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Monday, 22 December 2014

Lotusbits Rallying | Review 2014

The 2014 REIS MSA National Asphalt Championship was, from day one, a baptism of fire for the Lotusbits Rally Team.

With considerable help from Kingsway Insurance it was decided Lotusbits would run two rally prepared Lotus Sunbeams in 2014.

Both cars were painted white displaying the Kingsway Insurance and Lotusbits logos.

"RTA 43X" driven by Mike Taylor, Lotusbits MD, with Peter Grant alongside as co-driver and "TON 301S" driven by Cathy Sewart, Mikes partner. (Bright pink wheel arches adorn Cathys car).

The championship comprised 8 qualifying events of which 5 best scores would count. As a full assault was planned, each event would be attended with both cars.

Round 1 - Tour of Epynt - Wales
Round 2 - Manx National Rally - Isle of Man
Round 3 - Jim Clark National Rally - Scotland
Round 4 - ALMC Stages - Ireland
Round 5 - Tyneside Stages - England
Round 6 - Mewla Rally - Wales
Round 7 - Wexford Stages Rally - Ireland
Round 8 - Cheviot Keith Knox Stages - England

As a pre-championship test at the end of 2013, Mike entered the Cheviot Stages in Cathys car, (unfortunately his car (RTA) had suffered damage on the previous rally). Cathy co-drive for Stuart Gilks in his Duratec engined Sunbeam.

The autumn event was held on the notorious roads across Otterburn Military Ranges, (at 242 square kilometres, it's the largest firing range in the UK) - the roads in the complex are tight and twisty, peppered with off camber blind crests with zero run-off.

Mike started cautiously - this was his first closed road event - and was overtaken by the car behind on the long second stage as it was very foggy and the intercom was not working. He then followed this Subaru until it span in front of him forcing him to Tbone it or take avoiding action.  Twelve minutes was subsequently lost when Mike got stuck in the boggy mud. Mike finished the event successfully despite the early incident and the appalling weather later in the day.

Stuart and Cathy were out after Special Stage 6 when their car suffered a driveshaft failure.

Round 1 - Tour of Epynt - Wales
The event at Epynt was held within the Army ranges between Llandovery and Builth Wells, another military complex with narrow roads, sudden gradient changes and no margin for error.

Mike started cautiously placed 84th after SS1. As the day progressed Mike moved rapidly up the field, lying 45th overall after SS5.

 He subsequently retired with head gasket failure caused by detonation damage to his engine on SS6.

Cathy and co-driver Mike Jones finished 63rd overall (from a seeded #91), which was a good result considering the environment!

Round 2 - Manx National Rally - Isle of Man
A long way from home and only the second closed road event for the Lotusbits team, everyone was grateful for the support from P.A.C.E Motorsport, who offered Lotusbits a recce car for the rally and on event support.

The Druidale stage of the Manx was a real challenge. The closed public roads were completely unforgiving, incredibly narrow at only 6'6" with huge drops either side.

As the team had only run the cars on single-venue events previously, it was discovered the fuel tanks in both cars were physically too small for the distances required  - and the rules stated "no-topping" up in between stages. Both cars returned to service on fumes only!

It was also noted the weather on the Isle of Man varied considerably from one side of the island to the other! The stage start was dry, with "no rain" forecast. Cathy went out on intermediate tyres but Mike chose slicks. The following three stages were driven in pouring rain - slick tyres were not the best choice! As remote servicing was banned( for most cars!) he battled on.  Acclimatising to the complete lack of grip he overtook a couple of cars, mid-stage, also running slicks - so his times were good by comparison. Learning point - you need to choose a safe tyre for the whole loop of stages not the best for the first one! Mike then stuck to wets for the second day thinking it might rain but it stayed dry all day! The fuel rail worked loose over the big jumps on Knocksharry - stage 8 and the car  lost all of its fuel. Fortunately Mike fixed the problem with the fuel rail at the end of the stage and Peter managed to scrounge some fuel from a farmers horsebox generator to get through the next stage and back to service.

Mike finished 52 overall in the amalgamated event.

Cathy managed to finish although she hit a tree with the rear of her car - no-one could accuse her of not trying! Cathy finished 59th overall in the amalgamated event

Round 3 - Jim Clark National Rally - Scotland
Considerable work was carried out to both cars, (including some miraculous panel beating to Cathys car by Keith) prior to the Scottish event.

