PH Fleet: Lotus Elise Sport 135

It's been a month of head banging in the Elise and, despite the appalling weather, it has nothing to do with smacking it on the hardtop. It all started with a last minute booking for an evening track day at Brands Hatch. Having had so much done to the Elise recently, I was itching to find out what difference all the upgrades have made on a track I know well.

It's been 12 months since I've driven the Indy circuit, and in that time the car has had new suspension, tyres, brake pads and discs. All of the parts I've replaced are considered upgrades by most in the Elise community - Yokohama Advan Neova LTS in place of Hankook RS2 tyres, Nitron NTS dampers for ancient Bilsteins and Carbon Lorraine RC5+ pads instead of Mintex 1144s - so I arrived at Brands fully expecting the car to feel substantially improved.

Chassis sorted, so where's the speed?
Chassis sorted, so where's the speed?
Setting the benchmark
Watching last year's in-car videos, my previous best lap time in the Elise was 59 seconds. This was done on a warm summer's evening with a lovely sticky track - pretty much the ideal conditions.

Although much cooler for the follow-up, the track was thankfully dry all evening. Once again I primed the Go-Pro ready to check out the lap times later. Of course, this is a road car, and lap times are essentially irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, but that doesn't make me any less curious to make the comparison.

After a couple of warm-up sessions I found some space and got stuck in. However, my early optimism soon began to fade. The brakes were giving me no confidence whatsoever. They were neither fading nor overheating; the car just wasn't slowing down in a hurry.

With all the new bits Danny had hoped for more
With all the new bits Danny had hoped for more
Gripping results
Added to that the tyres were giving me less grip than I was anticipating. On the turn-in to Surtees, particularly, the front end just seemed to want to wash.

I was beginning to feel a little like Felipe Massa. All that was missing was Rob Smedley in my ear telling me I still had an inch of throttle travel left.

Sure enough, checking out the video afterwards proved my worst fears; my best lap was just over two seconds slower than last year which is an eternity on a short track like the Indy. And the times weren't erratic either, they were just consistently slow.

Not being a race engineer I'm pretty stumped as to why this is. Making so many changes since the last trip makes it pretty tough to narrow it down to any one culprit. Perhaps it was the track that was lacking grip rather than the car. Maybe it was a combination of several things, or simply the old bits were better than the new parts. Perhaps I've just got slower. As always, answers on a postcard gratefully received!

UPDATE! Before and after video with Danny at brands with and without his new set-up...

Fact sheet
1998 Lotus Elise Sport 135
Run by: Danny Milner
Bought: October 2010
Purchase price: £9,500
This month at a glance: Go faster bits apparently make the car ... go slower. Damn!

Previous reports:
Rain stops play so Danny reads some old reviews of his car
New suspension and a shakedown at Abbeville
A Lotus joins the PH Fleet!





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