Monday, December 19, 2011

Dry Sump Dyno Results

We had the opportunity to dyno our Elise at K&N Engineering this past weekend. This was the first dyno run on her since adding the Dry Sump kit.  We expected to make some power but that was not our key goal with the kit.  The chart below shows the power that we made.  We are are quite happy with the results as it translates to about 275hp at the crank.  More track testing is planned for Jan 7th.

We created a quick video of the run:

Friday, December 16, 2011

The sticky cluster needle

Many of you have had concerns with the cluster needles sticking in your Elise or Exige. There is a trick you can try before taking it in to your Dealer that may fix the problem - especially if it is nothing more than just a stuck needle. Here are the steps:

  1. Open your driver's door

  2. Press and hold the trip button (Located on left side of steering column)

  3. Turn the ignition key on

You should see your needles shimmy or it will cause the stuck needle to fall down. If it works, great! If not, you will most likely need a new cluster, so head over to the dealer.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lotus Dry Sump Testing 12/6/11

We have been diligently working on our drysump system for the Lotus Elise/Exige/211 throughout this year. Our last test brought out two issues to sort:
  1. Low hot idle oil pressure
  2. Excessive oil blow-by from the tank venting
We made a few changes to the system and brought The Art Car (akaThe Blue Car) to test at Willow.  We recruited our friend Jack, again (Thanks Jack !) to handle the driving duties.  Overall the results were good and we were pleased with them.

Since our last track test, we made a couple of changes to address the low oil pressure.  We changed the gear in the pump but that was still not enough.  So we then disconnected the oil cooler lines/radiators and added a remote oil filter.  The pressures still remained low so we began questioning the accuracy of oil pressure readings from the point in the block that we are measuring from.  As it turns out, our hot idle oil pressure was actually within Lotus spec. Lotus states hot idle oil pressure at 39 kPa min, which is 5.65 psi.  

We redesigned our tank to address the excessive blow-by problem.  Our original design allowed oil to creep into the vent line.  We had it remade by Petersen and reinstalled it.  Space for a tank is the biggest challenge but we managed to keep things tidy even with the new filter location.

One new product we also tested was a 7" muffler that exits above the diffuser. This muffler will be tested over the course of the next few weeks.  It sounded great throughout the test.

 The weather at 
Willow Springs Big Track  was on the other end of the temperature spectrum than our last test at Spring Mountain. The weather gave us a chilly 55 degrees with just a bit of wind.  Jack made several short runs (1-4 laps each) in the morning so we could check the operation of the system and ensure everything was working well.  We experienced very little blow by about (1/2oz) while oil temps were stable around 220-240F and most important the oil pressures were quite good.  We completed a quick inspection in the garage for leaks and car condition.  Everything looked good for a longer session.

  After lunch Jack ran a couple of longer 20 minute sessions for us and the results were very promising as well. We had a bit more blow by (approx 2 oz) in the catch can but nothing compared to our first test in September.  Oil pressure at idle remains low when rpms drop but were excellent at higher rpm where it is critical.  Oil temps rose to 240degF and remained stable throughout the entire 20 min sessions.  We obviously had a bit of help with the cool ambient temperatures  but were happy with the stability of the temps.  

Jack ran the car at moderate speeds per our instructions so we could load the system and monitor it carefully.  He did a great job and delivered very consistent laps.  Our syncros on our trans are giving up due to an overly aggressive clutch we had previously run earlier this year.  This made the 5th to 4th downshift much slower than it should be.  We could see this clearly in the AiM data with spikes in the rpms and oil pressures.

We reviewed the data back at the office with Bill Dailey and did not see anything that would make us change the current system.  Oil temps were good and oil pressure is fine.  We will add another oil pressure sensor to a spot suggested by Bill and compare the readings with the original.  We will then be ready to go hammer the car and see if the system can live with 10/10s driving.  We'll recruit our good friend and professional ride and handling engineer for this task....oh, and we have a Hewland Dogbox in transit that we need to assemble and test.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Weights Savings in Your Oil Lines

As many of you know Lotus has implemented a recall for oil lines on federal Elise/Exiges that were manufactured between June'04 & Nov'06. If you have a vehicle that is affected contact your local dealer for service. With that said, Sector111 have some solutions for those owners craving additional weight savings.  We know that the innovative ULTRAliteLINES save about 4.2lbs  but cars with a single oil cooler can save more than 6lbs and deliver more's how:

Lotus use this hardline so that they can use the same oil lines on one or two cooler cars.  It keeps their SKUs and assembly process simplified. This hardline and two fittings can be deleted with either our RACEoilLINE or ONEcoolerLINES products.  These two solutions provide one continuous line from the engine, along the RH side, across the front to the drivers oil cooler. Deleting two fittings also eliminates 2 potential failure points for an oil leak.
Hardline and fittings from a one oil cooler car represents ~1.85+ pounds alone
(note; we're weighing our lighter fittings instead of the heavier Lotus).

We recognize not everyone wants to delete their freshly installed Lotus lines but some of you may want to eek out just a few more pounds by eliminating the stock RH side lines and fittings. 

If you have been data logging your oil temps and have found, like us, that these cars are taking much longer to get to proper operating oil temperature with two coolers, then you might want to delete an oil cooler.  If your car is only driven on the street then you really only need one cooler.  But we don't recommend blindly deleting a cooler, unless you have been logging temps and know your car is running cool...we'll post up how we've been logging the data in a future entry.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Continuous Improvement - Oil Control

Oil control on track is a weakness of a stock Toyota-powered Lotus. Our baffled oil pan, the gPAN has been a reliable solution that has kept many, many cars safe with good oil control when subjected to 1+g loads. We initiated a serious dry sump effort to develop the next level in oil control but continued to look at the gPAN to see if slight improvements could be made.  Both our dry & wet sump solutions are discussed in this post.

