Monday, July 27, 2009

Nitrons Cleaning Up at Laguna Seca

Nitron had an unbelievable showing last week at Laguna Seca for the 5th round of the Lotus Challenge Series. The fastest cars in the field were running Nitrons in various configurations. Nitron equipped cars grabbed 5 podiums in the time trial and a 1-2 finish in the club race while posting the fastest times of the week.

One of the most exciting examples of the performance these suspension systems provide was displayed during the club race on Thursday. Brent B., running with the Nitron Race triple-adjustables, and Kevin M., running the Nitron GT3s, had a ten-lap battle that was amazing! Laguna Seca has about three or four good passing areas but, if you make a move off line, you can quickly get yourself in trouble. Despite this, Brent and Kevin really pushed themselves to the limit.

Brent's Exige is HIGHLY modified with extensive aero and Kevin's Exige is running a stock aero setup. Differences in aerodynamic downforce have a significant effect on the suspension system. The adjustability of the Nitrons makes it easy to get the correct suspension settings no matter what kind of aerodynamic upgrades you've made.
In the time trial, Brent came in first, followed by Kevin. In the Forced-Induction class, Andy K. placed first with his Nitron Track double-adjustables, followed by Tim H. running the Nitron Sport Pro single-adjustables. Project Nirvana also made the podium in the stock normally aspirated class running on the Nitron GT3s.

During the week at Laguna Seca, the Nitrons proved they could be extremely fast no matter what car they were bolted to. High-speed or banked corners will bottom out any car running aero and stock suspension as Andy explains in our latest podcast live from Laguna Seca.

The flexibility of Nitrons also allows you to drive your car to and from the track. Andy, running the double-adjustable Nitrons in his Exige S, and Bill, running the Nitron GT3s in our Project Nirvana Elise, both drove the 400+ miles home from Laguna Seca with no problem. Bill was shocked (pardon the pun) at how amazing compliant it was on the highway. We left the suspension at the setting we used at the track and felt no need to soften it up at all. A key reason for the ride compliancy is the Low Speed Compression adjustability. Though triples seem like a race-only solution, they can also be very comfortable on the street as well.

Whether you're a serious racer, enjoy the occasional track-day or just like spirited runs on the twisties, we have the Nitron suspension setup for you. Call us at (951) 296-6762 to get the perfect custom spring rates and shocks for you and your car!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Carbon Hatch from ReVerie - BSK Style

I am excited to report that ReVerie will soon introduce a rear tailgate/hatch for the Exige. Simon has licensed the design from BSK in Japan and will introduce a hatch made to ReVerie standards - which means very light & very stiff.

The OE tailgate weighs approximately 20lbs. The ReVerie version will weigh much less. The added venting, particularily at the exit of the intercooler, is designed to help extract hot air.

Brent was running a BSK tailgate at Laguna last week. See pic above. It is a serious race piece that looked bad to the bone. We've placed a small order with ReVerie and are looking forward to getting them. Contact us if you are interested.
Many of you know that ReVerie carbon fiber (CF) products are the lightest and strongest CF parts we sell. ReVerie uses prepreg, carbon fiber and autoclaves each part for the best performance. I know of no other CF parts supplier, in the Lotus market, that goes to these lengths - F1 & aerospace processes - to produce CF. Watch our CF Tech Seminar with Simon Farren to learn more: HERE.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Laguna Seca Wrap Up

We finished off the LCS event with aplomb. Everyone was smiling and having a great time. The weather was spectacular and the competition was friendly yet focused. The LCS guys are serious about their cars/results but still take the time to help each other. This type of camaraderie is truly a wonderful thing. I'm sure, as Jim continues to spread the series, across the country, Lotus owners elsewhere will experience this first hand.

On Friday our LCS run group included other Advanced Drivers that were not necessarily competing - one of which was JoeRacer from LotusTalk. He is running an Exige 'S' and cranking some quick times. I think he would have placed on the podium for sure if he had entered our Time Trial. Several prepped race Porsches and Vipers also joined us. Power is definitely an advantage on this track as a new Viper SRT-10 showed me by leaving me in its wake.

