How to Start Racing - buy your copy & accelerate up the grid

Posted: November 10, 2022

On the podcast this week, Colin is joined by Greg Lock of Hangar 111 and Scholar Engines and a fellow petrolhead. After working in technology, software and electronics, Greg decided to follow his passion for Lotus and admiration for Colin Chapman’s business strategies. Turning his well-loved hobby and passions, into his own thriving business, Colin and Greg focus on Hangar 111 in this podcast. Discussions include his company’s ability to provide Lotus owners with years of finely tuned knowledge and experience, and how this gets the most out of their cars. Plus, the Hangar 111 ‘Suffolk Rolling Road’, other technological successes and advances, including mapping cars, installing ECU’s and designing components, meeting their client’s needs and Lotus specifications.

Listen to the podcast or keep scrolling to read the transcript.

Colin: Hello and welcome to another edition of our CAT Chats Cars podcast with me, Colin Hoad. An opportunity to explore the world of cars, motoring and motorsport with interesting, engaging and diverse petrolheads. Which brings me to today's guest, Greg Lock of Hangar 111. Hello, Greg.

Greg: Hi, Colin.

Colin: Thank you very much for taking part in the podcast, and I'm looking forward to talking everything Lotus with you. And on that note, I wonder if you'd like to introduce yourself and your company for me.

Greg: Yeah, sure. Primarily, I suppose you're right, I'm a petrolhead and always have been. I am the managing director at Hangar 111, you could call me the ‘team principal’ at Hangar 111 Racing, and I'm also the managing director at Scholar Engines. I'm sort of, more of a technical orientated person, I like a bit of marketing, I like to dabble with various new technologies and bits and pieces that are going on. But primarily I'm into performance products, chassis development for road and track cars, primarily Lotus. I'm not really too interested in many other things, although we have again, dabbled in other stuff - performance tuning and product development are really my main interests.

Colin: I've had the benefit of driving your cars around Millbrook Handling Circuit and various circuits at Millbrook. I think the listeners are going to find that entertaining and very interesting; just what you do with Lotus products, because you take them to a place further beyond what the factory does. I’ve enjoyed the benefit of that and driving your vehicle so I can speak first-hand about that. Greg, what actually got you into cars? Where's the passion come from?

Greg: I think a few things really. I think it was probably always there. My dad worked at Lesney’s making matchbox toys, which was a big deal in those days!

Colin: That’s cool.

Greg: The toy box was always full of stuff you could injure your feet on - various doors and bonnets that hadn't been fitted to unpainted cars, a lot of stuff from the scrap bin, a lot of brand-new stuff. I was really spoilt; my dad worked his socks off - clever engineer, very good tool maker, and I was spoilt with some of the benefits of that. So that really sucked me in at an early age - when I got old enough to understand what cars were about a little more I think. My grandparents had a selection of sporty cars and did various things with them, including crashing them, but spent a lot of time touring Europe. My grandfather was a managing director of a Belgian sweet company and had some really nice company cars, you know, old Celica’s and the Datsun’s. When the Datsun’s arrived on the scene in the UK, they got in there fairly early.

Colin: As probably yourself and the readers are aware, I've been in the car trade most of my life in various guises and motorsport, but I can remember when those cars came out and my friend had a Datsun, I forget the number - I think it was a Laurel, maybe the 260 or something. My friend asked me to do a service on the car and when I took it back, I had my kids in the back seat, my two boys called it thereafter ‘the gadget car’ because I think they had more kit on them, didn't they, than anything we'd seen in a British car of that era?

Greg: Yeah definitely. I think you don't realise until later on in life when you've seen a bit more, that the Datsun’s and the Toyota’s were the original sporty cars. They were very much pinching a bit of everything from everyone else. A lot of European cues inside the cockpit, dashboards covered in lots of tubes with gauges at the ends of them and some big Alfa cues, some Ferrari cues in some of the cars you wouldn't really expect it to be in. When the Japanese started bringing that stuff over back then, my grandparents were quite interested. Up until then I think, my grandad had been - it's best described as - plagued with things like Hillman Avenger’s and stuff like that, which have their place. But once you'd got in a Japanese sports car of the era, you kind of realised, hang on, there's something else out there that's quite nice.

Colin: I can remember at the time resenting them actually for a while because I wasn't really that interested, then the penny drops, doesn't it? Because you realise how good they were and are.

