I picked up my new Elise at the end of April this year, and spent from then until the first weekend in July getting the breakin miles in. Since then, I've done two track days and had a blast.
Last year, prior to buying the Elise (and probably a major factor in me getting one) I did a track day in my BMW 330i. It put in a pretty decent performance for a car with 4 doors and a lot of pounds, but through some of the corners it was push, push push. However, I was passing all kinds of lesser cars (including 911s :-) ). Granted I was running in the slow group. In a nutshell, very easy to drive fast, but not the most fun.
In the Elise this year, it's totally different. In a nutshell, the car does what I tell it to, no complaining, no "Nein mein herr, das is not possible here". Of course I have to figure out how fast I can go where, and what the right line is, and getting the sequences right to get the car settled, but if you get it right, it just rockets around the corners at more g's than my neck muscles can support. It's like "ugh me gosh, where's the g suit?". You can also brake soooo late into corners it's incredible. You watch the 'vettes and the Porsches brake at the 3 sign and it's like, what the heck are they doing ? I brake just a little past the 1 sign, and get all the braking done in a straight line before the turn in point. A guy driving a very quick modded 1 series (135, chipped, upgraded suspension, more rubber, stock brakes tho) said he was braking much earlier than I was and he had to manage his brakes so they didn't fade on him.
Acceleration is decent, but a combination of me being a little leery to go flat out everywhere on the track and the fact that the folks in the fast group I was running with yesterday were primarily Z06s, GT3s, a GT-R means I'm getting passed by the big boys. Again I think this might be more about me being, ok I'll say it, chicken to really push it in the fast sections than the car which seems to be able to stay in sight (not even, but in sight) of these guys on the straights.
I did have a couple of "moments" when it seems the light weight and rear weight bias of the car made it get a little "jinky". The first time was coming into a kink (like a 15 degree corner) at the end of the straight where I was carrying a bit too much speed and didn't have the line quite right. I lifted a bit and it was like the back end said
Don't do that boy. In that split second I just eased back on the throttle a smidge and things settled down. The second time, again in a faster (and a wee bit off camber) spot on the track I got a little tail wag going. Again, nothing overly dramatic but a bit of a <gulp> moment.
I've learned a few lessons along the way that I thought I'd share. Warning: I'm a newbie, so these are newbie lessons. They may, in fact, be all wrong but they're working for me right now.
- Don't attempt to take the floor and diffuser of the car off to check all those bolt torques at 10pm the night before track day. I got the panel off, looked around underneath and went Hmm.... I need to take the diffuser off too, and how many little bolts are there ?? Never mind. (cue fishguy). Recommendation: Give yourself a nice long Saturday and take your time to figure it all out. The second time, maybe, just maybe, start at 9pm.
- If you have the track pack, don't forget to firm up the suspension before you go out on track. If you do forget all of a sudden the dynamics of the car feel all wrong, and it pushes and is loose, and just weird. On the road the 2-3 suspension settings are fine, but on the track, scary.
- It's all about brake hard, turn in, balance/settle the car with accelerator (but no more), ride the corner until past the apex, gas, gas, gas. Repeat.
- If it's a long corner, feel free to brake into the corner, although releasing the brakes and getting on the accelerator to balance things out very very gently.
- Smooth doesn't mean slow. But it does mean don't do anything abrupt. Don't start turning abruptly, don't stop turning abruptly, don't brake abruptly, don't accelerate abruptly. But learn to do it quickly. (I get it, but you may not from that description.)
- Smooth doesn't mean that once you've turned the steering wheel on entry into a corner (more accurately a series of corners leading off of a straight) that you shouldn't turn it again. I'm not sure how to reconcile this with what my instructor was telling me about a nice long continuous edge to edge line, but I did find I was committing to a single line through a series of corners and that sometimes that just doesn't work)
- Shift when the car is settled or passing through the neutral point as you transfer weight from side to side. Makes car feel better. Dunno if it's any faster.
- Don't lift. (been said often, bears being said again).
I had a couple of moments when I wondered whether some of our sponsor's products might be worthwhile. Paranoia can set in if you read the forum enough.
1- (Under hard cornering) Umm... Is that the traction control kicking in, or am I experiencing the dreaded fuel starvation problem.
2- Is that oil smell me, and if so should I get those fancy catch cans ?
And finally, a guy in a Lotus, a GT3, a 'vette and a GT-R go to the gas station after the morning session to fill up. They compare their gas bills