Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Lotus Clutch Delay Valve

Have you noticed a slight delay when quickly shifting your Lotus S240/S260?  A clutch delay valve is installed, by the factory, on the ‘08+ S240 & S260 models.  This little one-way restrictor is plumbed in before the clutch slave cylinder; it’s job is to limit the amount of fluid that passes through it when you release the clutch pedal.  It ‘delays’ the engagement of the flywheel and clutch to a pre-defined rate – this is not a pleasant ‘feature’ when you are driving the car aggressively!   Keeping this in a car that is track driven can increase clutch wear by constantly slipping the clutch at every shift.

You can find this delay valve with the undertray removed.  It is located on the firewall side of the engine, down low.  See it in place above.

Luckily, there is a fix – straight from Lotus.  Clutch Pipe C120Q0003F is the same shape clutch line without the delay valve built in! A great time to install this bit is to do it while you are flushing the brake fluid – the clutch and brakes share the same reservoir.  Bolt it on, bleed the clutch, and enjoy some positive clutch engagement!

Recognize that there is a trade-off...Why did Lotus fit such a device to these models?  Our guess is to protect the transmission.  This delay valve will limit the shock transmitted to the transmission by these more powerful engines.  The stock transmission durability is severely compromised as power starts to exceed 270hp.  Lotus have to deliver cars with warranties and replacing transmissions gets very costly.  Other OEs, like BMW, also employ the same trick.  If you remove your stock delay valve and run on track with slicks, expect more frequent trans rebuilds - especially if you have also added more power!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Oil Primer - What Oil Temps Could Your Track Car Sustain?

Safe oil temperature is an often debated subject among car enthusiasts.  Our cars use high rpm engines and get run on track, which result in high oil temperatures.  So what are safe levels?  This blog entry will shed some light on this sensitive issue.  

Oil is designed to lubricate the moving parts in your engine and to help cool it.  Oil is thicker (more viscous) when it is cold and when it warms up, it thins out and flows better.  This improves lubrication and cooling effects.  Of course it can get too thin and cause oil pressure to drop - which can be dangerous. Typically you want to achieve 10psi (.69 bar) of oil pressure for every 1,000rpm that you are running.  Cold oil is the cause of a fair amount of wear and tear that takes place to your engine.  
BAC Mono dash showing oil temp in deg C and oil pressure

I spoke at length with Chuck@Competitive Edge - our Motul distributor to get some more background on oil performance.  We run Motul oils, especially the 300V on all of our track driven cars.  This oil is an ester-based, full synthetic.  300V is designed to run as hot as 385degF(196degC) before it starts to degrade.  This is a shockingly high number for most of us but is backed with solid data and testing.      

The Mono has a Cosworth engine that recommends a heavier oil: 15W50 and the Lotus runs a thinner 5W40 in the Toyota 2ZZGE.  The following table shows some interesting 300V data that compare these two oil weights:

5W40 15W50 Standard
Density at 59degF(20degC) 0.86 0.868 ASTM D1298
Viscosity at 104degF (40degC)
81.8 mm2/s
122.9 mm2/s ASTM D445
Viscosity at 212degF (100degC)
13.6 mm2/s 18.1 mm2/s ASTM D445
Flash point 446degF (230degC) 460degF (238degC)  ASTM D92
HTHS Viscosity at      302degF(150degC) 4.1 mPa.s 5.3 mPa.s ASTMD4641

The above data came from Motul's technical reference sheets: 5W4015W50   You can see that the heavier weight oil (15W50) maintains a higher viscosity as the temperatures rise yet at cold temps(50degF) it has about the same density as the lighter oil.  So the cold start performance/wear & tear will be similar and provide good performance as the temps rise.  Good low temp viscosity is a key advantage of a synthetic oil.

BAC Mono at Oulton Park

In the Mono, I am seeing temps up to 120deg C (248degF) with hard canyon use as well as on the track.  The factory suggests that 130degC (266degF) is acceptable.  An important consideration is to see how the oil pressure is managing - which at 120degC is fine.  We've not monitored pressure yet at higher oil temps.  We have submitted oil samples to a laboratory for analysis and found that it was still in good condition (though admittedly the mileage was under 1k).

Our ArtCar (Elise) ran oil temps as high as 270deg F (132degC) with acceptable oil pressures in Lotus Cup events.  See videos from Chuckwalla (see below) and Buttonwillow.  The oil temps climbed slowly over the course of a ten lap race - if we were to run an endurance event we would have likely added an oil cooler - this car lacked coolers.  The drySUMP on our Elise had a great cooling effect so we completely deleted all the oil coolers. 

