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Sunday, 8 January 2012

Lotusbits Lotus Sunbeam, first outing, Longmoor Loco Rally 30th December 2011

We put the car on the trailer as planned at 5pm on Thursday night and headed down to a local pub in Hampshire  where we had booked rooms. Up at an ungodly 5.30am Friday morning and off to Longmoor!
The day did not start well as the car would not start - the battery was flat. We tried to push start the car on a gravelly surface but the wheels slid every time the clutch was engaged, on the occasions it caught the little Sunbeam refused to start.
A tow start from the Lotusbits van eventually worked . We trotted off to scrutineering where the new car passed with no issues, although the scrutineer had never seen a Cat 2 MSA logbook before!
The van went back to service as we tried to go off to the noise test, unfortunately the car would not start again.
 quick pull behind the van and the Sunbeam barked into life – the noise test was passed with a very satisfactory 96dB.

Time to head to service and find out why the car would not start and charge:
The service crew discovered a loose nut on the master switch which was subsequently tightened. We made up a charging lead from the Lotusbits service van  to charge the battery.

We decided to fill the tank at the start and run throughout the day without refueling until we detected any fuel surge issues.

As it was the first time at this venue in a new car we chose to start on worn wets – cut X22s. It was dry to start but still very, very  slippery.
As the Sunbeam left the start line on its first stage the service crew wandered to the burger van for their own personal re-fuelling  exercise.

Off the line we discovered  a total lack of traction, the car was sliding everywhere. We definitely needed to change the rear suspension settings when we got back to service.

When we got to the finish of the first stage we had two major issues – the oil temp was very, very high - 106 degrees and the alternator wasn’t charging – time for the service crew to work some magic.

They softened off the rear suspension to the minimum and ducted air into the oil cooler. With the alternator, we could not find any issues as it started charging again. The service crew found blue paint on one of the rear arches and suitably chastised the driver – it was time for Stage 2.

From the start line, it was a little better following the set-up change but still not much  traction.

We clouted the other (very expensive) works rear arch properly this time on a chicane – oops, this Sunbeam is a lot wider than the Lotus Micra!

 The oil temperature was even worse – 110 degrees at the finish and alternator had given up the ghost again.
During service we found the alternator had thrown a belt so we left it off and simply charged the battery from the Lotusbits van for the rest of the event. The crew fitted an Anderson plug to the car so we could plug  it into the van on arrival.  

Why was the oil too hot?  We had already wired the oil cooler fan to run continuously – no difference. We raised the rear of the bonnet, still no difference. Eventually it clicked – the air filter was in front of the oil cooler sucking hot air through the oil cooler.

We relocated the air filter with a roll of duct tape and the oil temp at the end of stage five dropped to a satisfactory 92 degrees – a 28 deg reduction!

On stage 4 there was some grip to be had as we were on X22 slicks and car 21, our class leader , a yellow Mk2 Escort came out behind us on the merge and we lost them! The little Lotusbits Sunbeam was starting to shine. The co-driver of car 21 came over to see us in service and was very surprised to see we had a standard H pattern gearbox and a home built engine – he went back to wind up his driver…

After lunch it rained, the surface became even slippier – so even less traction.

The only activity for the service crew in the afternoon was to hit the burger van and watch the event as we did not even change tyres or add fuel.

At the end of stage 7 we were sitting 2nd in class a second ahead of car 19 who was 3rd in class.
Off to the last stage – it now start to rain continuously and we were on slicks. The stage was comparatively uneventful despite car 21 spinning through a chicane in front of us.

Unfortunately we lost 5 seconds to car 19 and dropped to third in class. Time to put the car on the trailer and collect a trophy.

Not bad for a first test – hats off to the Lotusbits service crew, Ben, Brent, Sam and Dave, who built the car and kept it running all day! Apologies for the lack of event images, the venue is an active military establishment and photographers are shot!
A few more "pre paint" build images:

Friday, 6 January 2012

The beam shines a little brighter - Lotusbits Lotus Sunbeam build

The bare unpainted shell returned from JR Fabrication having had the exhaust system, fuel tank and radiators fabricated and dry fitted. This was the start of our work.

First on the list was to strip the bodyshell completely and deliver it to Ben at Finishline for paintwork.

The painted shell was due November 2011,  so we ordered  the necessary parts for the build. We stripped down and prepared all the suspension parts and brakes ready for the freshly painted new bodyshell to return.

Next was the engine and transmission which was removed  from the Lotusbits RWD Micra rally car, we fitted our new bespoke exhaust manifold and modified oil return pipes to clear the manifold.

As Cathy was competing in her first ever stage Rally as a driver - the Carfax stages, we had to quickly find another engine and box to fit  into the Micra. This would be the final outing for the successful little car before its ban (12/2011). (Thanks MSA, another substantial unnecessary cost).
Whilst we waited for the shell we repaired the Micra after Cathy bent all the front suspension and also removed a few kilos of grass and gravel from the underside.
We had to cancel our entry for Rockingham as a few parts hadn't arrived - so we decided to enter the Longmoor Loco on the 30th December 2011 - this was our new deadline.

On Friday  lunchtime the bodyshell arrived with it’s gleaming new coat of white paint! All hands on deck and by the evening it was a rolling shell with the suspension and steering fitted.
Assuming we work 7 days a week, we only have 22 days before Longmoor, as Christmas sits in the middle – a lot of work to complete.

The first deadline was getting the car inspected for its MSA Logbook. The MSA require 14 days to process a CAT 2 logbook, so this meant our last possible date for inspection was the 13th Dec – unlucky for some – this left us a meager 10 days to completely build the car and get it liveried . That’s all panels fitted, wired throughout, seats harnesses and fire extinguishers plumbed in - a few late nights required!

We have a hard deadline now – Log-booking now set for 8-30am on the 13th December as Chris Mount the MSA Technical Commissioner is booked to arrive.

Time to prepare the action whiteboards. 
Several lists:
List 1 – Requirements for log-booking
List 2 – Requirements for Rolling Road
List 3 – Requirements for MOT
List 4 – Requirements for the Rally
List 5 – Optional requirements -  Hmm - need more whiteboards or much smaller writing…
Complete brake lines and fuel lines were fitted before we could fit the differential and propshaft. The differential including mounts was offered up but did not line up (thanks Pambos), so we had to remove and spend precious hours fettling to ensure correct fitment.

We test fitted the engine next – a major panic as the power steering pump fouled on the exhaust manifold , never mind the high pressure pipe that exited from the rear. A quick trip to Five-Pen Engineering to manufacture a custom banjo fitting to give the necessary clearance, then we let Ben loose with the Oxy Acetylene and a big hammer to marginally adjust the manifold after the engine was fitted  - we could not lose any time waiting to fit the engine – good job it was not a stainless manifold.
Talking of manifolds – we need an inlet manifold machined from solid to allow us to fit the throttle bodies upside down, so we can slide the engine further backwards into the tunnel a foot or so.  We had a new one being fabricated but it wouldn't be ready in time, so we went spoke to Chris at Tolman Motorsport. He expertly cut and shut a mock up manifold so we could mount the induction system for the logbook engine bay photograph.

Going through the checklist we needed the identification plate for the roll cage – so we contacted Roll Centre.

Right what’s missing ? 
The MSA Technical Commissioner is turning up in 12 hours time tomorrow morning – we have to drive over to Brackley to get the bumper and work through the night to get it fitted as well as the rest of the finishing off, the lists are getting longer and longer – who needs sleep at Christmas!

The MSA Technical Commissioner is due at 8.30am – we turned up at 7am after a couple of hours sleep to find Chris Mount already waiting outside for us – Oh sh*t.

By 12.30pm Chris had inspected and photographed everything and given the car a clean bill of health and signed the Cat 2 logbook papers – just time to email them to the MSA.
Time to take the team out for a celebration down to the local Chinese restaurant – The Water Margin – good food and a few glasses – just what was needed.

We booked the last day prior to their Christmas break  – Thursday  22ndDecember. We needed to get the inlet manifold from Ultimate Performance, so we drive over to collect it on Sunday morning.

We then commissioned the bespoke fuel tank and system to discover a major leak from the tank where a weld had fractured, we gratefully accepted Willie Poole Motorsports’ help to weld up the tank as long as we washed it out for at least four hours with water so it was safe to weld. As we had had no tank and needed to run the engine we rigged up a jerry can to drop the fuel pipes in – finally the car runs…

Dave, Lotusbits fibreglass expert was working on the airbox to modify it to fit under the bulkhead but was struggling to get the fibreglass to cure as the temperatures were so low. We had to mock this up with gaffer tape instead! 

We were working into the night again to get the car ready when one of our racing customers turned up to help us throughout the evening with remaining fiddly bits such as  throttle cables and linkages.

When we fired up the car the engine map was wildly out as we had changed the injectors to PICO ones as they are smaller and better fitment. We then found fuel flooding into cylinder one – and diagnosed a leaking injector – luckily we had a spare.

We had to jury rig up the power steering  tank to run the engine up as bespoke power steering  and catch tanks were being fabricated by Tolman Motorsport. The power steering tank arrived a few hours before we left for Northampton Motorsport but the catch tank arrived after the car was on the trailer so we ran the car on the rollers without it..

The new induction and exhaust system worked well increasing the power to over 270bhp. No leaks and no failures whilst running on the dyno – very  pleasing! 

Video footage of the dyno run below - sounds good!
Off for an MOT tomorrow, more little niggly items remaining - need to fabricate a brake light switch and fit some horns and washer nozzles!

Passed OK –  now nip to the post office to tax it and back to the workshop for the rally preparation.
Roll cage padding on, footrest in with horn switch, sump guard fabricated and fitted, gearstick modified.
Now the fun part – off for a gentle(!) test drive and set the brake bias.

Good job there were no issues on the test drive, as there was little time remaining - time to put it on the trailer to go off to Longmoor - event report to follow soon, alas no photos of the event as it's a current military establishment.

Many thanks to all involved, particularly regular Lotusbits spanner monkeys Ben, Dave, Sam and Brent (Ben pictured below):
Some more images below:

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