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 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.