We've experienced oil temps that have ranged up to 270+ degF (132degC) on our various cars.  Bill @Dailey Engineering had also mentioned that Vipers are consistently running oil temps well over 300degF with no issues.  Assuming that water/coolant temps and oil pressure remain safe, high oil temps seem perfectly acceptable.

So what kind of life can you get from a synthetic?  Typically with a good synthetic oil, the additive packages will begin to degrade first which then results in the oil needing to be replaced.  Even cars that are run hard on track can likely get 2,500-3000 miles of use before needing to change the oil.  Of course more frequent oil changes won't hurt.  

V6 Exige CupR at PB Racing
The advent of synthetic oils have been a serious boon to sportscar owners - especially the ones that drive their cars hard on track. Synthetic oils are a smart choice as they deliver the best balance of performance both at cold start as well as at high temperatures.  Technical data and actual race/track use with our cars suggests that oil can perform at very high temperatures.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Atom Chassis Repair

We recently completed a chassis repair on an Atom3 that I wanted to share with you.  We had blogged in the past about a different Atom repair that we completed: HERE.  This car spun and suffered suspension damage along with one dent in one of the main chassis tubes.  Replacing the wishbones/uprights/etc was the easy part as they bolt on and off quickly.  The main tube was the item that would take some more care and attention.  
Powdercoat was removed from dent
Our original plan was to cut out the dented section and replace it with a new sleeved section.  Once we started thinking through the details of this task and discussed with TMI about the repair, we came to a different solution.  We hired a certified welder to fill in the dent and smooth out the tube.  This solution turned out beautifully and the client was very pleased with the repair. 

Weld material was added to dent
Weld material was smoothed out

Finished tubing after painting
Chassis damage of this variety in a Lotus would have resulted in a totaled car.  The exoskeleton chassis of the Atom is a unique design feature of the car that not only also adds safety and but makes crash damage much easier to manage - and affordable!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lotus 'Ice Mode' Explanation

The Lotus have suffered from a phenomena under braking that feels like you've lost your brakes - this is something we mentioned in our recent blog entry with our Switchblade.  I found an explanation for this issue from a noted Lotus Engineer at the UK factory.
The symptoms being described are a result of the Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) system operating. This system is also referred to as Dynamic Rear Proportioning (DRP) and is, as the name implies an electronic system which, through the ABS control valve block restricts the line pressure to the rear brakes automatically to a pre-programmed algorithm. You can consider it as an electronically controlled proportioning valve which measures parameters like the rate of deceleration and rate of pedal application and uses this data to anticipate a rear wheel lock-up and then reduces the braking effort at the rear wheels as necessary. If the ABS system is left to do this, it can only react to a wheel as it starts to lock and therefore the car can already start to spin before the ABS can start to work. In extreme circumstances, if the driver brakes very suddenly the EBD system can lock off the pressure to the rear wheels completely; what pressure was at the rear brakes as the EBD system engaged remains there and the rear brakes are still working as a result, but further increases in pedal effort will not increase the braking at the rear of the car because the pressure to the rear brakes cannot increase. When this happens the brake pedal goes hard, as it is now pushing against the front callipers and a closed valve only, instead of against the front and rear callipers. The rear callipers are single piston and therefore quite flexible, so they are a major factor in making the brake pedal feel 'soft'. When the valve closes, the brake pedal pressure no longer flexes the rear callipers, hence the increase in pedal hardness. The front brakes are still working just as well as before the valve closed and will give more braking if the pedal effort is increased, while with the rear brakes working as hard as they can the braking is NOT affected. The problem is the driver feels like braking is reduced (even though it is not) because of the change in pedal feel. If the driver continues to push hard on the pedal, the car will continue to slow as fast as it possibly can in the circumstances. If he increases the pedal effort the front braking effort will increase and the rear effort will remain where it was. If he was to back off the pedal for a fraction of a second, the valve will reopen and the rear brakes will operate as normal again, with the pedal feel going back to normal.
In the case of releasing and re-engaging the pedal the car should not be able to slow any faster than it was with the system engaged unless either 1: the driver triggered the system in the first place by stamping on the pedal too fast or 2: the system triggered because a rear wheel was unloaded when the brakes were applied and would have locked up but is now fully loaded once again and able to sustain a greater braking torque. If the rate of deceleration does improve when the pedal is reapplied then it is telling the driver that he is over braking either in terms of the ultimate ability of the brakes (cause 1 above) or the track condition (cause 2 above) and needs to adjust his driving style to suit. If the system were not fitted or disabled and he continued to drive that way he would be in danger of spinning when applying the brakes. 
The suggestion that the system is running out of vacuum is just plain wrong. The system carries an internal reservoir of vacuum sufficient for three full brake applications. As with every servo system ever fitted to a car there is a one way valve which prevents the vacuum being lost when the car is on boost. The only way this reserve can be depleted is if the driver is maintaining boost while applying full brakes, i.e.: left foot braking very badly. In this instance I would argue that depleting the vacuum is probably a good thing as it should provide him with a warning that he is doing something awful to the car and it may reduce the speed of impact when he finally hits something as the brakes fade to nothing!! In normal use the throttle is closed when the brakes are applied, there is therefore no boost and the vacuum is automatically replenished as it is used."
So there it is, 'Ice Mode' is an inherent issue that can be addressed with some old school brake pedal pumping.  I think the pedal feel, when it goes 'hard', tends to be the most disconcerting as it happens when you are approaching the corner at high speed.  Many racers have disconnected the ABS system in an effort to reduce this issue and frankly it is a good solution for advanced drivers.  

