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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Comments (78) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Captain Muppet 04 Jul 2012

    hughcam said:
    Captain Muppet said:
    The fact you think it's a derogatory post is pretty derogatory to the ride and handling engineers at Lotus.

    Dont you think Lotus compromise when they build all there cars (like most manufacturers)? Im sure they would have loved to stick decent shocks, wheels, tyres ect and set it up appropiately but the price would probably have made their product double. So yes IMO I do think you can easily improve a standard Elise.
    Quote me out of contect why don't you? I was replying to this:

    Captain Muppet said:
    hughcam said:
    suffolk009 said:
    Just a thought,... but maybe the ride and handling engineers at Lotus got it right.
    No real need for the derogatory post.....
    The fact you think it's a derogatory post is pretty derogatory to the ride and handling engineers at Lotus.

    The possiblity that the people who built it might be better than a man fitting aftermarket parts was "derogatory" to the chap modifiying his car.

    It's hard not to see that as insulting to guys who do this professionally. Maybe derogarty wasn't the right word to use, maybe "unhelpful" or "inflamatory" would have been nicer.

    As for improving on Lotus's products: mine isn't standard and I prefer it. Any car can be tweaked to better suit a particular use or driver.

  • VinZ 03 Jul 2012

    The side by side video is awesome. You can see you shifted differently.
    Increased spring rate is only needed when the car is lowered. Then you also need to change the dampers. And if you lower the car you will need another geo setup - and that is not easy to get right. ride height, spring rate, damper characteristic, camber, castor, toe in/out, tyre pressure change one and it will affect the other.

    Everyone starts off changing stuff on their car and like many comments say: Lotus know what they are doing.

    First get the car at standard geo and start playing with the tyre pressure. You will notice that the Elise is very sensitive to tyre pressure changes. To make it easier Lotus did some work for you. You can change your geo to the Exige S1 setup. Lotus has several track orientated geo's published you can try. After you have changed your geo: play with tyre pressure first.

    If you want the best geo make sure you have the right ballast in the seats. You sitting in the car will change the ride height thus camber and toe. Be careful with spoilers. (Most) Spoilers increase drag. A Formula 1 car is less aerodynamic than a brick/truck. They are designed for maximum downforce with minimum drag (Cd Truck=0.6+ ; F1=0.7~1.1 depending on setup). There are plenty of guidelines on the net on how to setup you car. In my opinion it s better to change driver skill level before changing your car. Even talents like Sarah Ganzer and Bietske Visser are still doing driving academies.

  • 4pot 02 Jul 2012

    Having reviewed the footage, I would concur with several others, that the author simply isn't on it in the second video. Spending ££££ doesn't immediately translate into quicker lap times. You need to re-learn the car and it's new set up, before having the confidence to nail it.

    Some drivers can do this pretty much from the off, whereas most can't, me included. Driving quickly is about confidence, mixed with natural ability or tuition to extract those extra tenths.

  • jcl 02 Jul 2012

    This is a classic case of the investment/risk ratio. You can clearly see in the new video how you're much more tentative with car after spending a wack of cash on the thing wink

    Edited by jcl on Monday 2nd July 02:10

  • Loafing Wafu 02 Jul 2012

    ^^^ what B-o-T say.

    I'd suggest a lot will be to do with confidence. Certainly was with me when I changed a couple of things on my car, took a while to get used to it and now I'm ultimately quicker.

    Also odd that people are saying that Lotus got it spot on. Quite sure they openly admit to compromising the setup of the Elise to make it understeer. Also I can guarantee that non of the Elise Trophy or Cup guys are using standard shocks.

    Lotus made a cracking car which was setup for the road, but in doing so they compromised it for track work.

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