Greg: I think now that you look at the prices, they're going up and up and up. I quite fancied a Celica but now I kind of leave that to the guys that want to do car restoration and lay underneath an oily sump every weekend.

Colin: Let me move on to another question, before we move on to Lotus products. What was the motivation to begin Hangar 111?

Greg: Wow. I think we fell in love - I fell in love, with Lotus a long time ago. We'd always had a bit of a passion for it, and we bought an Excel. We moved to Woodbridge, which is on the water, on the Deben.

Colin: Yeah, very nice too.

Greg: Bizarrely, we were looking at, I think we had about £5,000 to spend on a toy, and it was either a boat or a Lotus Excel, two very opposite ends of the spectrum. By pure - you know - it was the right time - we found this lovely Excel which was in need of, as it turned out, everything. So, we ventured into that. I'd been hooked on Lotus for a long time and just been a watcher really, and at the time that we bought the Excel, Lotus were going through this real renaissance period where they were having good success with a number of different platforms. The Esprit was coming to its final model, and that was an amazing car - I think the last of those were great cars. The Elise was then released, and we had, sort of, the 340R. So, it was all going on at Lotus when we got involved, when we actually ended up with a car.

Colin: At this point, you're not in the motor industry?

Greg: No. We had what we lovingly refer to as "proper jobs". I was a senior manager at British Telecom, having spent all my years in technology, software and electronics related jobs. And Marianne, my wife, who runs Hangar 111 with me, she was fairly senior in the electricity board. It was very much - it was a vent - it was an escape. Lotus for us was very much like a, put your pen down at the end of the week and you've got 48 hours of doing something completely off the wall.

Colin: That's a nice way to describe it.

Greg: Yeah, it was the perfect decompression chamber from fairly stressful careers, and the minute I got myself into an Elise, that kind of inspired me really. I've always been interested in Colin Chapman and what he'd done. From all of his years of developing, obviously a very brilliant engineer, but also a lot of the stuff that he did that went outside the realm of cars, from businesses and things like that. I'd always had a keen eye for business and doing something for myself. After probably about six or seven years of actually owning and being involved with the cars, I just wanted to turn the hobby into something a bit more. Marianne was pregnant with Abby, our daughter, and I don’t know how we managed it. I persuaded her we should start a business at the same time, doing something that we loved. As opposed to something that we occasionally, with our working careers, were starting to find was a little bit hard to make a difference - I think this was the way I put it.

But with the Lotus stuff, we'd spoken to an awful lot of people who were disappointed with their lot - they'd got a beautiful car and it had such huge potential, but they just weren't enjoying it. We'd meet people on track days and everyone would have such a good time - we did hundreds of track days, I can't think of how many track days we did - we made really good friends. And through talking to people on track days, friends and other people that we met along the way, there was a clear gap for coming up with an offering for the Lotus owners, which was a little bit more enthusiastic than the factory and its advocates, with the dealership network, were.

I don't know whether they were capable, or whether they just weren't quite as enthusiastic as maybe they once were. But it would be unfair to say that they were no good at what they were doing, because they were. The guys who were very good at it are still out there, but there was a lack of people really understanding, what the Lotus owner wanted. We started off very small with it all, and were dealing with things like components that people had asked us to design - I don't quite know why - I think people looked at our cars that we had on track days and said, 'You know, I'd like some of that. Can you do that for me?'. Then it was the ride and handling thing - we got into that, and people were asking me to explain how I could go round the track faster than them, or overtaking mid-corner and things like that, and it kind of naturally evolved.

Hangar 111 Lotus on Track Day

Colin: You're giving me a very organic story there. I've said many times on these podcasts - what comes across, which always fascinates me - it's the same of anything you're involved in - there needs to be some passion there. Most of the people I'm speaking to, have some kind of introduction into cars and engineering, racing or track days, from a family member, and the passion grows very early on. Here you've given me a nice organic story of how you've related your growing up and your introduction to cars and your involvement with vehicles into a business. You've made it very clear - you've got a business interest and you've got a car interest. That's what stood out for me when our association started, probably about 2007/2008, I think, when you came to Millbrook. I took you really seriously because having driven what you'd prepared, I thought, man, what is a very good car - you've actually made better - which is really difficult. In terms of Lotus products then, where did you start to find your niche? Obviously, Lotus, but did you specialise in any particular vehicles when you started?