A wet sump solution like the gPAN is truly the best option for most owners as it remains street friendly. I cut my engineering teeth at Pontiac Fiero where continuous improvement was part of our daily mission and expectations. In the 90s, I worked with the Japanese OEMs, while working at 3M Automotive, and saw it applied at all areas of their business. From the Japanese I learned that small improvements, done continuously, can have a big impact over time.

The new gPAN2 is an example of a product that we have been able to improve through small design changes. Our latest improvements are horizontal ledges in the side of the pan. The chart above shows oil pressure data measured from two of our Elises(Nirvana & Blue Car). They were equipped with basically the same modifications: Nitron 46mm Triples, Hoosier A6s, SJ Racing wheels, RACEunderAero, titanQR and KATANA265. The Blue Car had our new ULTRAliteLINES vs. stock oil cooler lines in Nirvana, which may account for the slightly higher average oil pressure. The data is from the Lotus Cup events at Laguna Seca in 2010 & 2011, with yours truly doing the driving. We took laps that were close in time and also compared the g loads (over 1g) to insure we were loading the cars equally. The data is shifted a bit as our Start/Stop point were a bit different for each car so the peaks and valleys don't correspond perfectly.

The variation between the two pans is the most striking difference. Both gPANs do a good job with keeping the oil pressure in an acceptable range - the gPAN2 simply controls the variation better. Will this make any difference to wear and tear on the engine? Hard to say as we don't have the ability to test longevity. The engineer in me says that it must be better as it varies less. Though there would be added cost of material and labor for welding the ledges, I felt it would be an improvement worth incorporating.  It was also a big enough improvement that a new name was in order.  So we put on our creative hats and came up with... gPAN2...8^)

Dry sump development continues in earnest. We took Blue Car to Spring Mtn racetrack two weeks ago to test her.  We first ran her on a dyno to insure we had a working solution then made the trek out to SMMP. The oil tank in our solution is a modified tank from Peterson. Ryan spec'd a design and had it built. He wanted to see how well the solution would work so installed a temporary clear top on the tank so we could view the oil in action. The Dailey pump that we choose includes the air separation stage as external oil pumps can add a ton of air into the oil causing foaming. His separator works amazingly well as shown in our video: Tank in action

We recruited our friend Jack to drive the car at the track in 105deg F weather. He ran the car under specific directions from Ryan so we could check various issues. Oil pressure readings were excellent once we determined the correct oil level. The two issues that we experienced were our breather set-up and low hot idle oil pressure. The breather plumbing from our tank was not adequately shielded from the incoming oil under high revs, so too much oil was getting into our catch tank. You can see a bit of this in the video above. We're now making a change to the vent design. The hot idle pressure required that the pump be removed and tweaked by Dailey. The pump was adjusted after we returned and the tank is now getting modified. We should be ready for testing again soon.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Purple Elise Build Cont...

We finished Jerry's car this Tuesday and put it onto a transporter. We are really pleased with the results. This Elise started out as a basket case and is now going to be a fun, reliable and fast machine. We had the factory forged wheels painted black and added the graphics for that special race car finish!

The ReVerie 3 Element diffuser and Rear Panel Eliminator add some downforce and aggression to the rear while the Jubu front spoiler added the same to the front. When we introduced the naked rear look to the US, six years ago, we met some market resistance. Frankly it now looks so natural and has become very common! Note the plastic mesh that was installed in the front intakes. These are simply zip tied in place and are far more durable than the stock grills. We think they look better as well. This is also a race car mod - it would not pass muster with the white glove set!
The interior of the car features a Sparco race seat that is wider than normal. This seat just barely fits and is a bit of pain to install. The seat is more comfortable because of the added width. It also requires that the center console be moved over so it is not a good street solution.

The KATANA265 is shown below along with our QWKcans. We believe this is the max power that a stock trans can take with track use.

The Larini Header, Decat & 6" muffler sound great with the HKS intake. This combination is amazing.
The Before and After shown below is an amazing transformation. The wishbones were freshly powdercoated - what a difference they make. I think many cars are old enough now that undertaking this freshening is a worthwhile task. Its not just my OCD kicking in...

We installed new discNOIR rotors to save some unsprung weight along with Carbotech XP12 (front) and XP10(rear). We're running this pad combination on our car (with bigger calipers). The car came equipped with stainless lines so we simply added fresh Motul RBF600. We aligned the car to specs we prefer but the beauty of these cars is how easy the alignment can be tweaked.

I am planning on attending the Lotus Cup event next Friday at NJMP where this car will run for the first time. The car still has a couple of issues to sort but I'll work with Jerry's team to get this car shook down! Many of our customers and Dealers will also be in attendance so it promises to be a great time.

All in all, it was a fun project. This build proved to me why the Elise/Exige will be iconic cars. They are so easy to refurbish and tune. Additionally they are cost effective and too much fun to run on track. As more and more enthusiasts come to learn about these cars, they will become more and more valuable!

I would like to thank my team at Sector111 for all the hard work. We finished a months worth of work in just over two weeks! Thanks Guys and Gal!!!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Purple Elise Meets The Track Trilogy of Terror

As we created our list of parts to add to the Purple Elise, it was clear that the Track Trilogy of Terror would need to be addressed in full. Our Lotus are truly fantastic cars straight out of the box. They are a blast to run on the street and track. But once you take your car to the track, three issues pop up that need to be addressed. We call these the Track Trilogy of Terror: Oil Starvation, Fuel Starvation and Weak Rear Toe Link Joint. Naturally we will be addressing them in this build. The car will receive our gPAN, V2 Fuel Tank with PNPpump - since she is getting a KATANA265, RTVbrace and S99 Toe Pins.