My goal was to get the car under 1min50 - which I finally managed to achieve in the last session and last run! Better late than never. My best final time was 1min49.589. Nirvana ran flawlessly so I was very happy with her. My skills and seat time need some additional sorting. All in all, I am happy as this was my first time with this car and on this track.

The picture above came from Carlos Oliveros who sold us a CD with some great Hi-res shots.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Exhaust Add-ons

Here are some pictures of the creative ways some of the LCS competitors have managed to keep their cars under the 92dBs required at Laguna Seca. These silencers are far from normal but they definitely do the trick. The sound booth is located on driver's right heading up the hill between turns 5 &6. These trick exhaust tips are pointed in-board to direct the sound away from that sound booth.

The Sound and The Descent

Nirvana handled very well as I attempted to learn this new track. I limited myself to setting the tire pressure on the Toyo R888s and focused on grasping the line. Laguna Seca is an 11 turn world-class track. The elevation changes, fast sweepers, tight corners and long straights are an absolute blast.
My first session was a short one for a couple of reasons; sound check and flagman error. Laguna demands strict noise requirements (92dBs). Most of the Lotus run aftermarket exhaust that don't have a chance of complying. The additional mufflers and baffles that were added to restrict sound showed the ingenuity of the LCS
crowd. Some of them looked quite comical but were very effective. The competitors who ran stock exhausts ran in full compliance. I was running a Larini 8" exhaust which I was told has passed before. The fact that my car is also a normally aspirated car helped to keep the noise levels down - plus I am running a stock airbox
and filter. It was a good thing as the Larini 8" passed with no problems. Unfortunately a Exige 'S' with a Larini 8" did not meet the sound as it was too loud. I believe the added Supercharger whine of these FI cars really puts the cars over the limit. I had brought and extra stock muffler/diffuser just in case I failed. I did not need it so I lent it to Eddie who was able to put it to good use.

The track allows you to conduct a 3 lap sound check to determine your dBs. This gives you the chance to check without receiving the Black Flag. I ran mine successfully and went back out on track. Unfortunately one of the flag men flagged me with the ole 'Meatball' flag and I came in to the hot pit. The car of was running fine but the flag made me wonder if the car was broken. As it turns out, he was mistaken and they let me out for 1 more lap before the session ended.

I received some great coaching from Scott Bradley in my second session. I was still learning the line but his
advice really helped me pick up the
right places to brake, turn-in and accelerate. Getting instruction is one of the best ways for anyone to go quicker - especially on an unfamiliar track like Laguna was for me. My first couple of sessions landed times of 1:59ish. I managed to carve another 4 seconds off in the last session and ultimately in the race I got my time down to 1:51.

Dropping into the Corkscrew@Laguna Seca is one of the best rides I've enjoyed on track. What a rush! Once Scott pointed out the correct tree to point at, I was dropping in with confidence. A couple of times I touched some dirt on the apex @8 but soon found the right position. The entry into the Corkscrew is harder than the descent. Turn 9 is one that I am still struggling with and will work on today.
The long uphill straights after turn 5 & 6 are a challenge for Nirvana. The lack of FI power is clearly apparent as the 'S' cars pull smartly away. I need to learn how to maintain more speed - especially going into 5 as it really helps for the big uphill to 6.

One of the biggest changes apparent this year in LCS is the number of aero mods - big wings and splitters are helping guys stick with massive grip. Nirvana clearly lacks the grip that our Exige sported thanks to the aero packge we had on that car. Brent set the fastest times and won the final race with a FI car with minimal power
improvements but lots of aero and weight improvements - of course the fact that he is a fanastic driver helps!!!! Congrats to Brent for a well fought battle with Kevin!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Alignment Update