Greg: Well, it was initially grown from the cars that we owned and cars that friends wanted us to do things to. It was very much a sort of, let's not just jump straight in and pretend we're experts, let's take it a step at a time. We looked at the Elise, focused quite heavily on the Mark 1, Mark 2 Elise. Then we got our hands on an Exige, one of the S2 Exige's which was where we, you and I, hooked up I think originally. It opened up with the normally aspirated Exige, which was a fairly rare beast at the time. It gave me a platform that I could develop from a performance point of view. I'd always been interested in supercharging and extracting more power from the engines - they were good engines, just a little lacking. The normally aspirated engine at the time was better off in the Elise than it was in the Exige.

Colin: I've got you. They were 190 brake weren't they as standard, a touring, something around there?

Greg: Yeah, that's right. I think it was the transition from the Elise having new clothes, which formed the basis of the Exige S2, that they were stuck with. The bigger surface area needed more horsepower, so it was really a paragon of handling. It was a car that you'd get in, you could go very quickly, stay going very quickly and take corners, seemingly much more planted than you could in the Elise. Which was why for me, it was a much better platform to then put some proper money into and evolve our business in that direction. We hooked up with Komo-Tec in Germany. Daniel at Komo-Tec has been a very good friend of mine for a long time, and he'd already created some Supercharger kits, which were good and did the job. We extracted the power out of the car, and we realised that the 250 horsepower upwards was perfect for that car which Lotus had already realised in the 220 brake horsepower version of the Exige S2, but the Komo-Tec ...

Colin: Sorry to jump in there, but I think you've made a good point there, a really relevant, important point, because you can put too much power into a chassis and make a car undriveable, can't you? If you go outside the realms of how it's been designed, I always think that is a key point because a chassis just might not be able to handle another 100 horsepower, but it might happily manage another 50, or it might not manage 200, it'll manage 100. That's where I think your expertise, you're really on point with that - making the car, developing the vehicle, within, shall we say, the confines of what it was capable of.

Greg: Yeah. Lotus haven't put out a bad car from that point of view in terms of ride and handling, but when you're looking to have a horse for all courses, then you have to switch on the ability to adjust that suspension or give yourself a road and a track switchable spec with adjustable anti-roll bars, that kind of stuff. You are departing from the original design intention of the car, but you've got to do it in a very faithful way, I think. You can ruin a car. It's very easy for people to think, 'How can you upgrade something and ruin it?', but you can.

Colin: Can you? I always like to give our readers something to take home with them in terms of knowledge, and we can move on to perhaps a bit of preparation of cars and Lotus products, but can you expand on that? How would you define ‘ruining a car’?

Greg: From our point of view, we've always been keen on doing things carefully, taking a step at a time and evaluating things as we've gone along. So, if you were to take an off the peg Lotus of, say, sort of 2004/2005, for example, again point in question, the Exige, we'd basically, I would drive, drive, drive and drive the wheels off the car. I’d appreciate what it's got, what it wants, what it feels like it's lacking - which is difficult with the Lotus, because there's not a lot wrong with the off the peg product, if anything. It's doing something in an order that doesn't give you a headache, so we would always look at performance options. All of the cars, the chassis' were so capable that you could easily put 100 horsepower into anything. The Elise S2, for example, was a very good platform - surprising actually - an evolution from the S1, and that would easily take a 100 horsepower or more, that wasn't a problem. The S2 Exige we regularly built those to 320 horsepower. Supercharged, never turbocharged, because it wasn't part of the character of the car, and it wouldn't enjoy that as a characteristic in terms of performance. My choice - other people have different opinions - but that was keeping the dynamics in the car that Lotus had worked a long time to deliver.

Once you've got a happy sort of performance and you're still within the capability of the braking system, maybe improving the braking system with some pads, some fluids and some hoses, which were going to give you more longevity and better braking for longer, then I'd always point people towards suspension. But, the big, the most important thing is, they need to know why - and that's a personal thing. So, if you go out on the track, say you take a "vanilla" car out onto the track, you can come back and, a person with a little bit of an idea can talk about body roll and slip angle and how the car feels in certain situations. Very rarely could that same person put in a lap time within 5 tenths of the last lap, subsequently for four or five laps. So, the reason I say that 'the suspension and the ride and handling of the car is a personal thing', is because you don't want to go outside of your comfort zone. If we're setting up a car for a racing driver, for example, one school of thought is you stiffen it up, stiffen it up, stiffen it up, driver falls off, you unstiffen it a bit and see if that was a problem.

