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My Owners Diary May 1999

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4th May 1999

Down to my parents in Somerset this afternoon for my grandmothers funeral. Weather was great so Raybans on plus a liberal coating of factor 20. Three hours and fourty five minutes and 180 miles later, I'd averaged 37mpg (previous best was 27mpg!). I tried to keep at a constant 80mph (indicated). Did the whole drive without stopping and it was a lot more comfortable than I expected. Just the odd ache in the arms (which went once I'd reached the A303 and some corners). Cruising at 80mph translates to a relaxed 3300rpm in fifth. The temperature display stayed glued at 88°C for the whole trip.

5th May 1999

Crashed it! I don't believe it. I hit an adverse camber in the middle of a sweeping, uphill, left-hand corner. The camber threw the car upwards and then the road dropped away. The whole car lightened and the rear end stepped out about 9" and I just managed to catch it. The car regained grip and bounced violently back the other way. My foot slipped from the throttle and the car started to spin. The first hit was pretty much front on and added to the spin. We did three complete 360° spins as we travelled down the road. The initial impact on the front took most of the impact, followed 540° later by a hard rear hit, and then 540° by a gentle front impact. Only one word comes to mind, gutted!

Unlike my wonderful wife who forgives and forgets on the rare occasion that I take her for granted, the Elise is not so forgiving. Since I wasn't pushing the car at the time, I was also not giving it the respect and attention it demands. The unusual camber instantly took the car from well within it's performance envelope to well outside. I only have myself to blame for not considering the possibility. My elder brother caught the back of his head on the mounting point for the cant rails and needed two stitches but, other than that the car protected us incredibly well and the GRP did an amazing job of absorbing the impact. Seven months of waiting, 32 days of sheer pleasure, about two seconds of spinning and my dream car looks a lot worse than it really is but, not half as bad as I feel. I say it again, gutted.

My brother phoned my parents from a nearby cafe and we then pushed the car 50 yards back down the road to a layby. My parents picked up my brother and took him to their doctor for some stitches. I phoned Lotus Assistance and they arrived 90 minutes later. A passing motorist phoned it in as a major RTA and within 30 minutes two Police cars arrived, a police bike, an ambulance, and an accident investigator. Lights and sirens all over the place. The accident investigator left with nothing to do because we'd moved the car (something to bear in mind if you are ever in the same situation) and no one was hurt.

I was breathalised (I may be a prat but I'm not so stupid as to drink and drive) but the Police weren't particularly interested since no one was hurt and no damage was done. Had a friendly chat with the Police and filled in a few forms. They were very good about the whole situation but explained that things could have been very different. My car is now on it's way to Long Stratton courtesy of the AA. Ran off a roll of film just incase it's needed for insurance purposes.

This was one of the few occasions where I wasn't driving my car hard and was taking it's abilities for granted because of it. The Elise demands consistent respect and is not forgiving for its abscence. Hope to be back on the road in a few weeks time, a wiser man for my humbling experience, and a poorer one too.

9th May 1999

Got a call from Lotus. They've invited me up to the factory for the day to look over some new Elise accessories and to drive a few cars. Unfortunately I can't make the date since I'm on holiday.

10th May 1999

A sunny weekend goes by and I miss my car. The ache of anticipation as I lift the garage door has gone, only to reveal an empty garage. I can stand the constant replay of 'if onlys' in my mind, I can even stand the jokes and the humiliation of crashing the car, but if one more person says, "it's only a car, at least you are OK", I'm going to kill them. I miss the conversation that it holds through it's steering wheel. I miss the way it describes the contours of my drive each time I reverse off of it. I miss the smell of curing GRP that hits you every time you open the garage door. It is more than just a car.

20th May 1999

Been on the phone to Long Stratton and Eagle Star Direct just about everyday since the accident. Long Stratton have been great. The damage is not as bad as first thought, though the list of new parts is fairly long. The chassis is fine but it will still take more than four weeks to fix. Eagle Star Direct have been a nightmare and have taken ages to approve the repair. They have at last approved the repair and all the required parts were ordered yesterday. It's going to take about four weeks to fix!

21st May 1999

Charlie phoned from Long Stratton Motors and threw me a bit by asking if I would like a new car instead of my 'old' one back. He wanted to know how much if anything I'd be willing to contribute to get a new Elise. This took me by surprise so I said I'd think about it over the weekend.

22nd May 1999

Had to take the Vi onto the skidpan this morning instead of my Elise which is still being fixed. I can recommend this to anyone. It's not quite the same in a front wheel drive car but I still learnt a lot. Promised to take both cars next time so that my wife can have a go in her car. Well worth £15.

24rd May 1999

Should have guessed something was up when Charlie asked me to speak to someone else. The 'small contribution' they were thinking of turns out to be a little over £4000! I thought they were genuinely going to do me a favour but now they are just taking the piss. Still haven't got a date for when my car will be completed. Chris Menem will call me back tomorrow.

25rd May 1999

Long Stratton called back. It gets worse. They haven't started fixing my car yet and won't be for another two weeks. It will then take a further four weeks to fix. I might as well cash my road tax in and save some money. What a nightmare!

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