Lotus Cars Australia took 160 of its closest friends to one of the world’s most famous – and Australia’s most revered – racetrack, Mount Panorama. We were there to soak it all in.
One of the things that excites me about the idea of owning a Lotus is taking it to a track. It’s exciting because, hey, you’ve got a very serviceable road car that can also go nuts around a track. Without bankrupting you because unless you’re on super-serious rubber, you can drive home on the same tyres.
The first weekend in February is now Bathurst 12 Hour weekend. One of four total closure of the track in a year – by agreement with residents and the local council – nobody really said how long the closures should be. So after each event, the track is available for bookings. This year Lotus Cars Australia went all out and booked Mount Panorama for the Wednesday after a thrilling Bathurst 12 Hour race.
As you may have already noticed, Lotus were so keen there’s even an Australia-only Elise Bathurst Edition.
I had the extreme fortune to be invited along to see what you can expect if you buy a Lotus – new or used. And a peek into what’s coming from Lotus as the Geely money starts to flow.
It’s not just run-what-you-brung, either. Sixty cars turned up on Tuesday, with owners, partners and friends, not just for the Wednesday thrash but for a unique event – dinner in pitlane.
As the sun set on day that, for once this summer, wasn’t 78 degrees celsius, the Bathurst pits filled with guests and the sound of live music. Lotus fan and racer, Grant Denyer, regaled the audience with his racing exploits, to plenty of good-natured heckling.
It’s a fascinating way to spend an evening, talking to owners of the cars who just love their Lotus and can tell you every single detail.
A wander through the garages was fascinating. There wasn’t much, if anything, pre-Elise. I was expecting one or two brave souls to bring a Europa or an Elan (first or second). Not even an errant Esprit. I suppose they’re worth too much now or, just as likely, have returned to their homeland or Japan.
The huge variety of Elises and Exiges was genuinely breathtaking. While there were a few Evoras (Evorae?) scattered through the assembled throng, the standouts were plucky Series 1 Elises. That a car this old can take the hammering of any track day, let alone the demands of Bathurst is amazing.
One of the best things about the day was that not only could you talk to other owners (I say other – I don’t own a Lotus) but the Simply Sports Cars team come fully armed and prepped with tools, parts and machinery to keep you rolling.
More to the point, they turn up with a bunch of people who adore what they do. I’ve been on a number of track experiences now and taken out a few Lotus cars to review. No other car company, not one, has ever had a detailed discussion with me about tyre pressures before sending me on my way.
And when I brought them back, they wanted detailed feedback, good or bad, about the experience. They’ve got Hethel in their blood.
Put these guys at a race track and they’re in their element. They run around with tyre pressure gauges, big grins and things to plug in to your car if things aren’t quite right.
This is what the SSC crew do all year, year in, year out, at all sorts of customer events. The Bathurst Track Day is one of fifty events across the country. If you own a Lotus, you’re going to be as busy as you like spending time with like-minded folks.
The team also came with an army of driver coaches. Targa Tasmania winner (in a Lotus), Paul Stokell was along, with a team of fourteen drivers, most of whom Australian motorsport fans would recognise. Some were backing up from the Bathurst 12 Hour itself, so they knew the track quite well.
Why are you telling me all this?
Because I had the spectacular fortune to be asked along to an event that is absolutely not free and only open to those with access to a Lotus. I also met with Lotus’ Asia-Pacific Executive Director David McIntyre to ask him about what’s next for Lotus.
And I got to drive not one, but two cars around this incredible track.
This week is Lotus Week on The Redline.
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.