We've been using AiM data systems for the last couple of years after being prodded by our good friend Ralph@V2. The Blue Car is loaded with AiM data recording systems as is Ralph's Exiges. Together we've accumulated some interesting data that shows that you can fix the Track Trilogies with some tasty bits. View the graphs below:

Oil Pressure Data:
Fuel Data:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Purple Elise Track Car Build

Two weeks ago, we received a commission to build a track-only Elise by a client in NJ. Jerry requested that we build him a fast, fun and reliable car. He gave us a good budget but a tight timeline, so we went to work without delay. Luckily we knew of a vendor who stocked Tasty Lotus Bits....

We found a partially built spec Elise and bought it for him. This car needed some TLC but had a straight chassis and a good engine. The car was originally used as a Lotus Driving Experience car at Spring Mtn. After taking delivery of the car, we fully inspected it and found that it needed most of the typical wear items replaced. We dug into her in earnest and developed our project plan - 78 hrs of work to get her right. I figured we'll spend at least double that as these projects tend to be motivated by passion...a Balanced Approach was our strategy.

During the tear down, one area that I noticed needed improvement was the steering arm bolts. They were the older Grade 8.8 spec that came on some of the early cars - Lotus uprated them to Grade 10.9 in later cars. By installing 10.9 bolts, this joint, which sees significant load, will be stronger. We have some friends who have installed even higher grade bolts than this. The Grade 10.9 is an excellent compromise with added strength over the 8.8 yet still ductile enough.

The existing cage in the car was not installed to our standard. Unfortunately it was too expensive to fix, so we decided to tear it out and replace it with our new R3cage. Welding can be a challenge but there are experts who can do it properly. We would encourage anyone who is getting a cage installed to first inspect the welding capability of the shop you are hiring. Check out this picture to see an example of a poorly welded cage (as originally found on the Purple Elise). We're very happy with our new cage and will be able to sleep at night knowing Jerry will be well protected.

One of the typical wear points on the Lotus is the a-arm (wishbone) bushings. Under heavy braking, especially with track use and/or sticky tires, these bushes tend to wander. Eventually the wishbone will come in contact with the chassis - as shown below.

Most of the top bushes suffered from this on the Purple Elise so we decided to replace them, with MONOballs along with the ball joints - that we now get from our partner Seriously Lotus. We took the opportunity to get the wishbones powder coated as they were quite oxidized and nasty looking. The corners of the car will be sexy with newly finished wishbones, Nitrons, brake rotors and pads.

The rear subframe was another component that suffered some cosmetic damage. A battery had clearly come loose at some point in this car. The acid made a mess in the trunk and the leaked onto the subframe. This caused the steel to rust. My buddy, Ducati John, lent us an experienced hand over the weekend as he was quite interested in this build. We Scotchbrited the rust off and scuffed up the rest of the subframe. We primered it with Rust-Oleum high temp primer and then painted it as well. The cage was painted with the 'Hammered' finish Rust-Oleum. The subframe was reattached to the chassis and looks ten-fold betta.

Most of the work is being executed by Chris. His race experience clearly helps, as he is cranking through this car at a great clip. He installed a gPAN in the time it takes most people to read the install instructions. More blog entries are coming as we have alot more work to do....anyone note the Larini header peeking out the back? KATANA265 is getting installed....

Monday, August 8, 2011

More Track testing: 2ZZopg, Brake Pads, etc.

We were at the track again last week for more testing. We pulled our engine and had Bruce Nogrady install our new oil pump gear, the 2ZZopg. We went to Willow Springs to test after confirming that the gear was running fine on the street. We also needed to test another brake pad compound and an improvement to an existing product. My good friend and fast LCS racer, Jack, met us at the track and was our official test driver. Jack has many, many laps on this track and could be trusted to put the car under high loads to confirm the performance of parts we are developing.

Jack ran the car for a few sessions and I ran one session as well. I downloaded the data from our AiM system between each session. The oil pressure looked fine and the car was running well even in the 97degF heat. See graph with data below. The gear is the same dimensions as stock but made from higher grade steel. Since it passed our testing, we added it to our website today. It is now ready for anyone building a motor and looking to upgrade over the stock sintered gear - which is known to break apart under high rpm, oil starved use.

We continued to test brake compounds with the 308BBK & Front OE caliper relocation set up. We had run the Carbotech XP12 front & XP8 rear at the last two track tests with good luck. We decided to test out the more aggressive XP10 in the rear this time. The car remained stable under heavy braking. Jack even felt it dived less. The added bias to the rear was noticeable over the XP8 but not nervous like the last time I tested different pads at Willow: previous test.

The brackets used to relocate the front caliper have been ordered and are expected to be in stock this week. I think it will be the solution for many of the power junkies out there who are looking for a BBK that still retains their hand brake.

I am very happy with these pads - Ralph@V2 has been swearing by Carbotech pads for years with his racing efforts. We had first tested these pads last year and have recently added them to our stock. Trail braking is great with these pads and amazingly, the dust is low and easy to clean. The only negative so far is that the pads must be bed with care, though we get them pre-bedded to ease this process.

The ULTRAliteLINES continue getting tested along with a couple of new products. We are very pleased with the data that we are gathering. The FuelSafe fuel cell was removed from the car before this test, filter cleaned and replaced. It ran well and remains a great solution though you must monitor the fuel consumption. We are working with them to improve the fuel reading as I had described in a previous post.

