As promised my thoughts and description of my ride with Tony Shute at the LOG Track Day in the Mag Blue demo car....
I had the wonderful opportunity to get a ride with Tony Shute, who is not only the guy who has led the Elise development team from the very first car, but undoubtedly has a had more hours behind the wheel of the Elise than nearly anyone on earth. Besides Tony is an EXCELLENT driver. It was a thrill to watch him on track up close. He made the track look easy, or was it the Elise?
The Barber Track is 2.3 miles long and has 14 turns. It’s probably as close to perfect of a track for the Elise. The turns are technical requiring near perfect entry. A miss step on corner entry will either put you off or exceedingly slow on the exit. The straights are the length were a high powered car may not have the opportunity to make up the distance it had lost in the corners behind a better handling car. With knowledge I slipped into the passenger seat with Tony Shute behind the wheel.
Coming off the front straight is downhill lefthander, T1. Braking inside of marker 3 Tony carried a ton of speed into this corner and did a late apex putting the car in mid track on exit for the long sweeping right, T2. The entry to T2 is uphill so you can carry a lot of speed into it, then as you turn in the corner crests and you dive downhill still turning to the right. As you see the apex of T3 you get back on the power, nick the apex and power out to left edge of the track as you exit up hill again. This is followed by a slight dogleg to the right and onto the 2nd straight.
Through these corners the Elise has tremendous grip and I could sense that Tony could place the car with the throttle as maintained the steering lock. There was little if any understeer on corner entry. His hands were amazingly still on the wheel and I could hear him changing the rotation of the car with the throttle. Also I was keenly aware that hitting the cam in 3rd gear did little to upset the car in mid corner exit.
A very rapid squirt down the straight, on the binders inside marker #3, downshift into T5, then once the Elise was pointed into the apex Tony was hard on the power nicking the apex and right out to the edge of the track. Again, he was placing the Elise with the throttle and running away from anything that was trying to follow us.
The T7 and T8 complex is challenging. Coming off the straight you approach from the left, Tony was tapping the brakes to set the nose and turn in. The track disappears as he dove to the right apex for 7. As soon as he got the car turned in he was back on the throttle for T7a, a slight kink to the left, which in the Elise was a straight shot from the apex of T7 to the entry of T8.
T8 is an increasing radius uphill turn that Tony took with a lot of throttle opening the steering and accelerating hard. Blasting up the back straight past the Museum the T9 and T10 esses are extremely technical and require a clean entry. Miss the entry and you’ll be off. Tony was taking this complex flat out!
By the time we reached T11, a cresting left dogleg, the Elise was flying, Tony gave the car a slight confidence lift to get the front end to turn-in and then it was steeply downhill into T12. A heavy stab of brakes and hard acceleration up the hill. It really felt like a roller coaster!
The entry to T13 is a cresting reducing radius turn. You need to absolutely get this corner correct in order to position the car for a fast and clean entry onto the front straight. Most cars can not handle a cresting decreasing radius turn under brakes. It's too much to ask. You'll either spin off the circuit or understeer into the sand trap. The Elise defied physics, entering at speed, hard on the brakes as the car was leaning over into the turn and back on the throttle in PERFECT position for the entry onto the straight!
At the end of the session I got out of the car (Elise with standard suspension) with ever more awe of what Lotus has created. :clap: :clap: :clap: