Friday, March 30, 2012

The Thrill of Pole Position and the Agony of....

We brought our Art Car to the first Lotus Cup USA event last weekend with our friend, Glen Irani, our partner and driver this year.  Glen has been competing in LCU since the first season with his NA Elise.  He is a talented driver who has won his class and frankly is known for his aggressive style and out-right speed.  Plus he is a cool guy who beat cancer last year and is building back his strength and focus in the car.  He is driving our Art Car to help us push the parts we are developing, in race conditions.

Our goal is to prove that a well balanced Elise can compete against cars like 211s and highly modified Exige Cup cars.

The Thrill
If the results of this weekend are any indication, we've got the Cup cars covered with seconds to spare and are giving the 211s a run for their money...Glen set the fastest lap of the entire weekend with a 1.54.7 sec blast around Chuckwalla Raceway.

Starting the race in Pole Position on Saturday exceeded our expectations as the field included five 211s including one GT4 car.  Two of the 211s were driven by very experienced and talented LCU drivers who typically are the pole sitters and have won LCU championships.  So we're happy to report that we ran with some very qualified drivers with very well sorted 211s.

The Art Car
Glen, like us, believe that the Elise is a great platform as it is lighter than an Exige and has better aero potential than a 211.  We aren't delusional enough to think that the Elise is better than a 211 - we just think we can compete.  So what was on our Elise to make it competitive?  Our car weighed 2020lbs with driver & a full tank of fuel.  It makes 243 rwhp (see Dyno).  Here's the list of tasty bits:
  • Proven Parts: KATANA265, Nitron Race Pro 3-Way, 308BBK + FCRbracket, RACEunderAERO, ReVerie: 1700x200mm rear wing, XC seat, Steering wheel, Canards, Side scoop, transCOOLER, subSTIFFY, ULTRAdisc, Carbotech pads (XP12 & XP10), AiM race pack, R3cage, DSbrace + S99pins, OSGiken LSD, Drexler gears,  Fidanza V2 Clutch & Flywheel, proRAD, coolantHOSES, CF hardtop, FIAtank, raceVIEW mirror, Spec Elise Clams   
  • New Parts: 

    • Dry Sump: We've been successfully running this Dailey Engineering/S111 developed solution for several months with great success.  We ran the car without the twin oil coolers and saw a max of 259degF (80degF Ambient).  We will add a cooler when ambient temps start climbing.  We are offering this kit to experienced shops.  If you are interested, please contact us.
    • raceUPRIGHTS: This new upright solution was engineered by my friend Dennis@Palatov Motorsport.  It is designed to allow us to run lower ride heights than stock.  We ran our car at 102mm(F) & 110mm(R).  They also allow us to run less camber than is typically required.  We were very happy with the performance.  These uprights allow you to bolt stock brakes, hubs, steering arms, toe links onto it.  They are a very cost effective kit and will be available soon.
    • Delrin Wishbone Bushes:  We developed this bush solution to deliver the stiffness required by slick tires with better resistance to adverse weather conditions.  Similar solutions are used extensively in off-road racing and perform well in dusty and sandy conditions.  These bushes are also more affordable and very easy to install.  They are working well.
    • ETHOS 16x7 & 17x8 Wheels: We are very happy with the quality of the ETHOS and feel they are a great value for racers.  Two other 211 owners were running these wheels this weekend.  I expect to see more clients pick them up as they are light, strong and affordable.
    • TRACKpipe: Our new muffler has been on our car for several track events.  It is another great value solution that we are offering.  The sound is great and we think clients will find it to be a good solution.
    • DSbrace: Our new toe link brace has been run now for several track events.  It uses the tried and true parts from our RTD2brace in a lower cost solution.
    • Nitron Hydraulic Spring Perch: We installed two of these adjusters onto our Nitron shocks and they allowed us to corner balance our Elise quickly and easily.  These perches use hydraulic pressure to adjust ride height on the Nitron with a simple knob.  We will be offering them shortly in both diameters for fitment to any Nitron shock we've sold.  They are an excellent solution for any racer who spends time adjusting his corner balance.   
    • raceRACK: Our faster (2.2) race-oriented steering rack continues to run well.  Production parts are now in being built for us by Titan.  The car does not feel nervous with this rack.
The Agony
That sounds a bit dramatic but we suffered a broken stock shifter on our car at the start of the first race - luckily we had run several session before with no trouble and set the fastest time of the day.  Murphy's Law?! This shifter is one of the pre-recall shifters.  You can tell if you have one by its hexagonal cross section.  The upgrade has a round cross section.  

This car was a Lotus Press car so it is a shame it did not get the update - but in the end, we are at fault as we missed upgrading the shifter.  Shame on us, though the driver gets some of the blame as well...;^)  John did a great job of welding up the shifter so that Glen could run on Sunday.  Special thanks go out to Jim@LCU who is sending us an upgraded shifter so we can fix the Art Car properly!

Of course when you race a car, it sees significantly higher stress than street use.  We had a couple of other issues that popped up.  On Sunday the SSC shifter cable housing failed and the Art Car was stuck in 5th gear for the second half of the race.  Glen did a great job of keeping the car competitive and ended up with a 4th place finish overall finish.  

