We brought up our Elise which was now sporting several new upgrades including: Nitron 46mm shocks, Wider forged wheels from SJ, Race Diffuser & Side Sills from IMRP, A6 Hoosiers, & a new BOE muffler that was designed to meet the strict noise requirements at LS. We also continued acquiring data on our gPAN and transCOOLER products.
Our new Atom3 was also getting wrung out with new SJ forged wheels shod with Hoosiers A6s. The fronts were 205s and the rear were 245s. We had to remove the fenders to clear the rear tires. The stock muffler remained on the Atom3 to insure we did not suffer any noise problems. We had moved the brake pedal pad over to the left to add some clearance with the accelerator - it was noticeable improvement for me.
I spent the first 1.5days running the Atom. Frankly it took me at least half that time adjusting to the quickness of this machine. Even though I had tracked my Atom2, this car required new changes to my driving style. The shifter is very close, almost too close. I required a serious recalibration as a result. I ran the stock sized Yoko A048s initially, then switched to the A6s and saw my times dropped 2 seconds. The grip was awesome and put a real strain on my neck muscles. I had a passenger during my fast lap so am sure that I could run a quicker time solo. The A6s were a strong recommendation of my friend Darin - who is a very talented Atom driver (more about him later). The oversteer that I felt at corner exit with the A048s was almost completely eliminated with the A6s. Larger tires on the rear of this car clearly helps. The Atom should not be a track newbies first car. It responds much faster than other street cars and requires your full attention at all times. Ultimately I ran a 1min46s lap.
Project Nirvana has come a long way since we first bought her a year ago. In fact, LS was the first track that we had run our Elise at. It was cool to come back with Nirvana in it's current state of tune which included our Katana2 (CARB-pending). We ran her initially with R888s on Monolites and then switched to the wider SJs with the A6s. The SJ wheels are 16x8 in front and 17x8.5 in the rear. Clearance was a concern so we took things carefully. We chose to run conservative ride heights (120mm & 125mm) and added additional camber at the track (2.6deg & 3deg). The added aero was newly installed and were proven parts run by many LCS racers. She looked super aggressive and utterly bitchin' with these new upgrades. Nirvana was pure driving bliss. I was very happy with her performance and made some adjustments to the new Nitrons. Unfortunately our sessions were quite short on Sunday so I did not get to optimize the settings. Regardless my best time was 1min47s. I'm sure I could drop these times given more laps.
So clearly I was able to run faster in the Atom than the Elise. I think superior acceleration of the Atom shines on a track like LS with its big straights. But the lack of downforce and quick reaction made it a handful for my modest skills. It delivered a rush that is incomparable. The Elise on the other hand was a much more 'relaxed' car to drive. It reacted much slower than the Atom and did not punish my sometimes ham-fisted moves. My confidence level was clearly higher in the Elise as a result. Interestingly enough, I believe the Atom made me a better Lotus driver. So the Atom wins the 'faster-lap-with-the-same-driver' contest.
Comparing the fastest times posted by Atom & Lotus drivers revealed a similar result. The quickest Atom was driven by my friend Darin who posted a 1min33s time with his NA 245hp Atom2. He posted his video as proof: DP workin' LS. See his aggressive line through the corkscrew pictured here. Another friend, Andy K. cranked out the fastest times in his Lotus 211 with a 1min36s lap. Clearly both cars can be driven at paces that are downright scary fast but the Atom seems to be the faster car. Another interesting fact is that the Atom can be driven on the street while the 211 is track-only.
Do the faster laps make the Atom the better of the two? No, the Atom works better for the driver who wants to feel everything NOW and capable of dealing with it! That makes it better for some but not all. The Lotus is more gentleman-like in its response and easier to drive fast. Both are lightweight cars that deliver driving enjoyment beyond the typical sportscar. I guess I should pinch myself now as I get to drive both...