I drove the rest of the way to Laguna Seca yesterday with a properly aligned car. I can not stress the importance of a correct alignment any LOUDER! One of the first things you need to spend money on is a good alignment, and if you can, a good corner balance. Yesterdays drive reconfirmed to me that this is critical. These cars are very responsive to alignment changes a key reason why they handle so well. The Lotus handling magicians count on each and every one of us to set-up the cars properly to extract the best in performance. So if you have not had your car aligned, get out there and have it done!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Alignment & Corner Balance for Nirvana

I made the short jaunt to my friend Carl's for an alignment & corner balance today. Carl is a track enthusiast who has been running his sports cars for years on racetracks. This interest led him to learning how to align his cars - which he has been doing for over 20 yrs. One of the fastest LCS competitor, Jack, swears by Carl's work. I figured Carl was my man for Nirvana. Over the years, Carl has developed some creative & effective ways to align his cars.

I spent the afternoon with Carl getting Nirvana sorted. We started by baselining the car. We learned that the front toe was zero (as I had set) and the rears were way off. Since I had installed an RTVbrace, this was not a suprise. The drive up showed that the car was very nervous - the handling was not right. We also disconnected the V2linx to insure that the swaybars would NOT have any undue influence on our corner balancing.

Both of the front cambers were at -2deg. The V2arms provided me the
needed additional camber. I set these myself at our shop by leaving the stock ABS bracket + 1mm shim + .5mm shim. These delivered the ideal front negative camber that can not be achieved with the stock steering arms. In fact this becomes an even great boon when you begin lowering your car significantly as bump steer issues are dialed out. I wanted to set up this car so that it is still reasonable on the street. So ride heights of 120mm front & 125mm rear was the goal.

I had not yet measured the weight of Nirvana since making all of this past weeks mods. The car weigh 1923lbs on Carl's scales. That is a 40lb savings. After a few spring perch adjustments, we achieved a 50% cross weight on the car with 160lbs of ballast in the driver's seat. We pulled shims from the rear to achieve -2.4 of camber. We achieved the final ride height #s of 119/121 front & 123/125 rear.

We then checked the swaybar endlinks - our V2linx - we saw that they needed to be adjusted. When I had originally connected them at our shop, I thought that I had them aligned well, but once we placed Nirvana onto the scales, we discovered that the swaybar was loaded and had added 15lb influence to the corner weights. By adjusting the length of the V2linx, we were able to eliminate this issue. The Lotus responds well to properly set-up and alignment. This excercise proved to me that even a small item like a swaybar end link can have a serious impact on the
cars balance.

We then changed the brake fluid as it had not been changed in a year. Carl again showed his ingenuity with his powerbleeder set-up. He uses his air compressor to keep the brake system pressurized with 20psi. This made the fluid change a simple and quick process. One of his secrets is to tap the calipers with a soft mallet to exorcise any trapped bubbles.

We then took the car out for a quick dash around his favorite test circuit. What a difference a proper alignment & corner balance can make! The nervousness was gone - along with the oversteer at corner exit. BTW: the HNTpad sure made heel and toe a snap.

I can't wait to get Nirvana on to Laguna!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Nirvana Build Continued

The car continues the transformation process. I installed a RTVbrace as it is an excellent rear toe link reinforcement. The rear toe link is one of the weaknesses on a track driven stock Lotus. Lotus installs their version on all Track Pack cars to address this issue. Our RTVbrace and it's 'evil' twin the RTDbrace are solutions we sorted a few years ago. We have hundreds of clients who have been running them with excellent results on track.

We installed the silver stellaCORSE wheels to eye ball the car and ride height. It also allowed us to quickly look at toe - front and rear. The fronts needed some tweaking to get them right. I set them with zero toe temporarily. I will be corner balancing the car and setting final alignment on Tues with my good friend Carl. Carl has become a local expert on Lotus
alignment. In fact, he will be holding an alignment seminar at our shop later this Fall.