The Jim Clark Rally is the only "closed public road" event in mainland Britain.

The first stage was held in Duns town centre, a similar environment to the single venue stage rallies Mike's used to, consequently he set a really good time finishing 28th o/a half a second behind class rival Keith Robathon but ahead of Dave Tinn in the Millington Proton.

During SS2, Abbey St Bathans - Mike and Peter had some issues with the notes and were caught by the Puma behind and then both overtook the car in front to the consternation of the Nova...

Unfortunately a brake hose on Mikes car rubbed through, during the second stage. The following stages, SS3 and SS4, were completed without brakes!

Cathy restarted Day 2 at 73rd overall but was unfortunate to hit a bank heavily on the first stage and retired.

Mike restarted 90th (under the regulations) and enjoyed lots of overtaking, finishing 41st overall - quite a result considering the brake and grip issues...

Please note - the 2014 event was cancelled early due to cars leaving the road and colliding with spectators, sincere condolences to families and friends of those involved.

Round 4 - ALMC Stages - Ireland
Mike had a very short rally after sliding under braking into a bank on SS2 - he attempted to limp the car to the end of the stage, but the steering locked whilst trying to negotiate a chicane.

Being pushed into a pub car park was a bonus, although the £70 bill for the driver and co-drivers Guiness consumption stung a bit...
Cathy flew to a strong finish, 41st overall (seeded #81).

Round 5 - Tyneside Stages - England
Both Mike and Cathy were beginning to understand the dangers of Otterburn and a slightly cautious approach reaped benefits for both little Lotus Sunbeams.

Mike finished 33rd from an original seeding of #52, Cathy had another excellent result completing the event, to finish in 54th place, seeded #86.

Round 6 - Mewla Rally - Wales
Another round of the Championship at Epynt - Mike finished this event, just... 

The Lotus Sunbeam cracking a diff nose bracket before half way and the service times were too short to change it. Instead the service crew hammered shaped blocks of wood into the chassis to hold the diff in place. The bracket failed completely 3 stages from the end of the event - the Lotusbits team (mantra "It's not over 'til it's over") sprang into action. More blocks of wood were hammered in to stop the diff banging and crashing and the crew limped home to finish a credible 32nd (seeded 46th).

Cathy finished 39th despite spinning after the German village and reshaping the front and rear of her car...

Round 7 - Wexford Stages Rally - Ireland
This was, perhaps, the most challenging two days the Team had faced to date.

The rally covered 150 competitive miles, on two 12 1/2mile stages, each running 3 times on
Saturday and 3 stages each running 3 times on Sunday.

Mike and Peter were off to a good start returning faster times than expected, but on SS5 during the second loop the front anti-roll bar snapped under heavy braking. This was a modified item, altered to increase castor and camber - more development required!

Mike limped the car slowly to service and discovered the spare anti-roll bar was missing from the van!
(Cue the Lotusbits mantra "It's not over 'til it's over")...

Pambos, (a member of the Lotusbits service crew and welder extraordinaire), managed to weld up the anti-roll bar, and somewhere he managed to scrounge a bolt to replace the snapped off bit that fell off. The front suspension (damaged by the lack of ant-roll bar) was rebuilt along with the bent steering arms and rack. Mike re-started under Super Rally rules and the crew were competing again, but a steering arm snapped which Mike managed to change at the side of the road...

Although Mike and Peter finished last, they collected their best Championship points on the event!

Cathys day wasn't any better, a bent shock absorber followed by a re-charging issue caused her to retire on the second day.

No, only bananas should look like that...

3 Sisters
The Team entered a non-Championship single venue event at 3 sisters to celebrate Mikes nephews - Andrew Brown -  14th birthday - he co-drove - definitely a star of the future!

A misfire occurred on Mikes car, caused by a loose fuel tank crushing a fuel line (leftovers from the Irish event). The car was also oversteering violently on fast corners, not what's needed at 100mph... another leftover from Ireland - both dampers were completely ruined. He later retired with a broken valve spring after SS9.

Cathy retired after SS3, with a spin through stage furniture and could not restart the car..

Round 8 - Cheviot Keith Knox Stages - England
This rally was at Otterburn ranges, a venue both Cathy and Mike are beginning to enjoy.

Cathy had an unfortunate start, she landed badly after the legendary Cowstone jump, slightly offline and landed on the grass - all was well until she hit a concrete drain cover which caused terminal suspension damage to the front and rear.