The engine was yanked out today by Chris. We take it to Bruce tomorrow to prep it for the Dailey Dry Sump system. Ryan will be done with the tank for this system this month. We will be back to track test it with Dave T. at the wheel. The Blue Car must be ready for LOG31!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Canyon Drive For Fun & Development

I took my Atom3 out on my favorite local 'development' road recently. This road is one I know well and is quite challenging. It is one of our test loops because of the variation it offers: rough & smooth pavement, tight corners, off-camber, serious elevation changes, fast sweepers, you name it, this loops offers it.

View Larger Map
Even with these varied conditions, I recognized that it is not enough to develop every product we work on. A few key durability tests are difficult to replicate on the street: repeated heavy braking, high speeds, sustained Wide Open Throttle (WOT) & 1+g-loads. We've found the track is the best place for those parts that truly need to see more severe testing before getting released. Clearly there is a reason that most automotive companies have their own test tracks!

Over the years, we have taken many, many clients on this loop and most had an exhilarating experience - while a few had a frightening one! I feel fortunate that we have great roads, much like this one, for basic testing and frankly, for fun. Our cars are made for these roads so 'testing' on them becomes one of the great burdens we must suffer...Next time you are in town, give us some warning and we can take you out on our test loop!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mitigating Innovation Risk Via Testing

I received an email last week from a supplier (and friendly competitor) expressing concern about the clamps that we were using in our new ULTRAliteLINES. His concern was based on the fact that Gates, the manufacturer of the clamps, recommends them 'for vehicle coolant hose only'. I very much appreciated the feedback from him as it made me realize that others would also raise this concern - even though we are using it with hose engineered for coolant, oil and other fluids. So this blog entry serves to show our approach to insuring the performance of our product.

We knew our kit was a novel application of these components and did not know of any other companies that were using it this way. These lightweight Startlite hose, clamps and BSP fittings, were so cool (to us geeks) that we wanted to determine if they were fit for use in our application. Since coolant and oil as fluids look extremely similar to each other from the clamp's perspective. The only system differences are a small temp difference (coolant goes to 240F or so, oil to 270F) and the significant difference of pressure (15psi vs 100psi). The material properties are irrelevant to our hose system as neither fluid comes in contact with the clamp since our arrangement is over a barbed fitting, not a reused hose that could have oil on it. Therefore, pressure capability was the only real concern for our testing to investigate.

We felt spending the time and money to conduct track and lab testing would be the right path for this kit. It added 4 months to our development schedule but clearly needed to be done as we knew of no others who run this combination.

Ryan, who developed the ULTRAliteLINES, and I have a combined 25+yrs in the OE and Tier 1 auto industry. I spent 12yrs developing new products at 3M Automotive and subjecting these parts to OE specification and internal tests. Developing lab tests that would predict the lifetime of a part was always a Holy Grailish endeavor. There are committees of scientists and engineers who work towards striking the right balance between real world testing and simulated testing done in a lab. We decided a combination of lab with actual in-car testing would be the best indicator of how the product would hold up. Frankly, thoroughly testing this creative 'joint' would be the only thing that would allow us to sleep at night!

Laboratory tests:
We found a lab in MI that specializes in automotive line and fitting testing. They would be able to subject our kit to extreme conditions we could never replicate on the street or track. We sent them three samples of our kit and had them run two types of tests:
  1. Pressure Proof: 150degC@150psi for 30minutes and check for leaks
  2. Burst: increase pressure until failure
These tests represent extreme conditions that would never be seen in our cars. But by testing in this manner, we can fatigue the product and try to extract a failure. Accelerated tests can help predict potential failures, so extreme conditions are warranted. Since our budget did not allow optimization of this joint, we did not test various combinations. We only tested the configuration that we felt would be the best for our kit.

We created a marketing piece that shows the test results. You can see it here: LAB results. Essentially we passed the Pressure Proof tests and showed a safety factor of 3 to 5 times on the Burst test. This test is quite extreme as it is run immediately after the Pressure Proof test. Basically, the fittings blew out of the hose at pressures that were 3 to 5 times higher than they would ever see - even at peak operating levels. Frankly the test showed that the joint was withstanding 6 times normal operating pressures. As an engineer, this is a comforting margin and insures blissful sleep.

Track testing:
Subjecting parts to the track can be some of the best testing possible. This testing will insure that the cars can run even more reliably on the street. We installed the ULTRAliteLINES onto our Blue Car, a 2004 Elise. We initially ran it at the Big Track at Willow Springs, then at CA Speedway (Auto Club Speedway) and then finally at Laguna Seca. Here is a video from Laguna Seca: Blue@Laguna. We were testing several other products as well but the ULTRAliteLINES were run for a total of 11hrs (including dyno, etc) and approx. 360 track miles.
We used our AiM data system to record key parameters like oil temp and pressure. We also reviewed the lateral acceleration numbers to see how the pressures were holding up with our gPAN. The car showed oil temps of approx 200degF which is well under the 300deg F used in the Pressure Proof testing. The actual oil pressures we logged ranged from the high 40s psi to the low 60s psi. This was a third to half of what was used in the lab testing and far, far below the Burst test results of 344, 452, 565 psi. Ryan's OE experience suggested that a peak pressure of 100psi would be the extreme level experienced by our lines.

Other Considerations:
Proper component selection is key for a reliable system. Each of the parts we chose, come from reputable automotive companies who have done extensive testing. We simply supplemented their work with tests that were specific to our needs.

