The daily grind

IMG_0531_4b4dcd7c5732c-lightboxCouple this with the fact that the roads are greasier this time of year than Flavio Briatore, the Exige has spent most of early winter doing the job of simply getting me from A to B with few opportunities to be able to just go out for a drive, and no matter how often I clean it, its always filthy!

Having said that the daily commute even in these conditions is still a thrill; when feeling brave enough to back the (quite brilliant) variable traction control off a bit, indulging in some power oversteer is an option despite the lack of an LSD, although with the relatively high engine sitting near the rear, plus the shortish wheelbase you don’t feel like you can hang it out indefinitely and instead tend to get it back in line fairly quickly. It’s no 350Z in this regard.

An Integra Type R owning colleague of mine invited me onto a joint Honda and Lotus on Track day at Rockingham on the National circuit in November, and as my rear tyres where nearly on the tread depth indicators I thought what better way to send them off! Being my first proper track day my number one goal for the day was to bring it home in one piece. On arrival I was quite surprised to see what looked like mini race teams with most people having full sets of spare tyres, cars jacked up being worked on and all sorts of tyre monitoring kit, meanwhile I turn up with my girlfriend in the passenger seat, unload our overnight bag from the boot and snacks from the cabin and feel generally a little underprepared.

After having the fear of god put into us all at the drivers briefing on how wet and slippy it was out there, I put in a tentative first session looking as much in my mirrors for quicker cars as through the windscreen. It was a useful session as it gave me 20 mins to learn the lines without pushing (3rd gear wheel spin on half throttle with traction control completely on!) and spot how much run off there is or isn’t!

By the second session it had mostly dried out and I was able to push more, and by the third session I was really able to go for it and actually overtook a fair few cars! The Exige, as expected, performed brilliantly; by the middle of the third session the brakes started to rumble so I simply increased my braking zones and worked on carrying more speed through the corners. I have since found in the Lotus Sport catalogue a fairly detailed track guide on how best to use and warm up the AP Racing brakes that I have. My failure to fully comply with this was to blame but has caused no long term issues.

With rainclouds coming in and some very sorry looking rear tyres, I decided to quit while I was ahead. A stop at Dick Lovett Ferrari, Maserati and Lotus on the way home relieved me of £440 and 2 hours of my life in exchange for a spanking new set of rear tyres which were a very welcome addition given the weather.

Another cost after the time at the track was caused by hearing several other Lotuses (or ‘Lotii’ as Alan Partridge would say) with fruity exhausts which I’ve decided makes my Exige sound way too quiet, so I will soon be getting the Lotus Sport Stage 3 as soon as I can convince my girlfriend it’s a good idea!

As with any car, over time you get used to its straight line speed, so if that’s all the car can do you will soon get bored. The Exige however, is not a drag car, it’s under braking and in the corners that’s it’s so special.

Although on our roads you often have to go looking for the right place and the right time, when they come along they make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. On my drive home from work it’s 25 minutes of boring motorway and traffic except for 2 minutes of a brilliant roundabout into a sweeping slip road followed by a great little quiet B road, and that 2 minutes alone makes me grin from ear to ear and even at times laugh out loud.

I can’t believe it’s taken this long, but I have only just done my first quick take off from standstill, not using the Lotus launch control though as after watching VBH try it on Fifth Gear, I decided I could never put mine through such a savage experience. 5k rpm on a damp surface with TC backed off to 7%, quickly bring in the clutch and bang, you’re gone! I involuntarily shouted ‘wwwooooaaahh’, partly because it caught me off guard, but also because it is just such a turn of speed.

However as I write, all these fun and games are on hold as the country has been hit by snow and sub zero temperatures, rendering the Lotus and its semi slick, temperature-sensitive tyres useless, meaning it’s barely left the drive for over two weeks.

But car ownership isn’t just about driving, so I’ve still faffed about cleaning and ‘de-snowing’ it a few times. Despite this, I’m still suffering withdrawal symptoms; I’ve even resorted to recreating my Exige on Forza 3 on my Xbox to get my fix! (see pic).

I can’t wait for spring to arrive to start investigating some new roads and maybe another trip out on track.

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Lee Hawley