Monday, January 25, 2010

Nitron Build - Track Testing @ Buttonwillow

We completed initial testing of the Nitron upgrades at Buttonwillow this past Saturday. We hired a professional ride & handling engineer and Koni Challenge racer to help us with set-up. Dave Thilenius (see pic below) has a Formula 2000 championship and over 20 years of racing and OE set-up experience. Our team also included Rick, Steve, myself and Allen from LPL. Dave has helped us with other projects including the Secant Type I & II track testing.
We set up the car with mid level settings on the Nitron GT3s. We installed 650/800lb springs on these dampers. The Nitron uprights and steering arms allowed -3deg of camber all around. We dialed in a little bit of Toe Out at the front and Toe In at the rear. Caster was maxed out per Nitron's recommendation. Ride height was set at 96mm/100mm with driver weight and a full tank of fuel. The brakes were AP 4pots on all four corners with Hawk HT10s.
One last minute addition was the ReVerie Exige Spoiler and Canards. We added these to improve his front end grip and balance as he had a huge rear wing.

Dave started the day with a quick 3 lap session to bed the brakes and get a feel for the car. He brought it back and we pulled all the wheels and checked all the critical nuts and bolts. Everything looked good so he went out for a few laps. We checked tire pressures and temps in the hot pit to see how the tires were working. Dave gave us his input and we decided to make one change - which was stiffening Low Speed Compression to address a 'lazy turn-in'. As the morning progressed we continued this sequence and made other changes to the car.

Dave began cranking some quick laps in the low 2 min range. Ultimately he managed a 1:59min which was very quick in the conditions we had. With new tires (we ran on old slicks), Dave was sure we could shave another 4sec from his time. His conservative driving made it clear to us that 4 sec could be achieved. He was driving a client's car so 10/10s driving was not in the test plan. Overall he was very happy with the car and felt it was a quick car. He commented that the car now had real race car brakes as they worked very well.

By 1pm the client, Michael, was itching to get into the car and drive it. He went out and completed a few laps. The car was very different from before so he spent some time adjusting to it. His best time of the day was a 2:00min lap. Michael was very happy with the handling but was less enthusiastic with the brakes. The car originally came with the Lotus Sport AP 4 pot calipers which we moved the rear. The new APs on the front are the same size as the AP brakes we offer. The HT10 have a very aggressive initial bite so we will test a less aggro pad - Pagid RS4-2. I suspect once Michael gets used to these brake pads and the overall brake system, he will switch back to the HT10s.

Overall we had a good test session. The car ran with no mechanical trouble. We were able to test the viability of these new Nitron parts and run the car at very low settings. The key feature of this kit is the ability to run under 100mm ride height and maintain the suspension geometry. The fact that the car never bottomed out or 'digested' the wheel liner made us even happier. It performed very well and should be even quicker with some further development and/or seat time.

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