The Aeroquip Startlite hose has been used for fuel, oil and coolant applications successfully and has been fully tested by Eaton Corp. The braided hose actually imparts a clamping force onto the fittings, much like a 'Chinese Finger Trap' when you pull it. The Lotus twin oil coolers utilizes a fair amount of rubber hose. This became a clear opportunity, for weight reduction, if we used Startlite, since it is 40% lighter than typical rubber hose.

The Gates clamps were the newest and novelist item in our system. They have the ability to dynamically adjust compression based on temp. They also work very well when applied over hose/fitting barbs as they have much more clamp surface area and better conform the hose to the fitting barbs. The Gates clamps also claim to be impervious to ALL automotive type fluids.

Combining all these features made good engineering sense to us. We just need some testing to insure we were onto a good thing...and separate us from the typical approach that is used in the aftermarket.

Options For the Ultra Cautious:
I recognize that some in our community may still want more security. For them, I suggest the tried and true hose clamp. They can easily be added as a secondary clamp over our Gates clamps or as the primary clamp. They add just a tad bit more weight...I suspect Colin Chapman would simply run our kit as is...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Blue Car Testing @ Laguna Seca

The next round of Lotus Cup took place at Laguna Seca. We brought our Elise out for additional testing:
  1. Oil Cooler lines
  2. KATANA265
  3. Brake Relocation: Carbotech pad test
  4. Larini 8" (ultra quiet)
  5. FuelSafe Fuel cell
The boys had to swap out the trans after our last trackday and refitted the conventional gearbox with the Jubu 3rd,4th & Final Drive with the OS Giken LSD.

Oil Cooler Lines: We ran these lines again this weekend and had no problems. Our kit uses Aeroquip's Startlite hose with BSP fittings and a novel clamping system. Our clamp is very clean and compact which will make installation much easier. Our independent lab testing and the 6 trackdays has made us confident that our solution is ready for sale. We should have them available within a week or two.
KATANA265: Another three days of full throttle track use has us pleased with this solution. The AFRs & EGTs are looking safe and we believe we are ready to release the kit.

We believe that Hp north of the KATANA265 will result in problems with a stock transmission. We've witnessed another racer's 300+hp Exige lose 3rd gear at Laguna. We recognize that the allure of big Hp is hard to resist but we hope that folks will recognize what they are getting into. We are still waiting for a reply from Jubu/Drexler on the status of our Dogbox failure from the Fontana event. I think trans failures will become more common as the cars get more power and run slicks on the track.

Front Brake Caliper Relocation: I ran the car with the Carbotech pads and was very pleased with the XP12 & XP8 in the rear. The car did not have any of the nervousness that I had experienced at Willow Springs during our initial test. The pads work well and can be trail braked easily. They are not very grabby and allow a smoother release. I think that a more aggressive pad can be tried on the rear for sure. We'll get to that next time!

Larini 8" ULTRA Quiet: We ran a stock Exige S muffler to start our weekend to make sure the car was very quiet. Laguna has a very strict noise limit which has resulted in many racers trying different muffler contraptions: see previous post. Our car has several upgrades that would add to the noise like the HKS intake, Larini header/straight pipe and Jubu Final Drive. But with the stock Exige S muffler we blew a 88dB - so were well under the limit. The car felt a bit slower possibly because of the added restriction. We brought a new Larini 8" ULTRA Quiet with a special wrap that quiets the system over a standard Larini8"by an additional 2-3 dB. I wanted to test this system to see if it might be close. We installed it before the last session and went out for a sound check. The car sounds much better but I also knew right away that it was too loud! The car felt much faster going up the hills than before but ultimately blew a 98dB!!! Well, they black flagged me pretty quickly and I returned to the pits. Sound can be a difficult thing to measure properly in track conditions but we are so far over the limit that this muffler will not likely work for other heavily modified cars. This muffler will work perfectly with a NA car and possibly with an Exige S with stock intake/header/cat.

Fuel Safe Fuel Cell: We continued to run the car with the cell. Everything worked fine with the exception of one discovery. The system baffles the fuel in the fuel pump cavity too well. This results in the fuel gauge reading a higher amount than what is contained in the whole tank. Essentially the car can be down to a couple of gallons of fuel and system will trap it in this cavity that holds the pump and the fuel level float. The float will assume that the tank is higher than it actually is. The stock fuel tank has a bleed so that the fuel can slowly level itself when the car is sitting. We've contacted Fuel Safe to see if there is a good solution or drivers will need to monitor their fuel consumption.

Overall the weekend was a great success. We supported two Spec Elise clients along with Blue. None of the cars broke down and I was able to get my times down to 1min43s. I made one shock change that felt like an improvement but did not have much time to tinker with settings. With some coaching (and some new tires)I think I can carve another couple of seconds - maybe even break 1min40. That 'll have to wait till next year or my dreams! Our AiM data collected plenty of great info including the fact that car pulled 1.5gs - so I know we continue to stress the various products well. We have many more items in our pipe so this arduous testing must continue....8^)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Blue Car Testing at AutoClub Speedway

We brought Blue to CA Speedway to further test our various new products. We recruited a couple of fast drivers, Brent Bauman and Scott Nogrady, to really put her to the test. The quickest lap time that we recorded was a 1min47.9s lap at the hands of Brent. This time was one of the best during the Lotus Cup race this past weekend. Our goal was to push the various parts hard and see how they would perform.

Since our initial track test, we added the following parts: new Nitron Race Pro shocks, ReVerie 1700mm rear wing & Canards, RACEunderAERO, RACEsills, ReVerie XC seat, Elise CF hardtop, new JUBU Elise race Spoiler/Splitter, forged SJ Racing wheels, and DOT slick tires. The car was superbly sticky with loads of grip and extremely fast!