Mike had fuelling issues, diagnosed as a faulty fuel pump. this was replaced but the car was dogged by fuel pressure issues throughout the rally.

On SS5, he outbraked himself on gravel and went quickly off the road near Cathys incident, Cathy and her co-driver came and pushed but the car was too far downhill, (he shot through a fence which left barbed wire marks on the roof)! The car was finally extracted after 4 minutes.

Mike finished 25th overall despite parking in the ditch.

Rallying's expensive, immensely frustrating, utterly addictive and a fantastic platform for Lotusbits product development to carry over to road cars.

Without the support from Kingsway Insurance and the fantastic team of Lotusbits spanner monkeys this year would not have happened, a huge thank you for your involvement during 2014 and a bigger thank you for the increasing commitment from Kingsway Insurance (who also specialise in Motorsport Insurance) for 2015.

A final test session is booked late in December to round the year off, to test and set up new dampers (fitted to both cars) and a recently installed gearbox (Mikes car).

As a New Year shakedown the Lotusbits Rally Team are off to the Isle of Man again, for the IMGold Chris Kelly Memorial Rally which takes place on Saturday 31st January 2015.
All that remains is:

Monday, 25 August 2014

Lotus 2.2 camshafts | NEW

Lotus 2.2 camshafts - £800 per pair
Click to view larger image

Lotus 2.2 crankshaft, by Lotusbits | NEW

Lotus 2.2 crankshaft by Lotusbits - £2000 + VAT

Developed alongside our 2.5ltr variant, which has been extensively tested in both our Lotus Sunbeam rally cars.

Click to view larger image

Lotus Esprit rear suspension arms /rear suspension links | NEW

Lotus Esprit rear arms / rear links, re-manufactured by Lotusbits due to overwhelming demand. 

Lotus Esprit normally aspirated S3, S3 turbo, GT3 V8 S4, S4S.

Currently price on application - 01926 633211
Click to view larger image

Saturday, 9 August 2014

On Your Marks charity day | Bruntingthorpe

Lotusbits took both Lotus Sunbeams to this years On Your Marks charity fun day at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground.
Apart from watching aerobatic displays, trying to drive an articulated lorry, learning to fly a helicopter, belting down the 2 mile runway in a supercar and lots more, visitors also had the chance to experience a passenger ride in a rally car.

The half mile tarmac and gravel rally stage was, perhaps, the only track ever to run underneath a Boeing 747...
Both Mike and Cathy enjoyed treating the passengers to some on the limit, sometimes over, sideways stuff in the Lotusbits Sunbeams - plenty of screams and lots of laughter...

Since the start of the On Your Marks charity day, the On Your Marks team and everyone connected with the day have raised an incredible £316,000. This years event will push the total even higher.
Photos: © Philip Kelley

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Lotusbits Rally Stage | Lotus Festival Brands Hatch

Both Lotusbits Lotus Sunbeam Rally Cars will be available for exhilarating passenger rides, on a rally stage, during this years Lotus Festival at Brands Hatch on Sunday 17th August.

The Lotus Festival is a celebration of Britain's most charismatic sportscar marque and its illustrious heritage.
On track, demonstrations of Colin Chapman's famous racers, rally and road cars will be complemented by superb action from LoTRDC races series with a packed support bill.

Lotusbits MD Mike Taylor and his partner, Cathy Sewart (the reigning British Women Racing Drivers Club Vintage Racecar/Historica Rally Champion) will be offering a "Sideways Ride of A Lifetime" for just £10 for 3 (very sideways) loops of the Rally Stage! From 10am to 4pm throughout the day.
The little Sunbeams are powered by Lotusbits designed 275bhp+ long stroke 2.5ltr Lotus 900 series engines. Both compete in the premier UK tarmac rally series, the 2014 REIS MSA Asphalt Rally Championship. Don't just watch - get in and have a go!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Lotus Esprit Turbo For Sale

Please note, advertised on behalf of Brian Swankie.
Lotus Esprit Turbo - £12500
(X180 Carb), February 1988, 52,800 miles.
Recent works include:
  • Full leather re-trim
  • 12 Months MOT
  • New windscreen
  • All brake pipes and hoses replaced throughout
  • New brake servo fitted
  • New turbocharger and pick-up pipe fitted
  • Fuel lines replaced with stainless braided hos
  • New can belt and tensioner and vee belts replaced
  • Engine rebuild by previous owner, does not use any oil
  • Has covered 5000 trouble free miles since work completed
  • New restoration project pending!