Additional 'challenges' included some poor fuel management by us which resulted in fuel starvation.  Our FIAtank is the original test tank that lacked some bleed holes so the fuel stays captured within the baffled area that holds the fuel pump.  You could say it traps the fuel too well!  The lack of a bleed causes the fuel gauge to read higher than the actual amount.  We've corrected this in the production tanks by adding some bleed holes in the baffle that allow fuel to level out slowly when it sits in the pit.  We also suffered some tire balance issues that we are still sorting now.  Initial evaluations did not prove conclusively what caused the issue.  

The Conclusion
Overall the team, John, Matt & Glen did a great job at this first event.  We proved that an Elise can be made fast with moderate levels of power.  Our Art Car showed great promise and we plan to come to the next event at Buttonwillow with a car that is ready to take on the 211s once again.  I also want to thank the Lotus Cup team, Jim and Robbie.  They are working hard to create a great venue for Lotus competition.  They are doing a great job - running any race series is a challenge and they are doing a fine job.  Stop by the Lotus Cup website and learn more: HERE.  


Glen said...

Glen here.

Thanks to Shinoo and everyone at Sector111 for making my first race since my fight with cancer a thrilling and successful one. After what I just went through, every race is a winning race and it's all about having fun with my friends and making memories...but driving a killer car like this sure makes those races a lot more satisfying! Here's to a year of victories on all fronts!

All I can say is that the car is as much a piece of art below the skin as it is above (some would say even much more so!) It handled "joyfully" - and I mean that in all seriousness. It's not some edgey track monster waiting to chew you up and spit you off the track because you missed your split second cue. It's playful, forgiving and predictable. It's FUN! What it lacks in hp/wt ratio compared to the 211's it makes up for in suspension balance and outright turning and braking capability. I like a car with controllable looseness so I can surf the tarmac. This car just builds my confidence,lets me relax behind the wheel and just play - and that's why I'm in this sport - to play!

Glen said...

Product Conclusions:

I can only recommend things based on my experience - I'm the driver, not the mechanic, not the engineer - so my words come from the driving experience. Shinoo's put a lot of financial commitment into RACE-proving his products and innovations. I respect that a lot, because it's not a high profit biz. It's a passion business and what Shinoo is doing is taking that passion to the level that is REQUIRED to make real race cars and derive some useful trickle-down technology for street cars. I'm not going to blow smoke up his tail pipe (or yours) about great ideas that don't really work well. And he wouldn't want me doing that either.

So here we go:

Of all the brake setups I've seen and tried on these cars, this braking system hits the sweetspot. BBKs can be difficult to modulate and overwhelming to the car's stability, but this setup is smooth, powerful and very confidence inspiring - not to mention relatively affordable. I was able to feather the brakes ever so lightly to get just the right amount of nose settling without even feeling the g's. I'm a late braker usually and the OEM brakes just hate that - they're so impossible to "breathe in and breathe out" modulate too. These brakes LOVE that stuff. They give you a light pedal too so you can easily left foot brake. I'm not real fond of left foot braking with the OEMs because there's so little 'feel' for my relatively numb left foot. More importantly, no more front brake bias issue - now the car settles on all four wheels instead of standing on its nose. So go ahead and reel in some speed mid turn - it's NOT too late! DON'T even try that with OEMs. The OEM front BBK is total overkill in combo with OEM rears, but the BBK rears, while providing some balance, just make for an inappropriate amount of brake force. This system, which uses the OEM front caliper on the rear is just right IMO - which has been seconded by two pro drivers as well. Every track S111 and 211 lotus should have this kit IMO.

The Nitron 3way coilovers on this car are sublime. I use the Nitron SA Sports in my own car for simplicity sake (and cost) - and I've been pretty happy with them despite their obvious limitations (nothing I can't work around - right?) Now I'm totally spoiled. With these 3 ways, the control of the wheels is several magnitudes more refined and curbs literally disappear. Two clicks and the changes are very apparent. Add to that the convenience of hydraulic spring perches that enable critical corner balance and height adjustments quickly and I simply don't see any way to make speed more easily or cost effectively.

OS Giken's LSD is almost as cool as the drug and makes my car's factory LSD feel crude. I can barely sense it's there - no more pushing in the turns, no slippage over the curbs, no tail-hanging exits. Coupled to its reputation for reliability, this is clearly the LSD to get.

New Racing uprights:
I say this perhaps prematurely since I've only put a few hundred track miles on these, but I do so only because they work so well and I'm really excited about them. They eliminate the horrible bump steer that plagues these cars and provide huge improvements in braking due to less neg camber requirement(We set them at -2deg and they add in -1 deg of camber progressively - way cool!) Accomplishing those two things AND lowering the car is HUGE. Suffice to say this is a key component to this car's rock-solid steering, braking and stability.

I could go on with the many things this car is proving like the new rear tow brace (so simple - why aren't they all like that?), shifter mods, the SC kit, aero bits, etc etc- they seem to work real well under race pressure. But these four things ring out as major contributors to this cars great handling. As far as driving skill goes, I'm pretty much self-trained and relatively green, so I wouldn't attribute too much of our success to that.

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Mark said...

Good work Sector 111 team. Great season goal.