We think that the brakes on the Lotus are still awesome even though they lack the firm feel that you get from other sports cars like a 911.  The flexible single piston rear caliper appears to be a key reason for the softer pedal - but we'll take it as we go 2-3 cars deeper into every corner than those massively powered GT3, ZO6 and M3s...

Another solution is to upgrade the front brakes to our 308BBK  or 308vBBK and move your front calipers to the rear with our FCRbracket.  We disconnect the ABS with this set-up.  One nice feature is that you can keep the stock rear caliper so you can retain your handbrake.  For about $2k you can effectively have a complete BBK kit for your Lotus.  We ran this successfully on our Art Car with great results including two track records in Lotus Cup.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

High Mileage Lotus - Benefits of 60pt Prep

Recently we serviced a repeat client who puts a ton of miles on his '05 Elise.  With 94,000 miles, this may be the highest mileage Elise in North America.  It is definitely the highest mileage car we have seen.  James first brought his Elise to us in Jan 2010 with 56,000 miles on the odometer.  At that time we conducted our 60pt Prep on the car.  This preparation checks over 60 of the critical areas, of a Lotus, that tend to loosen up.  Our service removes the fasteners, threadlocks them, torques them to spec and then paint markers each one.  You can find our 60pt Checklist on our Tech Tips page: HERE  Feel free to download this and use it to prep your car.

The picture below shows the old paint markers that we had put on James' car at the 56k service.  Even after 40k additional miles, you can still see them.  This technique allows you to visually inspect your car to quickly verify that your critical fasteners are still torqued correctly.  If you see that a paint line has shifted, this is a good indication that you need to retorque.

Once we inspected the car, we noticed that most of the fasteners had not moved.  We still removed each fasterner, reapplied threadlock, then cleaned off the old markers and repainted the joints.  These paint markers are readily available at auto parts or hobby stores.

One of the issues that we found during this inspection was the rear bushes had moved and the wishbones were making contact with the subframe.  The picture below shows what we found.  

Typically we see this on track cars but even high mileage street cars that are driven with some enthusiasm can exhibit this problem.  Luckily we have a couple of solutions that can help:  SL Bushes and the MONOballs or Nitron Bearings for the track/race focused cars.  We have a previous blog entry about this issue: HERE

We are big believers in the fact that these Toyota powered Lotus can be reliable cars.  The two basic requirements are that you:

  1. Keep the fluids & filters fresh
  2. Keep the critical fasteners torqued correctly
If you follow these basic rules you can run your Lotus for years with confidence and a grin on your face.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Switchblade Track test at SMMR

I took our Exige S to the track to do some initial testing.  We have several items on the car that needed to be evaluated, including the new clutch and suspension.  It was the first time in years for me to drive an Exige S on track and it was interesting difference compared to the Elises that we have had the last few years.  The car performed well and had some good points and some bad ones.  I ran her on SMMR's 1.5 mile configuration.

The Exige was very fast as we installed our BLADE275 kit on it.  This car accelerates like a scalded cat!  The auxiliary ducting kept the proICduct well fed with air so it did not feel as heat soaked as with the stock set-up.  The ambient temps were well into the mid to high 90s during my testing.  Water temps stayed below 203degF.

