Words thanks to Michael Moore, images by Ben of OtherSide Productions
Michael Moore recently reached out to us to share his experience of Lotus Week 2023 in Victoria, illustrated with images by Ben of OtherSide Productions. Scroll on, and enjoy!
Lotus Cars Australia: Lotus Week 2023
My early morning routine on the 8th October 2023 was much the same as every other morning. I made a cup of tea and grabbed my iPad and as usual Google Photos welcomed me to the day with a “memory”. It turns out it was exactly “10 years since…” I had taken delivery of my 340R and I had a little chuckle to myself at the photos from the day. It seemed entirely fitting that as I relaxed and recovered on the Sunday morning after Lotus Week 2023, I was reminded of the very early days of my motorsport journey.
The lure of the first ever Australian Lotus Drive Academy in early 2014 was the catalyst for my first road trip in the 340R, from our then home on the Sunshine Coast to a positively cold and wet Wakefield Park. The fact that Simply Sports Cars had organized the event to coincide with one of their Lotus Only Track Days the following day made the trip all-the-more worthwhile and over the next couple of years, attending LOTDs in the 340R and the associated trips there and back were highlights of my calendar.
“What has any of this got to do with Lotus Week 2023?”, I hear you scream. Well, on my trip home from the Winton LOTD in 2015, it became very clear that the 340R fuel pump was at the point of failure. And then life got in the way and before you know it, the poor old car has sat in the corner for 6 years without even being started. So, 2 years ago I set about the process of bringing the 340R back to life and Lotus Week was the perfect catalyst to finish things off and the perfect format to introduce the old girl back into active service and remind myself of the good old days.
What is Lotus Week?
Well, it’s a new formula but put simply, Lotus Week is a series of events, combining all the driving formats that allow us to make the most of our cars as safely, responsibly and enjoyably as possible. And there is a fair bit socializing and catching up with friends in between as well. You could take part in one event or take part in them all: I choose them all.
Day 1: Winton LOTD
I’m sure that most of you are familiar with the LOTD format by now. There is a Drive group for those who aren’t motivated by competition, a couple of Sprint groups, which aim to align drivers with those doing similar lap times and a somewhat unique Sprint R format, more of which later. Each run group has a 15 minute session once per hour, which keeps you on your toes at all times and allows for lots of track time through the course of the day.
I entered Sprint R, simply because I love the concept. The first 2 sessions are run in a normal sprint format with the times set, used to determine a handicap for the subsequent sessions. From session 3 onwards, each participant starts from pit lane, with the slowest starting first and the fastest starting last and the intervals in between aiming to ensure that everyone crosses the line exactly together on the last lap. What a hoot! You are always chasing someone and simultaneously being hunted down. Seeing where you gain and lose time (the BOOBs and the straights respectively for me) is strangely satisfying. FWIW, the “handicaps” were pretty spot-on: Martin Duursma passed me on the final straight before the checkered flag on three occasions but of course, he might just have been playing with me.
As the only “competitive” event during Lotus week, the times can be found, studied and dissected on Natsoft.
Day 1.5: Marysville
As I have grown older (and perhaps wiser), I tend to trailer my cars to the track these days. As such, I took the direct route to our overnight stop in Marysville. However, as many of the Lotus Week participants had made the trip down from NSW and Qld, a healthy contingent decided to take the opportunity of travelling the scenic route, taking in the fabled Eildon-Jamieson road.
Although the road trip was not an official component of Lotus Week, dinner at our overnight accommodation at the Peppers resort in Marysville, emphatically was and after a hectic day at the track, it was great to be able to relax and catch up with friends old and new and chew the fat on how quick you could’ve been, if only… Well, you know…!
Day 2: Lake Mountain
A hearty breakfast at Peppers and frost on windscreens greeted us for Day 2. The plan for the day ahead was simple. Make our way gently from Marysville to Lake Mountain, where the road had been closed for the day for our enjoyment. The participants were broken in to 3 groups and placed in a fixed order, that roughly related to the experience and likely pace of the car/driver combinations in Targa-like conditions.
