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My Lotus Diary September 2004

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7th September 2004

I've bought an Yamaha R1 engine to go in my next car.

5th September 2004

Drove up to Bruntingthorpe for the Sylva track day. There was also an Easy track event on today. Met up with my brother, complete with his shiny new trailer, carrying his Sylva Striker. It's surprising how many people drive their cars to the circuit and hope they can get back home again! There was also and Exige and an Elise in our group today, both obviously SELOC members. My one regret of the day was that I wasn't out at the same time to do a comparison with Pete's Striker. All I can say is that it would have to be a good driver to over take me in either, as the Striker simply inspires confidence at the limit and is so much more forgiving.

We were at the far end of the site, using two connected runways with a coned circuit. The day was all about testing the cars and the drivers ability and was open session all day. There were a few people doing pre-SVA shakedown testing and a wide mixture of cars, including an MX5, Chrysler Crossfire, Plymouth PT Cruiser, Porsche 911, TVR Chimera, Westfield's, Fury's, etc. The PT Cruiser seemed an odd choice but it was well driven and was surprisingly quick. The larger cars like the TVR, were out in short spurts to give the clutch and brakes a chance to recover. On the straights they are a match for the Striker but they are much slower through the corners and chicanes.

Pete's car had been modified recently to fix a few things and the heat was going to be a real test of the modifications made to the cooling system. We started with a breifing followed by a few reconnaisance laps of the track at 40-50mph before we started the day proper. The cones were hard to follow and spotting the apexes particularly difficult. It all looked good so we went out first and opened her up a bit. The tops ends of the runways were pretty bumpy and the car was bouncing out wider and wider as we picked up the pace. With no quick rack, it is hard work keeping the car on line.

On a track, your perception of speed is radically changed. Judging distances is harder and the associated braking points are harder to judge. There were quick cars out but the driver is normally a bigger factor. The relative difference between Pete's Striker with a 135bhp Crossflow is fairly small, even compared to the bike engined cars and the Cosworth engined Fury, pushing out >350bhp! Yes they are quicker but, out on a track they pass you rather than fly by. As I grew more and more familiar with the car I found that I was doing most of the passing. It is seriously addictive and very, very loud. The one car that I consistently had to let past me was a blue Westfield with a ZX9R engine. That guy could drive well. One thing I noticed is that this is fun and you don't need a faster car on a circuit like this to enjoy it. By lunchtime, I was not braking at all on some of the chicanes and felt I'd got the hang of the apexes and throttle balance in the corners. Only once did I miss a gear and lose the back end. The car didn't spin right round so I could pretty much carry on. I reckon with a quick rack I would have caught it too. One great thing about days like these are that the track is relatively empty, with typically only 6-8 cars out at a time.

As we pushed harder, the water temperature rose and we started to some lose coolant. Each time we let the car cool down and tried to trace the problem. The water temperature was well within limits but the new header tank seemed to be unable to handle the pressure. Either the thing had a leak or the cap was faulty. This only seemd to become a problem if we went out at ten tenths. Unfortunately, I find myself pulled into that upper tenth zone when I get on a track :-) Despite the odd glitch, we were running well for most of the day and had some serious fun. The brakes always worked consistently too, despite the fact that there are drums on the back and we could smell them getting hot now.

Early in the morning someone had hit a rabbit right in the wrong place. It must have died quickly. I noticed that it seemed to be getting flatter and flatter and by the afternoon, the wheel arch was well covered with rabbit blood.

Also present today was Dave with his R1 Fury, which he bought from Chris BradleyRemote site. This was very interesting for me as this is the closest thing I've seen to what I want to build myself. We had a long chat and I got a passenger ride later in the day. Dave was experimenting with the springs and damper settings to see how much improvement he could make. Interestingly. (well for me) this car also had some Yokohama A048R 13R60/205 on 6" rims and they definately don't seem to sit as well as the 185's on 6" rims. I'm definately convinced that 7" rims and 205 tyres are the way to go on the rear of my car.

Going out in Dave's car was a real eye opener. First of all it is obviously quicker than Pete's Striker. It seems pretty well matched in terms of acceleration rev for rev, but then we hit the R1 power band at around 6000rpm and it just takes off. Secondly, this car has better sorted suspension and it seemed to cross the bumpy turns of the track with so much more grip (the A048's help) and less drama. It was a much smoother ride. The quick rack also made the whole experience seem much more effortless. Thirdly, the brakes and tyres, combined with Dave's skill and the lack of weight meant the braking points were miles later than mine. The paddle shift behind the wheel also seemed to help. I'd never thought about it like this before but, on a track you are always trying to brake in straight line so a paddle shift like this works when dropping down the gears too. Previously, I'd been put off by these devices but it looks good and seems to work well on a bike engined car. Something to consider.

The other thing that struck me was just good a driver Dave was, when compared to myself. We were flying and nothing was going to catch us. The speed persepective thing was evident again though, as we caught up Pete and passed him but, it it seemd to take and age to catch up. Another thing I noticed was how similar the experience was to being in an Elise. Lack of windscreen aside, the bobbing of the front wheel arches and bonnet reminded me so much of my Elise. The Fury cockpit and experience is like a slightly scaled down and rather more manic Elise. Exactly what I'm looking for!

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