 The new clutch felt great.  During the initial break-in the car was a bit touchy when you launched it from a stop on the street in 1st gear.  I'm embarrassed to admit that I stalled her a couple of times!  The clutch now has approx 500 street miles and feels fine.  The pedal effort is slightly higher than stock but the power rating is much higher so I think it will be a very good option for clients with more power and who run on track.

The suspension is very soft and glides over the bumps very well.  It had great grip.  The car swayed much more than our last couple of Elises thanks to these softer spring rates but you could also feel the weight up high on the Exige.  The IC coupled with the roof, hatch/wing make for a car that feels more 'top heavy' than the Elise.  You really notice it on the track.  The 'inch down' ETHOS wheels and larger sidewall Toyo RA1s also contributed to the compliance and slightly slower turn-in.  The car was very fun and easy to place.  We still have the stock seats and no harnesses and I moved around quite a bit as a result.  We'll add some harnesses soon.

The single biggest negative was the 'ice-mode' issue that I was experiencing on a couple of turns.  This is a known issue with the ABS system on the Lotus.  I ran with the ABS on but many racers defeat it as it can cause this disconcerting feel of having no brakes.  Truth is, the ABS system thinks you are slipping so kills any additional rear brake pressure but your front brakes are still working.  If you get off the pedal and immediately back on, it corrects itself.  Of course that is never fun when your corner is quickly approaching!  We were running stock pads with our ULTRAdiscs so the initial bite was also a bit lacking thanks to the pads.  Different pads will make a huge difference.  We were testing a new brake fluid and it appeared to work fine as it is hard to boil fresh fluid in a Lotus.

I also had some shifting problems.  I think our cable adjustments need to be looked at but I was mostly having some shifting issues on the track.  Again it is well known that the 2ZZGE moves quite a bit with track use - especially with the addition of an IC on top.  We installed our sportINSERTS to help this issue.  I need to look closer at our adjustments to see if that was the cause or if we need to run stiffer mounts.

I drove the car to the track to see how comfortable it would be.  The TRACKpipe sounded great on track but was a little bit intrusive while cruising along the freeway.  The Exige is a louder car than an Elise.  Mufflers that do not drone, like the TRACKpipe, in an Elise, will be louder in an Exige.  I think the rear fastback clam of an Exige creates a bit of an echo chamber that causes it to be louder.

The day I arrived, a SMMR member took delivery of his new Spec:Race Atom.  He will be running it in our Winter Race Series.  Barry got one session in the car and we made a quick video of his initial impressions.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Switchblade modifications & weigh-in

The boys have been busy adding and deleting items from our Exige S.  The car has lost a paltry 7lbs but has gained quite a few performance parts that have made the car distinctly better than stock.  It now handles better, is faster and sounds better.  We have also added a couple of new items that we are testing including a new clutch.

Our new MRbearings were fitted to confirm that our production parts were correct.  Frankly the NVH penalty has been a non-issue, I was expecting more noise but it seems similar to stock.  This modification is truly a hardcore solution for track focused cars but we needed to ensure the fit so chose to install them on Switchblade.  This product is now available on our website and sure to be a hit with the racers.

We also installed our BLADE275 which features our proICduct.  This kit transform the power of the car to 275hp.  The acceleration and added supercharger whine is intoxicating.  Our experience has shown that this is at the threshhold of power that is acceptable for track use.  We will avoid slicks on this car to keep the syncros in our tranny happy.  Our gPAN3 was also added to protect Switchblade from oil starvation that is sure to occur on track.
We are testing a new clutch.  The pedal pressure is slightly higher than stock but it can hold much more power.  It is getting broken in now and feels like a great solution.  Of course, I managed to stall the car a couple of times as it was breaking in....hmm, you'd think after 30 years of driving manual transmission cars I could avoid these red-face situations.  ;^)

The handling of the car is really great.  I've been playing with the shock settings and landed on a setting that seems to work well on the street.  I will run the car soon at Spring Mountain.  The combination of supersoft springs, 15"/16" wheels has resulted in a car that has great grip and compliance in the bumpy roads yet the control delivered is excellent.  We are running shock settings that are fairly firm - track level settings - but the car feels great.  The added tire sidewall gives us some more 'spring' for added compliance.  This set-up feels like the right solution for folks dealing with rough roads.  We'll continue our testing and get our man, Dave T in the car for additional professional feedback.