I'm obviously biased but I really feel these are the best looking wheels you can install on the Lotus. They are forged for strength and boast the perfect offsets for track and street use. The quality is superb.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Suspension + Brakes for Nirvana

On Monday I began disassembling Project Nirvana's stock brakes/suspension. I started by removing the wheels and putting her on stands. The wheel wells came off and I began cleaning up some of the dust, dirt and pebbles. This was a good time to scrutinize the general condition of the car in areas that you don't frequently see. The Elise/Exige has been a reliable car but they do need to be checked - parts are known to rattle loose. The only missing part was the center NACA duct in the undertray. These bits frequently go missing. Luckily we had a replacement in house.
The Nitron GT3 suspension we installed features much lighter springs than we had on our Exige. We are testing 450lbs fronts and 600lbs rears. Since we are not intending to run heavy downforce these rates should be a great match - especially since we want to keep her street compliant. In fact we will run high ride heights for street navigation. I also installed new brackets for the remote reservoirs. These are another of mailto:Ralph@V2 creations. We will have them in stock soon. One of the secrets of triple adjustable shocks is that they are terrifically comfortable on the street. Our Exige proved that to me in spades so I expect Nirvana to ride even better.
We installed the V2arms along with the V2linx. Separating the upper a-arm is always a slightly nerve racking process - you are just waiting for the ball-joint to pop when it separates from the steering arm. Good fun and shock is part of the action.

The stock brakes are getting replaced with our ULTRAdiscs and Pagid Rs4-2 Blues. We installed an old set of ULTRAdiscs from our Exige - we ran them before the AP BBK was installed. They had plenty of life, plus the gold hats are still my favorite finish. These discs have proven themselves in miles and miles of use by track rats and street drivers. Some folk are getting over 35k miles out of a set.

Naturally every install must have some troubles. Ours started when I went to remove the first stock rotor and found the set screw was stripped. This tacked on some unwelcome additional time to an already jammed schedule.
The titanQR install became the next challenge - probably because we began the install so late in the eve. Originally I was planning on installing this quick ratio steering rack after Laguna Seca, but Big Bill got me fired up to do it. It is one of those mods that makes the already wonderful Lotus steering feel even more magical. So the masochist in me decided to go for it. Chris and I had installed one in our Exige so I figured Bill and I could knock it out. I had obviously forgotten that this is a project that can take a few hours and requires patience/dexterity that is usually in short supply late at night. Luckily the next day I got "Magic Touch" Hernandez to connect the lower U-joint to the pinion on the rack - in a matter of minutes he accomplished a feat that bedeviled Bill and I at 1am. Thx go out to TJ@FoxValley for his install tip - spread the lower U-joint BEFORE reassembly.
What remains to get onto the car before Laguna? RTVbrace, Braille+Xtender, V-force, Enduro harness, Mulsanne C, H3R Fire Extinguisher, sys6pack, fluid changes, alignment and a CF hardtop. Whew!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

First Full Drive with Project Nirvana

Took Nirvana out for a drive on our local Temecula roads. We are blessed with sweet back roads that are varied in scale, speed and scenery. DeLuz Road is familar to anyone who has attended one of our Wine Runs. It is my acid test road. Cars prove their mettle to me on this road, as it has a good variety of challenges.

Nirvana has the Sport package so the ride is a bit choppy on the freeway. In the canyon, the famous Lotus tuning showed its worth. The car ate up DeLuz. I had owned an '05 Elise originally so it brought back many great memories of early morning blasts in the canyons. What a fantastic car - not sure how anyone could get tired on this.

  • Soft springs helped suck up some bumps
  • Excellent turn-in
  • Driving with the top off makes you feel like you are going much faster
  • Rebound valving seems harsh on bigger bumps - this is clearly better on smooth sections
  • Heel & Toe downshifts are too hard - easy fix with HNTpad
  • Exhaust note too quiet
Bottom Line: This car rocks. I can see why many people leave them bone stock - they are plenty capable. Of course we plan to track Nirvana so some mods are absolutely needed.

Larini 8" + ReVerie 5 Element Diffuser Install

I am tired of overly loud exhausts on street driven cars. I like to think I am maturing... ;^) I've listened to more exhausts on these Lotus, than most people, so have become somewhat of a exhaust snob. Many of the systems are far too boomy for my taste with unbearable drone at cruising speeds.

