Last week I bought myself a 1999 Lotus Elise S1. I have already ordered some Nitron dampers and new discs & pads. I also plan on carrying out a service at the same time, as it seems to take an age getting it on the ramp when you have to take off the under tray to do so. Its a far from perfect example, it will be an ongoing project.
So far my initial impressions of the car are mixed, the right rear damper has failed a couple of days after I picked it up, so its handling is slightly strange. The car was not used much in the last few years so me having it and driving it as hard as I can is going to throw up any potential issues, and I suspect it will continue to highlight weak areas. But apart from this I love this little car, its very willing to rev and makes a great noise for a 4cyl engine. It feels just like a race car for the road, even down to the horrible little rattles you hear on a race car when driving slowly, these seem to be cured by driving fast and drowning it out with induction, exhaust and wind noise.
I’ll keep this up to date as things happen with the little elise….
Brand Hatch being one of my favorite circuits and the Aston Martin centenary celebration happening on this race weekend I was doubly keen to get the brake problem sorted out before these races. The brake fade has plagued us this season apart from at Oulton Park when it rained. When the car was plugged into a Porsche diagnostic machine it suggested that the ABS pump had failed, with new ABS pumps at £3k we decided to ditch the ABS. In fact we decided it would be a good idea scrap the whole brake system and start from scratch. So we put in a new tilton pedal box with 3 pedals, with new master cylinders for the front and rear brakes and one for the clutch. We also had all new brakes lines made up and plumbed in, this year we had already replaced the front callipers and braided hoses along with disks and pads all round. So now we have a completely new braking system, so it should definitely work at Brands Hatch.
During qualifying I was struggling to learn the new brake setup (it’s quite different with no servo or ABS), and we also had a lot of traffic on the Indy circuit with 35 cars on track. This lead to me qualifying well down the order in 22nd, with my class rivals in 11th (Steven Atkinson) and 12th (James Neal/Neil Harvey). So in the race I had a lot of work to do.
I made a great start and took the risky outside line into paddock hill bend. This paid off and I made up several positions when the inside line looked like a traffic jam. I made it passed James Neal at Paddock and again around the outside at Druids to take Stephen Atkinson, so up to 1st in class and the brakes are working very well.
I was blocked badly by a 928 into Graham Hill bend and it compromised my exit, so I lost 2 class places to Atkinson/Neal. I made it back passed Neal/Harvey fairly quickly as they didn’t seem to have the same race pace as qualifying pace. After some dicing with some other class cars I made it back onto the tail of Stephen Atkinson in the white 968 and tried to get passed him as quickly as possible. By this point we are struggling to lap back markers, fortunately we both had the same problem, the back markers tended to be big cars with lots of power which make it difficult to pass. Stephen Atkinson got blocked by a 355 Ferrari which allowed me up the inside into Clearways. Unfortunately I was blocked in a similar way at Druids and he was immediately back passed. I lost out in traffic and Atkinson pulled away before the pit stops.
After the pit stop phase I quickly latched onto the back of Atkinson again and proceeded to harass him for the rest of the race. Pushing hard towards the end of the race I hit some oil at Paddock Hill bend and had a scary spin, luckily an Aston behind also hit the oil and spun too, making the impact between the two of us much smaller than it could have potentially been. We both quickly rejoined the race with cosmetic damage only, only to be shown the mechanical warning flag a lag latter as my rear bumper was hanging off touring car style. I had to pit to get this removed with only one lap of the race left there was no time to make up places.
I ended up 4th in class and 13th overall, which was an improvement on qualifying which I was pleased with but it could have been much better. I was more pleased with the lack of brake fade during the race even in the extreme heat of Brands Hatch. See video bellow for the full race (especially the rocket start) and report from the grand prix circuit on the Sunday to follow.
Donington park looked like it may be the first warm and dry race day of the year, and it didn’t disappoint. Temperatures were high and there was no signs of rain so we were in for a good day for the AMOC intermarque.
In the past I haven’t done many laps of Donington park in the dry so I didn’t really know what to expect from qualifying or even what lap times I should be looking for. We bolted on a brand new set of Toyo R888’s and went on the hunt for a quick lap. With 26 cars on a relatively short circuit I didn’t get many clear laps in but I managed to qualify 9th which was not bad, with quite a few cars putting very similar lap times in there was potential to improve my position in the race.
I didn’t have a great start loosing a position to the V12 ferrari 456 of Brooks and Kearney. After a lap to get the tyres and brakes up to temperature I started to attack the Ferrari’s in front. passing the 456 into old hairpin and pulling the same move on the next lap on the 355 of Tim Mogridge. I managed to pull a small gap on the Ferrari’s but could catch the 964 of Neal and 355 of Marrs ahead.
My brake problems from Silverstone started to reoccur before the 15 minute mark forcing me to take an early pit stop to let the car cool down a bit, by this time the 2 Ferrari’s had re passed me. I managed to jump the 456 and other 964 in the pit stops but was just behind Tim in the 355. Now the car had cooled down the brakes were better and I was able to get on with chasing down the Ferrari.
Quickly the race turned into a battle to see who could get past the back markers quickest, which caused the gaps between the cars in front and behind to fluctuate a lot.
I got tangled up in someone else’s accident with about 15 minutes to go. I was lapping an Aston and thought I was safely through when the leading Tiger that was lapping us both made contact with the Aston. The Aston hit my front left wheel, whilst the Tiger hit the tyre wall on the outside. Both other cars were out of the race and the safety car came out to recover the stranded Aston. The contact had knocked my front left wheel at a strange angle which made turning right slightly more tricky but it was now better at going left. During the incident I lost a place to the Neal 964 which now meant I was second in class.
With everybody bunched up behind the safety car it was going to be a made dash to the finish. I managed to get a good run on the 964 on the front straight which got me the lead of class back. By now the brakes had started to fade again and it was getting difficult to fight back. On the start of the last lap the brake pedal went all the way to the floor so I cruised home to finish 7th and 2nd in class.
After testing the previous day I was confident going into qualifying Saturday morning. With rain clouds looming it was important to get a good lap in early. Qualifying went to plan when I managed to do a quick lap on my first flying lap, the second lap was quicker but I got blocked going through the final corner so that lap was wasted.
The rain started to slowly fall and the times only got slower. I had managed to qualify 4th overal and 1st in class which I was very pleased with.
Throughout the day it rained on and off, but by the time we had to go to the assembly area the rain had settled in. We didn’t have a full wet race tyre so we chose to go with our Toyo R1R’s which are an intermediate tyre. Once the race started it was clear what tyres everyone around us was on. The front row V8 cars immediately disappeared off into the distance followed by the green DB4. I managed to get the jump on the red 355 ferrari of Wayne Marrs, and I held onto 4th place until the Jeremy Cooke came past just before the pit stops, he was also on wets and I just couldn’t keep up with him.
After the pit stops it appeared that Wayne had got faster in his 355 (it turned out that they used the pitstop to cure a misfire). Wayne managed to get passed with his increased speed, and I held position until the end. I finished 6th overal and 1st in class, with a good haul of points after the disappointment of Silverstone.