We added one cosmetic mod - a powdercoated gas cap.  Black just looks so right on these cars...though it is missing in the pic below...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lotus Ball Joint Unconstructed

The Lotus variants use a standard automotive sealed ball joint to connect each of the wishbones to the uprights.  Ball joints are a great solution as they allow movement in different directions - the suspension can go up/down and the joint can go side to side to allow the wheels to be steered.  We cut one open to see the internals(see above).  The Lotus ball joint features a ball stud that moves along a plastic internal 'bearing'.   A rubber boot keeps the lubrication internal so the ball and bearing don't freeze.  This type of design is preferred on street cars since they have good performance and are well protected from the elements which results in a long life.   

We've developed a spherical bearing conversion kit we call the MRbearings.  We tested it last year in our race Elise (Art Car) and introduced on our Blog: HERE.  This solution is in production now and will soon be released.  We like the performance it delivers but also like the fact that we don't need to use a ball joint separator to disconnect the uprights or run the risk of tearing the rubber boots on the ball joints.  This is a track focused solution that won't likely have the street life of a standard ball joint.  But you already knew that...

Saturday, July 27, 2013

SWITCHBLADE Mods: Suspension, Wheels, Shifter & Brakes

We have made a few changes to the Switchblade.  Since our last blog entry we have updated suspension, shifter and brakes.  Some of the items we've installed are new parts we are testing to determine if they are fit for use.  We will reveal them in full once the testing is complete.

 The stock shifter on the Elise/Exige is one of the areas that is a disappointment.  The steering feel is amazing, the handling is great, the exhaust/engine note can be made better, the brakes are OK but the sloppy shifter action definitely lets many people down.  We have been selling various shifter improvements for years that have helped make the feel much better.  We installed a Bollock and shifter cables on our car to improve it.  It has made a nice imporvement - in fact a client with the same car drove our car and was instantly smitten.  He had us install the same parts and is much happier with his car.
 The stock brakes are OK but you can save significant unsprung weight by installing our ULTRAdiscs.  We chose our limited edition Oro series with the gold hats.  These save 10lbs.  We are also testing a new brake fluid that claims to be of higher quality and performance as well.  Stock pads and calipers remain for now.

We installed a set of the ETHOS wheels in the 'inch-down' sizes for more weight savings.  We choose to put on the Toyo RA1s so we would have a street tire that still delivers track capability.  We are keeping this car reasonable on the street and resisting the temptation to build another track monster!  I think these wheel/tire combo is perfect for any client living with rough roads or tracks.  The aesthetics of a smaller wheel can be controversial but we are used to introducing looks that most people don't like at first...I do believe that 'form should follow function'.  A picture of an Elise is posted below with the same wheel/tire combo for your review.

Nitron Singles with softer spring rates than our 'Soft' rates were installed as well.  The canyon roads in CA can be quite bumpy.  This combination along with the ETHOS has delivered a magic carpet ride.  Switchblade is very comfortable yet maintains the tossable and responsive handling that Lotus are known for.  Ride height was kept at a reasonable 130/135mm to ensure good street clearance.  We yanked out the  front shims and some from the rear.  We landed on -1.5/-2 deg of camber front/rear.  Toe was set at zero on the front and 3mm total toe in at the rear.

We had sent our our gas cap to be powdercoated black.  A new clutch is coming from a partner of our for testing.  It features a stronger pressure plate and street friendly clutch effort.  We thing it might be the perfect solution for most owners.  This will go in along with a lighter flywheel from Fidanza.  A BLADE275 will be installed soon.  We just installed a kit on a clients car and it is fast!  Switchblade needs to get some similar TLC...the list of items to install is still a mile long...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

First Switchblade Mod: TRACKpipe & The Eliminator V3

The Switchblade came to us stock so one of our first modifications was to reduce weight and improve the sound.  The stock Exige 'S' muffler weighs approximately 32lbs.  We swapped this out with our race-proven TRACKpipe and saved just over 16lbs.  This muffler has a tip that exits out above the diffuser for improved aerodynamics.

We also added The Eliminator V3 which now comes in a black powdercoated finish.  This product helps shed heat that builds up in the rear and reduced an additional 4.5lbs from the back of the car.  We introduced this 'naked rear' to the US market many year ago and took some initial lumps from clients who did not like the appearance.  Over time, the community has come to embrace the benefits of the naked rear and have come to accept this look as something that keeps with the old adage of 'form following function'.

The car now sounds like a proper sportscar with additional supercharger whine adding just the right sound!  Savings 20lbs is a great start with more to come soon....