Both drivers were fully impressed with the car. Brent is a Lotus owner and is recognized as one of the fastest - if not the fastest, Lotus Cup racer. His was quite happy with the car and felt he could lower the lap times by at least a couple of seconds - which would have beat the fastest cars including Andy's 2-11 and Rob's 330hp Exige. But as they say, 'to finish first, you must first finish'! Alas, we suffered a trans failure that cut our weekend short. Regardless, we are quite happy with the overall performance of The Blue Car, so please read on to learn more...

Front Brake Caliper Relocation: We had the 308BBK with stock front calipers relocated to the rear of the car. Previous testing with this set-up and different pads proved that more testing was needed - especially since we lacked enough suitable pad compounds. This time we arrived with new pads of three different compounds from ONE brake pad manufacturer - Carbotech. We installed the XP12 in the front and XP8s in the rear. This combination worked great with no unusual behavior from the car. Brent suggested that we should test an even more aggressive compound on the rear. We'll try the XP10s in the rear in a couple of weeks.

New Aero: We had never tested this combination as the new JUBU Elise spoiler was a new item for us. Our previous Exige had the ReVerie complete kit and performed very well. The JUBU spoiler is a carbon fiber piece that is very aggressive and finally gives us a more complete solution for Elise owners. This spoiler extends back providing a fully flat bottom and eliminates the front undertray. Adding the other aero parts created a seriously stable machine based on the reports of our drivers. We installed a temporary rear wing upright with several inches of vertical adjustment. I knew that we would need to adjust the amount of wing height to dial a suitable balance. AutoClub Speedway rewards good aero but also is a high speed track. Too much drag can be a penalty so setting up the right balance becomes key. In fact, we dropped the height of our wing and lowered our lap times with Scott driving and increased top speed. The balance was improved as well. The ReVerie 1700mm rear wing remains the sweetest wing available and has been copied by others with lesser results. This is one bad mutha! This overall kit will also allow us to test our new Dry Sump kit to over 1.5g+. That testing will take place in July...

Brent has innovated the use of aero in the Lotus Cup and turned very fast times (and influenced others) in his Exige with the same parts on Blue. He has all of these parts but runs a front spoiler of his own design. He is the designer of the RACEunderAERO and RACEsills. These parts are run by several of the fastest Lotus Cup drivers and provide very fast times. His Exige S runs stock power levels yet it's faster than many, much more powerful Lotus. We believe that better aero is a safer and more reliable way to lower lap times.

Nitron Pro Race 3Way: This triple adjustable suspension is the new 46mm piston design that is the pinnacle of Nitron kits. We ran 550lb and 700lb spring rates with this set-up. Both drivers were very pleased with the system. Brent has the standard Nitron triples on his Exige and found this kit to be an improvement. Scott felt that we could stiffen the settings, but we did not get the chance to try it. We've sold a kit to another client that cut his lap times at ThunderHill by over 4sec!

We also offer a more affordable version of this 46mm kit that is legal for spec class in Lotus Cup: Nitron 46mm Race Pro 1 Way. Currently we are running the one way on a Spec Elise that is being campaigned in Lotus Cup. This car won its class in the first two races of this year. Rob loved this suspension and set amazing times.

JUBU Dogbox: Both drivers loved the new Dogbox. Brent commented that the ratios were excellent, and action of the kit was excellent. We installed the OS Giken TR1A clutch and flywheel with a sprung clutch plate (see comments below). Unfortunately we lost 5th & 6th gears on Saturday morning. We've taken the trans out of the car and are opening it up today to see what failed. Testing is not always as successful as we'd like, but will reveal things that will allow us to improve. Finding a trans solution that is reliable is our goal. We will get to the bottom of it soon enough!

OS Giken TR1A: We had previously suffered some transmission failures with the previous version of this system. Sector111 has taken responsibility for this and taken care of the broken transaxles. The old system has a solid clutch plate that does not adequately dampen the forces/shock transferred through the driveline. Though the kit was tested in Japan, we are discovering that it is too aggressive for our street-based trans - especially with the weaker syncros. We firmly believe that most race oriented clutches with solid clutch plates are too aggressive with the stock trans. We've seen failures with other similar clutches and would caution the Lotus community to beware of undampened clutches.

We are working with OS Giken and testing a possible replacement. We installed a special sprung clutch plate in the TR1A for this test since the JUBU trans has no syncros. The action was excellent. Though the trans did fail, we don't believe it is clutch related.

Oil Cooler Lines: The lines were tested to higher loads on the track than before and continue to perform very well. We just received our OE lab testing back and the lines passed with flying colors. We tested the system by running the fluid at 150degC for 30minutes at 150PSI. No failures. We then took these three samples and increased the PSI until we burst them. The failure mode was the fitting coming loose from the hose. It took over 344-565PSI before they failed. Since the stock system will never see pressure this high, we are comfortable with this safety margin. Expect this ultra-lightweight product to be available from us shortly.

Fuel Cell: Again we had good success with the Fuel Safe tank. Copious amounts of fuel are used at this high speed track. This track is the worst case scenario that we have in CA with the huge left hand banked turn that will fuel starve most cars. We ran Blue down to about 1 gallon of fuel and then finally experienced some fuel surge. We're happy with that result and will soon offer this FIA-spec tank. The fuel pressure data logs remained excellent throughout the test and we are happy with the Denso pump and will soon offer a plug and play fuel pump upgrade.

KATANA265: This powerkit is a simple upgrade to out KATANA2. It ran great and will continue to be monitored over the course of the next few track tests. We want to make sure we have safe AFRs and will keep data logging the system under severe track conditions.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Track Testing The Blue Car: Dogbox, Oil Lines, Fuelcell, AiM...