Fancy sitting here?

Regular visitors may remember his stunning Lotus Excel, click the link and have a look at the standard of workmanship.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Lotus Elan SE Turbo for sale

Lovely little blue Lotus Elan SE Turbo for sale - taxed and MOT,d full service history - for further details see Lotus Elan M100 for sale on Lotusbits website.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Wow! - 290 bhp on forecourt fuel!

Getting closer to 300bhp...
This is the latest dyno print for RTA 43X  - Lotusbits Lotus Sunbeam rally car (Mike Taylors).
Considering this is a competition engine, it's incredibly flexible, equally at home pottering on a light throttle around the Warwickshire roads or running flat out on a tarmac rally stage.
Just look at that torque curve.
For further details of this and our upgraded Lotus 900 series engines for competition and fast road use visit the Lotusbits website.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Lotus Excel leather retrimmed seats

Lotus Excel re-trimmed seats are now available from Lotusbits, below "natural" leather trim awaiting customers choice of colour - £500 each (ex VAT).

Lotus Elan M100 retrimmed seats

Seat retrimming is now available from Lotusbits, below, Lotus Elan M100 seats - £450 ea (ex VAT)

We're continually developing our range of Lotus spare parts, particularly the recent addition of used, new and re-manufactured Lotus Elan M100 parts, watch this space!

Lotus Elan M100 Power Steering pipe kit

New to Lotusbits for 2014, Lotus Elan M100 power steering pipes (RHD only), the kit comprises the 3 pipes shown below £220 (ex VAT)

Lotus inlet and exhaust valves | Designed by Lotusbits

Lotusbits designed waisted inlet and exhaust valves, designed, tested and used by Lotusbits in both Lotus Sunbeam rally cars.
Designed to fit in standard guides, they are an oversize direct replacement. Nitrided and lighter than standard, exhaust and inlet are the same weight. £15 each (ex VAT).

Friday, 7 February 2014

Lotusbits 2014 Rally Calendar

Lotusbits are running two cars in the 2014 REIS Asphalt Rally Championship and the 2014 ANWCC Stage Rally Championship.
Mike Taylor will be running his 2.5 ltr Lotusbits Kingsway Insurance Lotus Sunbeam, with Peter Grant as co-driver sitting alongside.
The second car is an all-girl entry, Cathy Sewart and Samantha Bartlett, also in a 2.5 ltr Lotusbits Kingsway Insurance Lotus Sunbeam. Similar specification as Mikes car, but Cathys has bright pink wheelarches and shiny new paint following its winter rebuild - (it's straight now too)!

Cathys car during winter rebuild
Pink finishing touches
Another service barge

2014 REIS MSA Asphalt Championship events calendar

March 9 Tour of Epynt
May 9/10 Manx National Rally
May 30/31 Jim Clark National Rally
July 6 ALMC Stages
August 3 Tyneside Stages Otterburn
August 24 Mewla Rally
Sept. 13/14 Wexford Stages Rally
November 9 Cheviot Rally, Keith Knox Stages, Otterburn

2014 ANWCC Stage Rally Championship events calendar

Feb 7/8 North-West Stages
Feb 22 Jack Neal Memorial
Mar 2 Roskirk
Mar 9 Tour of Epynt
Mar 16 Lee Holland Memorial
Mar 23 SMC Stages
Mar 23 ᆴ AGBO Stages
Apr 6 Lookout Stages
Apr 26 Horiba DメIsis
May 4 Harlech Stages
May 4 ᆴ Hallamshire
May 9/10 Manx National
May 17 Cetus Rally Stages
May 25 Twyford Stages
Jun 8 Keith Frecker Memorial
Jun 28 JRT Enville
Jul 19 Opposite Lock
Aug 10 Gareth Hall Memorial
Aug 17 Centenary
Aug 24 Eventsigns
Sep 6 Promenade 
Sep 7 Vale of York
Sep 7 ᆴ Pendragon
Sep 28 Heroes Stages 
Oct 10/12 Mull Rally
Oct 12 Adgespeed Stages
Nov 1/2 Glyn Memorial
Nov 7/8 Pokerstars Rally
Nov 22 Neil Howard Memorial
Nov 22 Hall Trophy

8 events count towards the championship, rallies highlighted in green are likely to be contested.

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