We also said good bye to a sweet ole friend, our Art Car.  She has left to a good home down in SanDiego.  Jack is an excellent driver who will be able to extract every bit of performance from her.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Introducing our latest project Lotus Exige S: "Switchblade"

This past weekend we took delivery of beautiful '07 Exige S220 with 20k miles on the clock.  Our game plan with this Exige is to develop a very cool, street-friendly Lotus that is also safe to run on track.  We will reduce weight with various products but not make any drastic modifications.  One goal with this build is that all changes need to be reversible to stock.  We know this will limit the overall performance potential of the car but we've proven our ability to build fast track cars so we will display some restraint with this build.

We picked her up from Abe@Newport European.  Abe has been active in the Lotus community for many years and is a guy I know and trust - plus he loves these Lotus.  The previous owner of this car took excellent care of the car as it was in like-new condition.  The only modification he had made was adding one of our darthHOLDER to the car - even though it came with the nifty stock cup holder.  The car has had all the recent service/recall updates.  The front lip has the typical scrapes underneath.

I drove her home on the CA freeways and have been driving her for a few days to calibrate myself - before we start our mods.  The car is fun and definitely not as insulated or comfortable as the Evora.  The acceleration is good.  The rear visibility is non-existent as the intercooler blocks your view - though the previous owner had removed the rear view mirror.  Some wind noise comes through the side glass and the roof.  The sport suspension/forged wheels/A048 tires deliver plenty of fun handling on smooth roads but can feel a bit stiff in the bumps.  The freeways are notorious in LA for expansion joints that cause a very uncomfortable ride in stiff cars - especially those equipped with the Lotus Sport Suspension.  The car has an iPod connection so I enjoyed some of my favorite tunes.

Some of the lightening areas will include wheels, brakes, street-oriented uprights, roof, exhaust and seats.  We decided to weigh her to see what we are starting with.  2072 lbs full of fluids was the result.  We will weigh her periodically to see our progression.  The car will get a BLADE package for added power.  We think that 275hp should not annihilate the trans on track - especially if we forgo super sticky slicks and focus on smooth/slow shifts.  Restraint is key...

I really love the color of the car and am scheming some way to make it look a bit more distinctive but not too racy or aggressive.  I have always tried to innovate technically and aesthetically - this car will have something cool about it visually.  Here are some inspirations:


The Exige still garners more attention than you might imagine.  Lotus got the formula right with the Elise & variants.  I drove a track prepped Cayman yesterday and got out after a couple of laps.  It felt like a boat  with slow responses.  The Cayman was not as engaging as I come to expect from my track cars.  Even though these Lotus have been available here since 2004 (yes almost ten years!), the performance, size and shape continue to put smiles on the faces of the many - including me.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Exige 'S Build Coming Soon

We are now looking for a '07 Exige S to build an awesome street friendly yet track ready Lotus.  We had previously focused on hardcore track with our last project the Art Car - which still holds the Lotus track record at Buttonwillow.  The time is right for us to build a car that we can take a friend in without getting a headache from the NVH!  More details of the build will come and of course we will be blogging about it here.  Expect this car to use weight savings measures and performance enhancements that don't take away from street useability and comfort - if you really believe a Lotus and comfort can be used in the same sentence...;^)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fire-resistant Clothing, Bras, & More

I attended a recent safety seminar put on by Stand21 during the Long Beach Grand Prix.  Stand21 are my favorite safety gear brand as their approach to product development is driven by safety and performance.  They work with industry experts, including professors, physicians and others who have a keen interest in improving safety in motorsports.  They hold these seminars at various times of the year and are well worth attending.  This year they had several presentations from Dr. Terry Trammell, Dr. John Melvin, Danny Ebberts and Dr. Jacques Dallaire.

Terry spoke specifically about fire safety and the importance of fire resistant underwear.  Studies that he conducted showed that an extra layer of clothing more than doubles the time BEFORE fire temps begin causing damage to the human skin.  The correct underwear can also keep you cooler as well - which I can vouch for having run in very hot conditions at Spring Mountain.

The most dramatic presentation came from race car driver, Danny Ebberts.  Watch the video linked below to see his off-road truck get engulfed in flame.  He narrowly escaped but still suffered 2nd degree burns and was hospitalized for weeks. Danny's speech was especially relevant as one tip he provided I had never heard - hold your breath in a fire incident.  This was something that can save you from damaging your lungs.

Terry stressed that cotton t-shirts are really not going to provide the protection that proper racing underwear can provide.  Additionally, plastic based performance shirts are known to melt to the skin - what may be appropriate to wear during a 5K running race may not hold up when your race car is on fire.

