Puegeot 106. Lotus had brought a standard Elise, a 111S, a Sport 190 and an Esprit 350. They were also using this opportunity to test another Elise (full of electronics) and to test the Motor Sport Elise which was hurtling round the track in the hands of a professional driver. Now there's a car to get a ride in. I did ask.

First drive for me was in a Elise 111S with Alistair McQueen as my instructor and passenger. It was a daunting experience going out on a track for the first time. The sheer expanse of tarmac and the lack of reference points made it difficult to judge speed and everyone seemed to pass me. At least I didn't put it into the gravel (someone else did). Just as I was beginning to remember the track layout and starting to get close to the guide cones it was time to come in.

This was a great opportunity to quiz the Lotus people and they were all very friendly and approachable. They all seemed very keen to find what their customers thought of the company and the cars. I had a long, frank chat with one of them about the company, the Elise and the Lotus web site. I was a bit embarrassed when I asked him what he did at Lotus, only to find out that he was Graham Peel, Managing Director of Lotus Cars. It's nice to know that the company is in the hands of an enthusiast.

After a brief break for the eclipse, my second drive was in an Esprit Sport 350 with Martin Anderson as instructor and passenger. After the Elise this felt big, the clutch was almost binary and the acceleration was in your face. I'd heard so much about this car which was why I really wanted to drive it. Definately a car in which you need to spend some serious time before you can exploit it's full potential. I still prefer my Elise though.

After an excellent lunch another of my lifes ambitions came true. I got to ride in an Elise Sport 190 on Brandshatch circuit and with Dave Minter at the wheel. This car had the new Yokohama tyres that Lotus are about to launch for road and track use. They look excellent, very Mad Max. Unfortunately, on the first corner Dave was unhappy with the brakes so we cruised round the rest of the lap to the pity lane. Despite cruising with no brakes, Dave must have lapped about 20 seconds quicker than than I did in the 111S.

While the engineer had a quick look over the Sport 190, Martin Anderson took me out as a passenger in a standard Elise. I thought I was beginning to understand the capabilities of my car but I now realise that I've got so much more to learn. I didn't realise that my car could do this, a quite amazing experience. My own efforts must look clumsy and ill timed in comparison.

Later in the afternoon I got back onto the track with Dave Minter in the Elise Sport 190. I have never in my life experienced anything like this. The biggest roller coasters, a 150ft bungy jump, haven't even come close. The basic laws of physics seemed warped, I had no idea that any car could do what I'd just experienced. The assault on the senses was quite unreal, my brain still can't beleive what my body was telling it. This is something that everyone should experience once in their lifetime. When I clambered out of the car (quite difficult with a roll bar support between your legs), my legs had gone. The tyres were incredibly sticky to the touch, almost wet.

What a brilliant way to end a perfect day. I have to thank to my dealer for the invite and for Lotus for organising such an interesting and educational day. And to think I nearly drove down to Cornwall instead, to watch the eclipse being eclipsed. I've come to the conclusion that more track time is a must if I'm ever going to really understand the dynamics and capabilities of this amazing car. Pictures to follow.

16th August 1999

I'm Eliseless for a whole week. The car is in the garage to have the last few bits of accident damage repaired (wheel damage and some paint damage was missed) and a few minor things done under warranty (the drivers seat now refuses to move fully forward and the intermittent windscreen wipers are less than intermittent). Quite a shock to get in a 1.1 Fiesta after a nice blast up the A140.

18th August 1999

I've heard so much about it, that I've got to go and see/drive it for myself. Booked a test drive in the Turbo Technics supercharged Elise for early September.

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