Built around Colin Chapman's legendary simplify, then add lightness ethos, few cars can come close to matching the Lotus Elise for race car thrills on the road. It would seem, however, the Elise wasn't racy enough for some. Why else would Lotus feel the need to roll out the new Elise Race 250, a car tailor made for track work and amateur racing?
Some manufacturers pay lip service to racing without ever really committing to the cause, but Lotus isn't one of them. Hethel says the Race 250 is eligible for "many race series," with its FIA-approved carbon race seat, six-point harness, removable steering wheel and polycarbonate windscreen all making it a safer racetrack companion than before.
Also included in the latest racing-spec Lotus are an FIA-compliant front roll cage, fire extinguisher, battery isolator and exposed front/rear towing eyes.
With that racing focus in mind, the latest Elise is set up to be tweaked and tuned by owners. The new Nitron dampers are one-way adjustable, and the front anti-roll bar can also be tweaked depending on the circuit. These changes work in tandem with a set of Eibach coaxial coil springs to keep things under control without upsetting the car's composure on corner entry.
Even though there's a new suspension setup, the fundamentals have remained largely the same. Made up of lightweight extrusions, the chassis weighs just 68 kg (150 lb), helping to keep the Race 250's total dry weight down to just 900 kg (1,984 lb). Also contributing to the car's diet is a lithium-ion battery, lightweight forged wheels and the (optional) carbon aero pack, which replaces the standard bodykit with a carbon splitter, wing, diffuser and side skirts.
With less weight to haul, the 1.8-liter engine doesn't need to be particularly powerful to make the Race 250 quick. That said, 243 hp (181 kW) of power and 250 Nm (184 lb-ft) of torque is nothing to be sneezed at, especially when it's put to the ground through a six-speed manual gearbox.
Thanks to the punchy four-cylinder engine, top speed is pegged at 248 km/h (154 mph). That number could be higher but the aero package fitted creates 66 kg (146 lb) of downforce at 161 km/h (100 mph), and 155 kg (342 lb) at that top speed, holding it back in the outright acceleration stakes.
When it comes time to pull up, the twin-piston AP Racing front calipers and single-piston Brembo rear calipers should resist fade well. All these changes combine to make the Race 250 the fastest racing Elise around the test track, outdoing the Elise Cup 220 R's 1:34.0 time at Hethel.
All this race focus doesn't come cheap. In the UK, the Race 250 goes for £53,500 for, while in the US it'll set you back US$76,200.