Group 1 (nominally the fastest) was led by Mark O’Connor and Group 2 was led by Sam Brabham (yes, of that Brabham family) which tells you 2 things. First, Mark still rates himself (deservedly, I begrudgingly admit) and second, Mark had organized the whole week, so you would if you were in his shoes, wouldn’t you?
In any event, the Group Leaders did a magnificent job of showing us how best to negotiate closed roads (which is very different to track driving) and built our pace sensibly over the course of the first few runs. The uphill and downhill combo was considered one run and morning tea was served after run 4; lunch after run 10. By that time, we were going fast enough for ears to be popping with the rate of altitude change and for some of us to be just the healthy side of scared. There was strictly no overtaking whilst on the mountain but the usual Lotus camaraderie allowed for people to slip up and down the group order or even between groups and the end of each run. Those travelling to Phillip Island departed after run 12 (or 13?), whilst those who stayed on merged in to 2 groups and ran up and down the hill countless more times before the end of the day.
Another unofficial leg from Marysville to Phillip Island via the Black Spur rounded out day 2.
Days 3 & 4: Phillip Island
Days 1 & 2 were organized by Lotus Cars Australia, for Lotus cars only. For days 3 & 4, Mark had secured Lotus-only groups within events organized for a wider audience and as a result, he was unable to influence the weather quite so favourably.
The prospect of 20-40mm of rain at PI in my newly refurbished but still weatherproof-less 340R, was not one I relished. So I made a pitstop via home on Monday night and swapped the 340R for my wife’s Golf GTi. The Lotus run-group proved to be by far the most resilient and dedicated in the torrential conditions of Day 3, which was run by the Charity Drive Days organization. I enjoyed pottering round in the GTi in one of the non-Lotus groups but given the 7 year old, well-worn tyres, it was really a bit better suited to the gymkhana event run on the skidpan at the top end of the pit building.
Lee Knappet, Lotus Cars Australia CEO generously offered me the Lotus Melbourne Emira demonstrator for a couple of sessions in the late morning and well, I’m only human. What a gorgeous, no-excuses car the Emira is but I have never previously been on track with more than 200hp, never mind more than 400hp and 2/3 of the way through my first session, discretion won, over valor and I decided that a streaming wet, high speed track was not the place to learn the limits of someone else’s, $200k car that is pretty vital to their business, so I thanked them profusely and returned to the Golf for the rest of the day.
Day 4 was only wet, instead of torrential and on a couple of runs, a dry line almost appeared. This day was more in line with the regular Lotus Melbourne Drive Academy days, run in conjunction with Evolve Driving. On this occasion, Lotuses probably made up around 50% of the cars on track for the day with 2 Lotus-only groups.
As usual, Evolve had a healthy contingent of excellent instructors on hand throughout the day and I was fortunate to have my instructor on board in the first and third sessions of the day. I have been out of the saddle for a few years now and as such, it was great to have someone there beside me to address some of the bad habits I have settled in to and because everything was in slow motion (did I mention it was wet?), my brain could actually process what I was being told in real time.
The Thursday after Phillip Island was an R&R day for all and whilst I toddled home on the Wednesday night, most of the interstate visitors took in the sights, sounds and flavours of Healesville and the broader Yarra Valley.
Day 5: Broadford
And finally, rounding out the week, a day at Broadford, a track that has become a regular venue and firm favourite for Lotus Melbourne customers over the past few years. And as this was once again a Lotus-only day, the weather was once again magnificent. Another day of frenetic track time, camaraderie and tall-tales ensued. It’s such a technical track it took most of the morning to get my head around it and whilst my lap times plateaued in the afternoon, I wasn’t the only person in the pits to admit that Harry’s Timer was telling me my ideal lap was around 2 seconds quicker, if I could only string together all my best corners in a single lap. Next time; next time…
What a Week
Plans are already in place for Lotus Week 2024, with a slightly tweaked format to improve the logistics and camaraderie for participants. I for one, will be signing up again.
Thanks to all who made the time and effort to take part. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Thanks also to the whole Simply Sports Cars team, who were in attendance all week to provide physical, technical and moral support. And above all, a huge thanks to Mark O’Connor for dreaming up and pulling together such a unique week.