I met Allen Strommer years ago, operating out of someone else’s body shop in LA. He was hard at working keeping Lotus Race Cars competitive in North America, a not-so-easy feat considering the size of the company and their limited support. Allen success came from a focus reliability and effectiveness – the cars had to work, and what he did with them revolved around this.
VSA Motorsports is now based in Las Vegas, Nevada, with its racer friendly good weather and wide-open spaces. Still close to tracks like Thermal, Spring Mountain, Buttonwillow and Willow Springs, their customers have a lot of choices on where to run. Their location next to Las Vegas Motor Speedway affords access to a community of shops, while remaining relatively close to LA keeps them close to the car culture capital of the world.
My first impression of the shop was: Lotus everywhere, with Elise’s, Exige’s and Evora’s neatly arranged in various states of existence. One corner held chassis, tubs and roll-cages that barely met the definition of a car. In another were a few well-worn Elises, with reminders of season-upon-season of racing like wrinkles on old sunbathers. Several very serious looking GT4 Evora’s were in the shop, all a bit different but undoubtedly purpose-built racing cars. They would not be out of place in Le Mans or Daytona, yet were completely at home in this sun-drenched industrial garage. There’s something about Lotus, VSA and the way things seemed to arrange themselves – whether old, being renewed, modern or sophisticated, they always looked purposeful and fast.
I like putting cars “right.” Often, the cars we enjoy aren’t quite right for how we enjoy them, so we persist in making do. There’s satisfaction in making something work just a little bit better, whether its suspension on a street car or making a European race car work better for our continent. These Lotus were designed for a series that requires naturally-aspirated engines, but we have no such restrictions here. That European engine is the compromise Allen is working with Lotus on, and the results are very satisfying.
Replacing the Cosworth-built V6 was a updated version of the stock Evora motor, with its variable cam timing, electronic throttle and supercharger all still in place, but now featuring stronger internals for racing reliability. My mission was to re-map the Pectel engine management systems to suit, which was accomplished with the help of former Apex engineer Tim Whitteridge building a base map, and me handling the tuning.
The results were astounding: 100hp more than the Cosworth engine, with a monster torque curve and exceptional drivability, all at a substantially lower cost. The tuning went so well that at the track we focused on engine braking control, helping the driver focus on driving while the paddle shift transmission seamlessly downshifted and smoothing entry into corners.
I’m glad to be working with Allen again, and looks forward to developing more with him. These cars are fantastic looking, compact and fast, preserving Lotus’s reputation from decades past. I’d like to think we’re doing ok by the automotive universe, and the ghost of Lotus founder Colin Chapman approves of VSA’s work.