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Driving an esprit and learning the limits

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I have had an esprit for a few months now and have been very gentle with it as it needed a new cambelt. I finally got around to changing it over Christmas, what a fun job that was!! I can see why people charge £700 to do it.

 

 

I have had various Loti over the years but never an Esprit. There is a bend near to were I live where at road legal speeds  the back of most rear wheel drive cars will drift a little. Not so with the esprit.

 

 

I remember going to a castle coombe track day back in the early 1990's and watching an esprit crash the car seemed to just go from fast controlled corner to out out of control with no warning. I want to avoid doing that.

 

 What do you do if the back goes out on a mid engined car ? what feed back do you feel though the steering and through the seat?

 

Do they let go suddenly or gradually?

 

I want to learn the limit of the car but not crash it if you know what i mean. What is a good track to do this on in the South east?

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In terms of a track I'd recommend Goodwood, lots of grass run-off areas

John

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No tracks will allow you to drift during a normal trackday, you need to go on a course specifically to be able to enjoy 'over grip limit' driving.

 

I'd recommend Cat Driver Training who I've personally used and also carlimits.com are very good. CAT are based at the Millbrook Proving Ground, Carlimits are at North Weald near Stanstead so both are south east.

 

In an Esprit, you do get a lot of feel through the steering wheel about your grip limit and snapping off the throttle would be bad as you can imagine in a mid-engined car but they don't drift, the open diff is the problem. Weight distribution is key though, get the hang of trail braking and keeping weight on the nose to eliminate understeer then as you apply power the weight moves to the rear as you leave the corner and you can plant the throttle once the tyres are digging in nicely. They are very neat through corners, you don't really want the rear to be stepping out. 

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Bibs, I was thinking about this, I lost the rear end of my Esprit a few times, always in the wet or damp, I would've thought that the turbo would make matters worse as you can't control the throttle power so evenly?

 

To the OP, I'd be up for any drifting event you go to as I've taken an interest in it recently (great fun!!), I'd love for us to get a group together and go for a track day - there are a number of places where you can take your own car drifting and get instruction too, Brands and Bovingdon are two.

 

Following this thread :)

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As Bibs said courses are run at North Weald aerodrome and i can certainly recommend them.Tuition is in your own car,course is all day with a break for lunch,price is very reasonable and nothing at all to hit.They will take you to the limit of your car including getting you to spin it.They do not see many esprits and seem pleased to see one being used.Book up you will not regret it and they do sell out

Pete

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I've found the local hockey rink to be an excellent and cost effective venue for drifting practice sessions. Rates for rink rental are quite reasonable up until about 6 AM, when league team practices tend to get in the way of things. The beauty of ice drifting is that full drifts can be induced at very low speeds. Low tire wear is another plus, and tire smoke is almost nonexistent. The consistently cold indoor atmospheric environment also lends itself to immediate boost characteristics. Trail breaking can be a bit dicey, and understeer is a serious impediment at times. For an extra fee (unfortunately substantial) the rink management will permit single session use of studded snow tires. They have a dedicated Zamboni for just such stints. Reduced rates apply if you volunteer to drive the Zamboni yourself post session. 

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My strong recommendation is, first have a thorough suspension check, geometry, shock absorbers, bushes, brakes and pads, replace brake fluid, wear pattern on the tires.

 

Your question "Do they let go suddenly or gradually?" they only go suddenly if these things are ignored.

 

Set up correctly it is a brilliant handling car, progressive, points well and lends itself well to personal preference adjustments, but get it doing what it was designed to do first.

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With snow forecast for the UK in the next few days, you could check out an empty car park for experimenting with slides.

Whether or not they go suddenly or gradually can also depend on changes to the level of grip on the surfaces - dampness/oil etc.

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IMO they do let go suddenly, but they're not dangerous, and if you're concentrating you can catch it. I've never tried to drift it on purpose. Most of my experience is that there is enough feedback through the ateering and seat to catch a spin on track. But you need to be quick, and for me that means concentrating and expecting it. That's fine on track given my approach of a lap to warm up, a few at 90% before really trying for one at my fastest pace. Going banzaii straight out of the pit lane would probably end badly! Neither me nor the car are fit enough for endless circuits, I usually stop for a break every 10ish even on an open pitlane. I have come off once at Combe going round Camp in very wet conditions. There's a bump around the apex point which can unsettle the car. I thought I'd caught the spin, but then it snapped the other way and in trying to correct that I spun off onto the infield (fortunately!) and was lucky enough to miss all the advertising so so just suffered some grass stains,brown trousers and red face. I did a pretty lurid slide around Clearways/Clarke at Brands once and got the marshalls a bit agitated, but manged to keep it together and I wasn't black flagged - that was a result of too fast too soon. But I have been caught out twice on the road both times in the wet. Once just turning left in town at no speed at all. Standard 90degree junction. Car snapped round and I was facing back towards the road I'd just turned off. Didn't hit anything or skid as such just did a 270 pirouette. The other time was coming off a motorway slip road. Going faster, but not daft, just wasn't quick enough when I felt it go. Again did a 270 and it backed itself up the bank at the side. Again lucky enough to have no damage. Neither time was I in hyper concentrate mode ready to catch a spin, just normal driving autopilot - so 20% road surface, 80% driver error. Obviously I've been lucky, but I dont think loosing it is a significant risk in an Esprit (less than many cars). Those incidents are the worse in well over 20 years driving the car quite quickly over 60k miles which includes maybe 25 track days. On each occasion it was on a greasy type surface and the two on std roads I suspect were assisted by spilt diesel.