He also addressed women specific issues.  Specifically, he mentioned bras as a source of trouble.  Terry mentioned under-wire bras as a special no-no as they speed up heat transfer.  Stand21 introduced a jog bra that is fire resistant to give women better options.

Additionally he talked about the safety concerns for women with long hair.  He recommended that they put their hair into a 'flat-braid' so it goes down the neck under a balaclava and can be tucked into the driving suit.  He suggested that hair that is exposed acts like a wick for fire.

I'm especially concerned that many trackday participants don't consider the possibility of fires when they are on the track.  Most production cars that are running stock fuel systems can be very safe.  It is the track cars that are using modified fuel systems that I have seen catch on fire.  A couple of years ago, a Lotus Cup racer's track-prepped Exige caught on fire in a race.   The fire exploded through the rear glass and engulfed the driver - who luckily only suffered some singed hairs on his face.  He told me that eve that he would never wear an open faced helmet in a car again!  Be careful of any mods you make to your fuel systems and be prepared with the proper fire protection clothing and fire suppression system.

I use Stand21 products because of their technical approach to product development.  Fashion is not foremost in their minds - though their products look great.  Most importantly, I've been happy with their comfort as well - especially in the heat of the desert tracks I frequent.  I blogged about their products a couple years ago: HERE.

Stand21 feel so strongly about safety education that they have set up a non-profit organization, Racing Goes Safer, designed to improve motorsports safety.  Learn more about them: HERE

Thursday, April 4, 2013

CF Big Bottom Seat Installed - Customer Testimonial

Installed in Elise SC
Fitting seats into an Elise or Exige has been the bane of our existence in this market!  Several years ago, my friend Steve from JDM Password, was starting a carbon fiber manufacturing company and asked me if he could make us a seat.  I told him I needed a seat that would fit into the stock seat sliders but also accommodate larger hips - the stock seats tended to pinch larger drivers, even causing numbness in some.  I gave him the seat out of my '06 Exige.  It took him a couple of years but he developed the following seats that we introduced to the market.  Our CF Big Bottom Seat has become a great solution for clients looking for more comfort or a seat that will allow harness installation.  Best of all, it also allows you to run your stock 3pt belt.

The following testimonial came in from a happy client today:

Great stuff! The anti-sub bars and Big-Bottom CF seats came in. I have them installed. Please use the attached photos if you want. The seat name is a bit of a misnomer. The seats are actually a copy of the Exige racing seat, but in carbon fiber. So those of us with average bottoms actually feel like we are sitting in the factory seats. The Big-Bottom CF seats are absolutely drop-in compatible. Perfect fitment to the factory passenger and driver seat mounts in my 2011 Elise SC. Took less than 2 hours to do the complete install. The center console has plenty of room, a problem I had with other "Universal" seats (Cobra Racer 7). The CF Bigbottom seats are magical. Thanks again. Please use my input on your site. As a consumer, there is woefully little information out there for detailed reports.  J. Bennett
He also provided us with some great pictures showing his installation of our 5th pt anti-sub straps using our Anti-Sub Belt Bar.  With our Schroth harnesses, this becomes an easy upgrade that provides fantastic security in aggressive driving.  FYI: the design of this bar is similar to the one used by Lotus on the 340R.  Simple and effective!

Note Anti-Sub Bar and installation of Anti-sub strap.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Atom Chassis Repair - Quick & Easy!

One of the great advantages of an Ariel Atom is that the mild steel chassis can easily be repaired.  We recently fixed an Atom that suffered chassis damaged at a suspension (wishbone) mount.  The guys stripped down the chassis to improve access to the bent part.  They then cut out the bent part.  A new section was positioned with clamps and measurements were taken to ensure the position was correct.  They then welded in the new section.  It was masked off and spray painted to match.  The parts were reinstalled and the car was aligned.  Quick and easy!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mono Blog Entry #21: Shakedown & Troubleshooting

The first Mono built by us has effectively been a 'test mule'.  This car allowed us to learn how to build the car, troubleshoot it, and ensure it is fit for use in North America.  Additionally we have been writing the build manual so documenting the process has shed light on various areas that need to be addressed with more detail.  Even with 13 man weeks of training at the BAC factory, we have learned even more by building this first car.