Mario, Ryan and I spent Friday at Willow Springs raceway conducting our initial shakedown testing of The Blue Car. We had installed several new serious bits on her. The key items we wanted to test were the Jubu Dogbox transmission, our new Oil Cooler lines, FuelSafe Fuelcell, proRAD with relocated Fans, Silicone hoses, Brake caliper relocation and an extensive AiM data system. Performance, Safety and Reliability are our key goals with this car. We believe a car that runs properly and is not broken is a car that delivers the most smiles.

Since the car had been stripped down with all the major mechanical systems removed and then reinstalled, we wanted to do this testing before running her at any serious event. We completed most of the major work on Wed and started her up that afternoon. After fixing a couple of leaks, we let her sit until Thurs.

On Thursday we took her to the dyno to run through all the gears of the new Jubu Dogbox. We figured this would be the best way to see if any other issues may pop up before we got to the track. Sure enough, a couple of items surfaced which we sorted.

This gave us the confidence to head to Willow so we loaded up the trailer and drove up early Friday morn. Overall we had good results and the car ran well with only the brakes being the lone issue that we need to rethink. My comments for each item is listed below:

AiM System: We've run a removable AiM Race system in our previous cars for data logging. We decided to step up to an MXL Pro dash this time and wire in even more sensors to log more critical data. The following data is now being monitored with our AiM system: Oil temp & Pressure, Fuel Pressure, Water Temp, Exhaust Gas Temp, Air Fuel Ratio, Trans Fluid temp In & Out, and more. We logged this data during our test session at the dyno and more importantly at the track. The dash allowed us to program warning lights for several critical areas like Oil & Fuel Pressure. With all the new items we were testing, this became a nice feature to have. The shift lights are another sweet feature that I appreciated.

Jubu Dogbox: The stock trans on our cars is a weak link in track driven cars -especially those with 250+hp. We've been running the Jubu gears for some time with good luck so decided that the Dogbox was worth testing as it does away with the weak syncros of the stock box. Our engine builder, Bruce Nogrady was given the gear stack and he assembled it along with our OS Giken LSD into a stock trans housing. This means it bolts right up to the engine and also uses the stock shifter mechanism. Care must be taken in the assembly of the Dogbox as it is not a job for the average trans shop. We used the OS Giken TR1A clutch/flywheel as the system requires a strong clutch.

Trans fluid temps were monitored but we had no issues. In fact the temps were a bit on the cool side so we pulled the fuse for the transCOOLER pump. A Dogbox can run much cooler than a traditional gearbox and our data hinted this was the case. More testing will be required to determine this with any certainty.

The straight gears found in this kit are strong but are loud. This is a track
solution for all but the absolutely mental. Upshifts can be executed without the clutch. Downshifts need proper rev matching. It was an easy and quick adjustment for me. I've driven manual car since I was 16 and this was my first time with a Dogbox but it was fairly intuitive. Getting into gear when stopped can require a couple of attempts - you also need to shift with some authority and can't be too gentle. Driving this gearbox was simply a blast. The speed of upshifts was startling! Jubu have run this kit all of last year and had great success. I will anticipate that this will be a great upgrade for many track enthusiasts - with deep pockets as it is expensive!

Oil Cooler Lines: The stock oil cooler lines are failing on cars so we decided to sort a fix. Ryan found the correct BSP fittings that attach directly to the factory oil coolers. The innovation in our kit revolves around the weight savings we've found by using lightweight line and a new clamping method. We wanted to run the car on track at elevated oil temps and pressures to see how they would hold up. Our AiM system logged oil pressure between 50-60psi on track with oil temps in 180-200degF range. We suffered no leaks or issues so feel confident to run the car even harder. Additionally we are sending out our fittings/clamp/lines to an independent test lab that conducts testing for the auto industry. I think our kit holds plenty of promise.

FuelSafe Fuelcell: We decided to develop an FIA-spec fuelcell for clients looking for a bag based fuel tank solution. More and more clients are taking street based Lotus and converting them to track only race cars. We still feel our V2 Fuel Tank remains the best solution for those clients who drive their cars on the street as it retains all the factory safety & emissions components. We began working with FuelSafe and after a couple of months of development we landed on a solution that has more capacity than stock AND uses the factory filler system safely. Having proper roll-over protection with the factory filler system is not an easy proposition but we've done it with this tank.

We installed the larger Denso fuel pump that plugs directly into the factory housing since this car features the KATANA265. The factory fuel housing drops in with ease. It requires no modification so is a neat, safe and reliable solution. We measured fuel pressures of 45-55 psi even through fast, 1+g turns like turns 8 & 9. We were very happy with the results.

Front Brake Caliper Relocation: We tested the OE front caliper onto the rear rotor along with our 308BBK. We'd run this on the street and in the canyons with good success. We knew this bias change was dramatic so felt we needed to test it on track as well. Willow Springs is not a hard braking track but there are a couple of corners that require some good braking. Additionally I overslowed the car many times to test the brakes and found that the car's handling became slightly darty and pulled. We started with the same race pads on all four corners and then tried different compounds. None that we tried, worked to my satisfaction. We need to go back to the drawing board on this effort to make it commercially viable.

Silicone Hoses: Our partner Dr. Bruce Lee, in Singapore, commissioned silicone hoses for our cars. We became the lucky guinea pigs to test them out. Since we yanked out the heater core from our car, his system (lacks heater lines) was perfect. Though the stock hoses are not a problem yet, we know that as cars age, it will be a good upgrade. This kit worked fine with no problems.

proRAD with Top Mounted Fans: Water temps are a problem in the hot climate in the southwest. Especially track driven cars that are cranking up power over stock. We found this out, first hand, a couple of years ago and blogged about it briefly here. Our goal, by the end of this summer, will be to offer a well tested solution for clients who need added water cooling capacity. Temps at the track were in the 70sdegF so we did not experience difficult conditions. We'll get a better test later this Spring.

