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Driving The Exige at Cadwell Park

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Driving The Exige at Cadwell Park

Post  the83man on Thu Aug 20, 2009 11:43 pm

Eddie is right, so here is an Exige article originally published in Chicane

Cadwell Park, 1st May 2002

by Mike Stripe

One of the recent trends in sports-car ownership has been for owners not just to polish and admire their steed at home and on the road, but to get it out on track at one of the ever-increasing number of track days available at most UK and European circuits. One of the marques most often seen is, not surprisingly, Lotus and it’s a rare event that doesn’t feature a host of Elises and ‘Caterfields’. Exige owners are also in on the act in a big way and through the help of web forums such as exiges.com they often manage to accumulate in numbers. Whilst there are regularly a few Exiges at track days, over the past year there have been two occasions when there have been enough of them to warrant their own sessions, the first being at Donington last September and the latest at Cadwell Park on Ist May. No less than 21 Exiges were booked in with event organisers Bookatrack for the day and you can check out the archive of the event at ‘http://www.bookatrack.com

These are great days for meeting like minded people with similar cars, similar praises, similar problems and for a free exchange of ideas, best goodies tips, quick fixes and the like, not to mention a marvellous day of hard driving. There are also vast ranges of experience available and usually there are professional instructors on hand for those who want it and are prepared to part with a few quid extra. At Cadwell both Hyla Breeze (Autobytel series racer) and Chris Dinnage (Lotus Sports and Performance) were on hand. It’s also interesting to see how far people go in preparing their cars for such days and this can vary from simply checking the oil to revised suspension and brakes and even, in some cases, a full set of slicks and 270 bhp from a Turbo Technics after-market conversion. Also, because they come from all over the country and even overseas, there is always the social aspect at the hotel the night before or after! You’ll find that lots of people will be taking photographs and even videos which are all shared around after the event so that you can see just how good or bad you looked out there!

Cadwell is a great circuit with plenty of ‘ups and downs’, a good mix of corners and, in some places, precious little run-off should you get it wrong. It all adds up to a very exiting lap, especially in the wet which we had for some of this particular day. The compulsory briefing, explaining the rules for the day, was followed up by a separate briefing, only to us Exige drivers, about the additional dangers of ‘one-make’ sessions. The thrust of this was that ‘just because you’re all in the same car it doesn’t mean that you all have the same skill level’. This was followed by a compulsory session of ‘follow the leader’ so that everybody got to learn the circuit at a sensible speed. And then before you know it you’re down to the collecting area and out on to the circuit to do your best to circulate as quickly as possible and in style.

With about 20 cars on circuit and spread over the 2.173 miles there is plenty of room for everyone and the rules are that if you are caught by another car you are to assume that he is faster and that you should let him past. Complementing this is the rule that you are not allowed to overtake without the consent of the car you are passing so it is all very safe and gentlemanly and I’m pleased to say that Exige drivers seem to have developed excellent track-day manners under Bookatrack’s guidance. It’s always very satisfying to catch and pass someone but equally annoying when someone catches you!

The circuit was dry for the first session but my car developed the dreaded 5500rpm misfire which persisted throughout the session. Nonetheless, I knew Cadwell and was able to drive through it well enough not to embarrass myself or anyone else. The misfire had disappeared for the next session, and for the rest of the day, but some drizzle literally put the dampers on this a little bit. That said it never ceases to amaze me how much grip the Exige offers on its standard Yokohama A039s, even on a greasy surface, and I was still able to explore my technique to the full. At lunchtime we were given the benefit of some driving and goodies tips from the attendant alumni whilst outside the heavens opened and left standing water all around the place. This is where the limited tread depth of the Yokos will let you down and aquaplaning is all too easy in such conditions. The Exige is a brilliant car to drive hard and fast on circuit. In the dry there is so much grip that you have to try really hard to get it out of shape. It is possible of course, and the level of grip is well below that offered by a race set up and a set of slicks, so you do still have to drive it and catch it if you over do it. The standard set up tends towards understeer but you can overcome this. My own car is wearing out the rears faster than the fronts so perhaps this says something about my driving style…. Common tweaks to the car which leave it ‘driveable’ on the road include a bit of negative camber on the front by removing a spacer, and softening up the front anti-roll bar a bit as three ‘positions’ are available with the standard set-up. As most of my mileage is on the road I have done neither as yet. As the day got wetter it was possible to find the limit of adhesion earlier which all adds to the learning curve but does little for your adrenaline reserves. By the end of the day, and on a drying track, the fun factor was enormous however. You learn so much so quickly.

I quickly got to grips with most of the circuit well enough to be pleased with myself, especially at Gooseneck where I seemed to be as fast as anyone and quicker than most immediately. The hairpin was another matter however and it was late in the day before I realised that you must break the rules here and move your hands on the wheel to get enough lock to do the job properly and keep the engine on the cam. Also, it took some time to build up confidence to take Coppice power-on in fourth instead of dropping back to flat out in third! I had the joy of experiencing water-induced wheelspin whilst flat out in third on the start/finish straight, seeing the rev counter hit the end of the dial and the rev-limiter cut in, all in what seemed like a nanosecond of brilliant excitement. The car remained straight and true and I don’t think I lifted off even but, I may be wrong. Also, after the rain it seemed to have become very greasy at Farm where understeer to power on oversteer was now possible and controllable, but nothing too brave you understand!

Another highlight was getting through Mountain quickly enough to get the car really light and, as proven in at least one photograph, lift the front wheels on taking the summit. It’s brilliant when you improve though and the satisfaction of getting it right and putting in a full good lap without any errors is worth the wait!

There is no doubt that days such as this are a great way to get to know your car better and to become a better driver. As well as that they are great social occasions. If you’re sensible you won’t have to spend a fortune on preparation, nor will you break the car or drive it into a wall. I couldn’t help noticing that as the chequered flag came out at the end of the last session our host and ‘one-make is dangerous’ lecturer was applauding the group as they took the flag. No doubt he was delighted to have to eat his words as the Exiges group was the only group present that had not been red flagged at some point during the day. They look good, they are quick, and they have good guys behind the wheel! A great day out in a great little car.
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Re: Driving The Exige at Cadwell Park

Post  A7ESK on Sat Sep 05, 2009 12:28 pm

Hi Mike very nice??.
Wipe on wipe off .
Eddie. affraid
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