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Spun my car 3 times, all on track.

 

First was my first time on track during a high performance driving school soon after I bought the Esprit.  It was a super cold day with streaming rain.  And I had really bald rear tires...  There was standing water in all the braking zones, I was entering a turn called Kamikaze, and with no change in throttle, brakes, or steering, the rear end just came around on me...  Did a 270 and slid off track sideways in the mud and grass.  Didn't hit the wall!

This was the day.

Travis_01.jpg

 

Next spin was on the same tray on a dry but cold day where it started to snow.  I gave it too much gas out of the first 2nd gear corner and looped a 360, kept it running:)

 

3rd spin was at a different track, first lap on a warm day, but cold old tires, new suspension, new brakes, and limited slip differential.  Just hadn't gotten the dampers dialed in yet, and the tires were cold and low grip.

 

So the moral of the story is to learn the limits of the car in a controlled environment like a driving school track day, and be very mindful of cold tires and low grip situations.

 

I drive my front wheel drive car in rain, snow, deep snow, and ice all year long.  I drive that car fast maintaining momentum like a rally car, without any issues.  But the Esprit is different, and it will bite you pretty fast if traction is low, or if you transfer too much weight too fast for the level of grip at the time.

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Only lost mine once so far, though limited mileage behind the wheel, simply doing a U-turn on the street. Rears were low on tread, dry, 75F, no LSD, gave her half throttle to beat out the oncoming lane traffic and ended up looking at a lot of headlights. Scared the be-Jesus out of me and have since taken much more care in doing hard turns ever since.

Edited by MikieP

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Mine scared the be-Jesus out of me too: a 270 pirouette in damp conditions where I ended up facing the guy I'd tried to overtake (who thought it was hilarious). I did a 3 point turn to get facing the right way and then had to stop for a cup of sweet tea because I was so shaken. The second time I must've been doing all of 10mph in wet conditions doing a (legal) u-turn, I lost the back but fortunately the momentum just wasn't there otherwise God knows what would've happened.

 

Truthfully, as someone else said in this thread, the Esprit is a dry weather car and you need a front wheel drive for snow or wet conditions, she's just too unpredictable and it's exhausting for the driver to have to be so alert for any length of journey.

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My Esprit go a little "squigly" coming out of a roundabout in the wet in 2nd gear......

I now have traction control for the same situation, it's called 3rd gear......

 

One of the problems with these sort of cars is the age of the tyres. Most tyres are finished after 5 years regardless of how much tread they have. This can cause all sorts of problems, especially in the wet. So check the age of your tyres.

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Indeed if you still have the old Dunlops on your car you can be assured of some fun on damp roads or track as I found out to my peril at Castle Coombe with three 360's the new Toyo's feel better in the damp.

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It always seems much faster inside than when I'm watching Mark...and as you know there's many faster than me! If you fancy it, feel free to grab a pax ride next time...

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An appraisal if I may. Based on the attitude of the car in a static photo, so I could be wrong.

The car appears to be decelerating, has already deviated from a straight line, so is turning into the corner whilst decelerating, could be trailing throttle could be braking, only Mike can tell us that.

What I will say is there appears to be too much weight apportioned to outside front wheel, diagonally lessening the weight of the inside rear.

I would say too much body roll in the front end. Which is the exact same problem that I had with my 88 Stevens, exacerbated by the fact that I am a profound trail braker, ie still on the brakes as I turn into the corner, could be right up to the apex.

For the record the factory came to my rescue and recommended trying poly bushes on the ARB/chassis mounts which I did was much impressed by the improvement.

Worth noting when I first drove mine quickly it was plain scary, snapped into oversteer without warning, I've been right through the setup, new shocks new bushes, alignments, adjustments, it is now a beautifully balanced car with no nasty surprises.

But before I started to experiment, I got it back to factory as a base line, you can't go far wrong with that.

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I actually have a photo of that moment Dave:)

 

Here you are out in the grass (the grey spec to the right of the yellow car)

IMG_3556.jpg

Brilliant, I did wonder if anyone caught it on camera thanks.

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An appraisal if I may. Based on the attitude of the car in a static photo, so I could be wrong.

The car appears to be decelerating, has already deviated from a straight line, so is turning into the corner whilst decelerating, could be trailing throttle could be braking, only Mike can tell us that.

What I will say is there appears to be too much weight apportioned to outside front wheel, diagonally lessening the weight of the inside rear.

I would say too much body roll in the front end...

Interesting thoughts Rog. I see what you mean about the apparant attitude of the car. That is early in Camp Corner. On the Lotus Day they make it much easier than some by putting out braking point, turn in and apex cones. Since I know that corner has "the bump" I'm always keen to have the car settled on a light throttle before I'm in that deep, so pretty confident that I'd be hard on the brakes at the pitlane entrance drop it into third. Turn in at the cone and get back on the throttle ready to bury it once over the bump. Of course I'm far from metropnomic in being able to put into practice what I'm trying hard to do and who knows if Mark happened to get an occasion when I made a complete horlicks of it. So I looked over some of my other pics and you can see here

lotus270506029.jpg

that I am some way further through the same corner, and would definitely have finshed with the brakes ages before.....but the car still looks a bit down at the front. The other thing is that if you are giving it some beans, there is a surprising amount of body roll for a "corners on rails" type of car - here's an example at Quarry a couple of bends further on

lotusday890.jpg

Nevertheless you make a good point aqbout sorting the suspension. Mine is all original (over 20 years old in these pics) and has no doubt got plenty of wear in it. Still goes well enough though and really doesn't bite unless provoked.

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