Other: EGTs on the car remained in a very safe zone - between 1000-1400degF. We tested an even quieter Larini8" exhaust. Frankly with the Dogbox whine, it was hard to hear this exhaust. But from the outside, it sounds superb with the Larini header , straight pipe and HKS Intake. This combination sounds fantastic to my jaded ears. Our new cage was a welcome addition as well. We've not added door bars so ingress/egress issues were improved - dare I say even over stock since you can grab the bars for assistance?! The Magnetic Blue paint is striking in the sun and will be enhanced further with a distinctive paint scheme that we are now scheming....We are now ready to push the car very hard with our test driver to see if these bits can hold up to 10/10s driving at the hands of a professional. Stay tuned....

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dry Sump for the 2ZZGE

Oil starvation is one of the track related issues that must be managed in the 2ZZGE (or any engine) because of the g forces that can be generated by a Lotus. Achieving 1.2+gs is quite common with R-compound shod Lotus. For most racers and trackday folks, our gPAN remains an excellent solution with great results. The gPAN has proven itself in HPDE, SCCA and LCS racing around the US as well as Japan and Europe. But there are a few Lotus that are pulling even higher g-loads thanks to bigger aero loads and stickier rubber. These folks can benefit from a dry sump(Wikipedia explanation:HERE). More and more clients around the world are racing their Lotus and need better oil control to protect their engines and insure they finish their race!
Four years ago I called one of the best manufacturers of dry sump pumps and pans - Dailey Engineering to develop a solution for us. Bill Dailey is a world recognized engineer in this field and (lucky for us) is located right here in town. Bill and I scrutinized our Exige and quickly concluded that it would be very difficult to incorporate a dry sump into a street friendly Lotus because of the oil tank requirements. At the time, not enough Lotus were race-only, so we decided to put the project on hold. Last year we decided to reapproach the project with the intent of focusing on a race only system. Nitron had begun working on a solution that we considered, but we then abandoned it because of certain constraints. Late last year, I called Bill Dailey again for his help and recruited a much smarter engineer than I (Ryan from Secant ) to develop our kit. Ryan's powertrain expertise and contacts in the OE world proved to be invaluable for this effort.

One of the biggest challenges to sorting this system remained the oil tank. The tank must have plenty of capacity and be designed in a manner that the oil feed does not starve during high g-load conditions. The available space in the Lotus is extremely tight so this became a huge undertaking. Ryan landed on a tank concept that is quite novel and would fulfill these needs. We are locating this tank in the engine bay right behind the passenger seat. Several other locations were considered but none filled the needs as well as the spot we landed on.

Bill worked within the space available and redesigned a 2ZZGE pan/pump (see top image) that he had previously designed for a drag application. We met several times to discuss the system, take measurements from our mock-up engine and sort out details. More phone calls, emails and visits followed. We fabbed up some brackets and tanks to confirm some ideas. Naturally a couple of important mtgs were also held at our favorite Thursday evening watering hole to debate certain issues with the system.

We are dry fitting our dry sump system this week in our car. The orientation of the fittings and lines and other details is critical to sorting a complete solution. Clearly, the devil-in-in-the-details! The Blue Car will be the test mule for this system. We will run the car on track this week and confirm the AiM based data logging system along with our new Fuel cell, oil cooler lines, Dogbox from Jubu, and possibly our new race wheels.

One of the benefits of a dry sump system is a slight gain in power. To insure we measure this difference, we want to base line the car without the kit first. We should have the system in the car and running in late May or early June.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"The Blue Car" Build is Underway: Safety, Reliability & Performance.

Our Blue Elise came to us a few weeks ago in perfect running order. This car is special because it is actually one of the first US-spec Toyota-powered examples ever made. The build date was in 2003 and was classified as an engineering prototype car. This was one of the cars Lotus brought to the LA Auto Show for North American debut of the Elise.

Technically this car can not be driven on the street so we decided to make it into a race car. She came into our shop as a complete car but we changed that real quick. There was no time to waste as this car will serve as our track-only developmental test bed for some seriously tasty bits we're working on. Safety, reliability and performance are our key goals with product development. We plan to extend our knowledge and product offering through testing with this car.

To have the car ready for our May, 6th track day, we have a laundry list of various safety and performance bits that need to be installed. Here's some of what "Phase 1" includes:

  • Roll cage

  • Katana265

  • Jubu Dog-box transmission*

  • Sector111 Upgraded oil-cooler lines*

  • Silicone engine pipes*

  • FuelSafe Fuel cell

  • Safecraft Fire surpression

  • Schroth Harnesses & safety netting

  • AiM MXL Pro Dash + array of data sensors

  • Nitron 46mm Race Pro Triples

  • 308BBK + front OE caliper relocation

  • MONOballs

  • titanQR

  • SSC Shift Cable

  • ProAlloy proRAD + fan relocation kit

  • hubGTC - tilt-up steering kit

  • CF Big-Bottom Seat & ReVerie XC seat

  • Mulsanne C passenger seat

  • subSTIFFY

  • transCOOLER

  • RTVbrace

  • Nitron S99 Toe Pin Kit

  • gPAN

  • RACEmounts

  • raceVIEW Mirrors

  • ReVerie Canards

  • ReVerie Arch Louvers

  • RACEunderAERO

  • RACEsills

  • and, believe it or not, MORE!
*new parts to be tested