The weekend of the 9th, 10th and 11th September was the fourth and final round of the Queensland Super Sprint ‘B’ Series for 2016 at Morgan Park Raceway in Warwick.
By John Flynn.
The previous rounds this year had all been wet and again Google weather was predicting a 90% chance of greater than 10mm of rain for Friday practice, a 90% chance of rain on Saturday and a 30% chance of rain on Sunday. The prospect of a wet track did not deter our core group from the Queensland Lotus Club!
We had ten drivers competing including Geoff Noble’s S2 Elise supercharged HPE, Mitchell Ringuet had borrowed his dad’s (Daryl) S2 supercharged Exige. Daryl was on a European holiday and must be a very trusting dad! Also present was Garry Pitt – S2 HPE Elise, Martin O’Brien – supercharged S3 Elise, Greg Bray – Lotus 61, Clive Wade – S1 Elise with his new Honda motor conversion, Joe Arico – S2 Elise with a new DIY transplanted Ford Duratec and John Barram – Lotus 7. Ten years ago all the Elises ran original motors, now we were down to only two Elises running with original Rover engines, Rob Stevens’ S2 Elise, and John Flynn’s S1 Elise. We were all looking forward to seeing how Clive and Joe would handle their big increase in horsepower and the wet conditions.
As we left Brisbane on Friday morning for the drive to Warwick the clouds presented us with intermittent showers and as we reached the top of Cunningham’s Gap the showers became rain for the remainder of the drive to Warwick. By the time the track opened for practice at 1pm the rain had reduced to showers again but the track was very slippery! Only half of the Lotus contingent ventured out for a couple of practice sessions just to see how slippery the weekend was going to be.
We spent most of practice time checking out Clive and Joe’s new motors. It had taken Clive over 12 months of phone calls and emails to the UK to source the components necessary to install his K20 Honda motor into his Elise. Clive was very lucky to have two Lotus conversion experts in Dave Mackie and Geoff Noble on hand to assist with the actual transplant. Apparently Dave and Geoff had Clive out buying bits and pieces for a lot of the time so he missed seeing most of the transplant.
Joe Arico was a diesel mechanic prior to studying engineering so it was not a surprise when he decided to engineer his own components to install a Ford Duratec into his S2 Elise. It took Joe almost two years to design all the components in 3D computer models, then 3D print them in plastic to test fit and then finally CNC machine the finals! Joe had numerous challenges to overcome in terms of wiring and ECUs but the car is running and the job looks just like a factory install! If you are interested in the finer details of the project there is a great thread on the Aussie Elise’s web site explaining the process. Obviously Clive and Joe had been sharing ideas as both had installed gold reflective foil to the rear of the engine bay firewall… it looked very bling! Standing behind Joe’s car, the engine bay actually had a gold glow!
By 3pm Friday we had had enough practice in the wet and we all decided to pack up and head back to the house for a couple of early beers. Traditionally we have stayed at the Pit Stop Inn, but as our numbers have grown we now book out the Pit Stop Inn and the house next door known as ‘Area 55’! Eating good food and drinking good wine and beer is as much a part of a Lotus Club weekend in Warwick as the racing. This weekend was no exception. While most of us had a quiet beer on the deck watching the rain, Marie and Geoff Noble were busy in the kitchen preparing a roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings including hot apple pie and custard for dessert! Thanks to Geoff and Marie!
Google was correct as usual and we woke to rain on Saturday morning. The first run on Saturday turned out to the driest of the day. The day started with a bit of drama, Garry Pitt’s HPE Elise snapped a CV joint as he was turning into Morgan Park. After towing the car to the pits Garry and Geoff set about installing Geoff’s spare CV joint into the car. They had the car repaired and on the grid for the second run on Saturday morning, a great team effort! Garry and Geoff had a lot of people watching and offering advice, for some reason a broken Lotus draws a crowd? A reduced Lotus field lined up in the rain for the first run. We all managed to complete four laps with lots of slipping and sliding, but no major incidents. Joe and Clive were very excited about the increased power and noted how gentle they now needed to be with the throttle. They both seemed relieved to have kept their cars on the bitumen.
For the second run Garry wanted to start from the back of the grid to check the newly installed CV joint. Geoff also wanted to start at the back to bed his new brakes in. This run was the wettest of the weekend – you needed wipers on full and there was standing water all over the track. Geoff and Garry managed to catch and pass everyone with the exception of Mitchell who started up front! The rooster tail of water off the back of Geoff’s car was amazing, the rear wing and splitter working well! Everyone’s lap times were at least 30 seconds per lap slower in the wet compared to the dry.
Due to the rain we stayed home on the Saturday night rather than venturing out to a restaurant in town. The other Club members camping elsewhere in Warwick dropped in for dinner at the house. We ordered a Thai takeaway banquet and finished off the dessert leftovers from Friday night. We then moved to the lounge room adjacent to the fire to watch some great finals football! Go the Sharks!
Sunday morning, we woke to blue skies and sunshine! We had three dry runs and despite the rain of the two previous days the track had good grip and the times slowly improved. Both Clive and Joe managed to keep the extra horsepower on the track and will be fine tuning the transplanted engines to be even faster next round.
It was another great year of sprint racing at Morgan Park both on and off the track. We all registered again for the 2017 Series so we look forward to spending more time in Warwick! Hopefully 2017 will be a bit drier than this year!