So what have we learned so far?  We would like to believe that assembling a car would go without issue, but experienced people recognize that this is not generally the case.  Ian and Neill Briggs, from BAC, visited us a week ago to evaluate this first car and provide us additional insights.  Even with the daily emails/phone calls that we've had with the engineering and operations staff back in Homes Chapel, a face to face meeting is always benefitial.  So here are some of the items that we experienced and our corrective actions.

I had to stop and take a picture of the odometer
Inoperative Fuel Gauge:  We calibrated the fuel gauge on the Mono but it only showed a full tank of fuel and did not change regardless of tank level.  Corrective Action: The steering wheel needed to be updated with a hardware change to match the current fuel level sending unit.  The factory has inspected their stock and confirmed that future wheels are correct.

Gear Fluid Leak #1:  We found fluid leaking from the left side gearbox drive flange of the car during the initial test drive. We thought the seal might be bad, but it turns out the circlip that holds the flange in place was missing.  Hewland does not ship this gearbox to F3 teams with this circlip - these teams have another retention system.  The Mono spec requires it, so we installed them on both sides and the leak was fixed.  Corrective Action:  Hewland spec has been corrected at the factory and all future gearboxes will be inspected for circlips.

Gear Fluid Leak #2: Fluid was leaking from the rear gear position sensor plate.  This adapter plate allows us to get the proper gear reading on the steering wheel by positioning the mechanical sensor.  Corrective Action:  We've added a small amount of sealant to the plate to correct the leak.   The installation instructions have been updated to reflect this addition.

Engine oil leak: We had a minor oil leak from the oil pressure sensor fitting.  The fitting we had received was the wrong type and it did not seal correctly.  Corrective Action:  Specification has been updated and build manual adjusted to reflect the correct type of fitting

Coolant Leaks: We've had a few coolant leaks that have come from various hoses. Corrective Action: Tightening the clamps have corrected the problem.  Procedure has been changed to re-tighten hose clamps after the first full warm up of the car. 

Body gaps:  The entire Mono body is hand fit.  This takes a fair amount of time to get the panel gaps correct.  This attention to detail is what differentiates the Mono from other low production vehicles.  With input from BAC, during their visit, we've learned some additional tricks to get the gaps very consistent.   

Loose Fuel Tank Internal Clamp:  The hose that connects to the high pressure side of the internal fuel pump popped loose and stalled the car.  The Oettinger clamp, used on this hose, was not crimped tight enough.  Corrective Action: We inspected all tanks in stock and BAC are working with the tank supplier to correct this issue.  We've recommended a change of clamp type to improve the quality of the connection.  This is now under discussion.

Inoperative Lambda Sensor:  During start-up we noticed our AFR readings were not working on our laptop review of live car data.  We traced the problem to a connector that was pinned incorrectly.  Corrective Action: We swapped the unit out initially to fix it quickly.  The bad unit is getting repinned and future units will be inspected for correct pin-outs.  The factory is correcting their procedures to reflect this issue.

Stone Damage:  Within 20 miles of driving, the rear fenders of the Mono began seeing serious stone impingement.  We brought the car over to our Clearbra specialist, ClearPro to have her protected.  After another 500 miles of driving the car revealed additional areas that also need to be covered.  Corrective Action: Increase coverage area to clear bra kits and look at thicker materials to provide better protection in the most vulnerable areas.

The learning curve has been steep for us, but this has also been a significant benefit for BAC as we act as an extension of their factory.  Several items that we've shed light onto have helped our friends at BAC to improve the build of the Mono.  This first car has delivered enough clarity that the subsequent cars will be built faster and to an even better standard.  A custom built, low-volume car requires patience and we have been getting pretty good at taking the proper perspective.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Adjustable Pedalbox in the BAC Mono

The Mono is a car that has several features that are adjusted for the driver.  The team at BAC decided to keep the drivers helmet as close to the roll hoop as possible so fixed the position of the seat.  Unlike a conventional car, the Mono seat can not be adjusted, instead the steering wheel and pedal box can be adjusted to fit to the driver.  The picture below shows the black chassis and machined pedal box.  Simple cap head bolts are used to secure the box in position, with several choices based on the drivers leg length.

You can see the deadpedal on the left hand side of the box below.  It is also secured to the chassis with the pedal box.  We have been able to fit clients as tall as 6'5" and as short as 5' into the car.  We are quantifying inseam length soon so we can provide better fitment info for potential clients.  The seat insert shown in this post also helps with fitting a shorter driver.  The steering wheel is adjustable for reach and rake.  It is also fixed once an ideal position is found.  Luckily all these features can be adjusted for various sized drivers and take approximately 30minutes to complete.