Since I will be running Nirvana at the Laguna Seca LCS event, I needed to choose a system that would meet the
strict noise (dB) requirements of that track. I am a big advocate of naked rears (we were the first to introduce them here) because of the heat
dissipation benefit and weight savings. Plus a a rear diffuser with no exhaust hole can actually perform the task it was originally designed to do.

The Larini 8" became the exhaust of choice as it is quiet and exits above the diffuser. This exhaust is not the lightest we offer, but I love the sporty, drone free sound it delivers. When coupled with a Larini header and straight pipe, it delivers some of the best full throttle aural delights you will ever hear in a Lotus. But Project Nirvana will only receive the Larini 8" for now.

The ReVerie 5 Element Diffuser was also added to improve drag management. This prepreg, autoclaved carbon fiber rear diffuser is lighter than stock (5.5 vs. 6.35lbs). The additional vertical elements help channel the air, flowing under the car, better than a 3 element. These added elements also make it very stiff, eliminating the need for additional bracing. We supply a bracket that supports the license plate with this diffuser. When attached, it adds all the structural support needed to create a very stiff rear. This diffuser has no exhaust hole so it allows the air to flow underdisturbed by exhaust tips or fumes. Simon Farren reviewed these benefits in our aero seminar, see: ReVerie Tech video.

I added our new tailHOOK as it is our lightest rear tow hook. Plus Laguna Seca requires towing points. I also added one of our front folding tow hooks to meet their requirements.

The parts I removed weighed 40.55lbs and were replaced with items weighing 22.7lbs. The rear changes and part removal has saved about 18lbs. As we are shooting for 1900lbs, we have some serious work ahead of us!

First Weigh-In for Project Nirvana

My friend Rahul stopped by Sector111 with his '06 Exige to weigh his car. Project Nirvana is going on a small diet so I also needed to know the base.
We also threw my Atom on the scales as I have not weighed it since adding the Hitech exhaust system and new Nitron Triples shocks.

The Exige is a normally aspirated version that has a Stage II exhaust but otherwise remains stock. We filled up the gas tanks so the weights are fully wet. Rahul was hoping to his car would be about 2k. Well he was extremely close...2001lbs for the Exige, 1961 lbs for the Project Nirvana and 1462lbs for the Atom.

Nirvana's weight included the factory hardtop. It was actually a bit heavier than I expected. I'd like to get to 1900lbs but know it will be awfully hard as we are trying to keep this Project street friendly. I will be installing a Larini 8" and ReVerie 5 -element diffuser shortly which will drop some Lbs.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Project Nirvana Has Arrived

Project Nirvana (Driving Bliss) - our normally aspirated Lotus project car has been secured today. Many of you know we sold our Exige recently to fund this project as well as the upcoming Black Widow. This car is pretty exciting for me as it brings us back to our roots: 'Performance Through Lightweight'.

We intend to build a lighter Elise with our best parts. Our intent is to keep Project Nirvana as a street friendly car but track capable. It will not have some of the extreme mods we installed on the Exige. In fact we plan to leave the power unchanged.

We know the forced induction cars have gotten much of the attention these past couple of years. The beauty of the NA cars is the added reliability from a powertrain that is not taxed to the level of the FI cars.

This is an '05 Elise with 14,000 miles on the odo. It came with the Sport Pack & Hardtop options only. The lack of the Touring Package saves us some weight immediately since it lacks the added sound insulation. The previous owner, Bill has taken good care of this Elise and only made one mod: the microMIRROR.

We have a long list of tweaks that aim to make the car an overall better performing package. In fact we will highlight many of Ralph from V2 work including: V2linx, V2 Fuel Tank, & V2arms. Project Nirvana will also be the lucky recipient of Nitron GT3 suspension and our ULTRAdisc brakes. The car needs to be ready for the next LCS event at Laguna Seca: July 16 & 17. We've got a bunch of work ahead of us!