Colin: When you talk of ruining a car, these are the headline thoughts that you're running through in order to ensure you're optimised, but you're not ruining the car. Would that be right?

Greg: Absolutely. If you removed every other step from your staircase and then tried to go down it the same way as you did the day before, the staircase might be lighter, and you might think it's probably faster, but ultimately, you've ruined the design. If you hand it to someone else and they don't know that every other step is missing, they'll break their neck. You've got to try and be sympathetic to the car and to the customer's requirements. Probably the absolute number one thing we get asked for, is the road-going track day car that they might want to do the occasional Sprint in.

Now, when you break that down into its individual components, I've done a lot of each and I know a lot of people who've done a lot of each and a lot more. Bearing on experience, you can have a road-going car that you might get away with doing Sprints in, because Sprints don't require the same level of ride and handling capability of, say, a track or a race car. This because of the fact, you’re driving on cold tyres, airfields generally, terrible surfaces, so, you can dial that a little more closely to a road going requirement, than you can to a track requirement. If that makes sense?

Colin: Totally.

Greg: Unless you've got a different set of dynamics going on in a vehicle in those circumstances. So, when someone says, 'Can I have a road-going track day car that I can do Sprints in?', the answer is yes. We've got a formula for giving people the kind of car that allows them to adjust it a little bit when they want to, to get the best out of it, in all circumstances that they're using it. Over time, we've learnt what packages work. But going back to what I was saying earlier. If someone comes to you and they've done the power, the brakes, and they're at the point where they want to spend some more money and improve the car, you're at a junction. I'd like someone to understand what the suspension is doing for them, in order for them to make the rational decision as to whether they really do want to go stiffer, or they want to go lower, or they want to go and change the valving. For that, I'd look to someone like yourself, or I'd say to someone, 'Look, go out there, drive and drive and drive and drive and get it on the track, if you want to do occasional track days, and understand what it is that you need on the track, that you're not getting on the road or vice versa.'

Colin: Yeah ok.

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Greg: Once they've got a reasonable idea, then we can advise a bit further. We sell an awful lot of dampers. We've hooked up with a very good Dutch company called JRZ - they're one of these best kept secrets, if you know what I mean. They dig out some amazing stuff for some cars that everybody knows. When we hooked up with them, that was back in, I'd say it was probably about 2004/2005 maybe. They'd done a little bit of dabbling with Lotus's, but they hadn't done a great deal. We worked with them over time to refine what they had, to make a kit for each of the Lotus platforms. When we'd finally done that, then I could say to people, 'Well, look, you can swap out your road-going stuff for this and you're going to find it's loads better on the road. If you go to the track, you've got to do this to it'. We'd achieved quite a big thing really, because we'd finally got ourselves something that we could hang our hat on and explain to people that you are safe.

Colin: Did you have a handle in the valving and the actual rate of damping and how the damper behaved? That was all part of your input was it, with them?

Greg: I provided data - we had various inputs into that. For an example, when we moved onto racing, around 2010, a young chap called Andrew Bentley, who obviously we both know. This was when we started to understand all of that stuff a little more. I'd basically gone to JRZ and explained to them what I was experiencing, what I'd like the car to do, some data from track day use, and those guys were very good at responding to that, because that's their thing, they understood that in far more detail than I could.

We did it in a, I suppose as a layman's approach, to begin with. But we knew what we wanted, we knew how the cars felt, we knew whether the improvements were making sense. I made reams of documentation about it all. But ultimately, once we got into racing, then we could start refining things a little bit more, and started understanding the real benefits of that, when it comes to going faster, improving grip and that kind of thing. I left the real detailed speciality to those guys and stayed within my comfort zone - which was making sure that I could understand what the car was doing and give them data that they needed, to make the improvements.

Colin: Did that knowledge then cascade down into track day cars, road cars? If I come to you for a damper, what you're telling me is there's quite a lot of research and development gone in to make sure that when I buy those dampers, they're fit for purpose, depending on my needs. Would that be right?

Greg: Yes, I would say that the best way to look at it is that we can get right first time, probably 70% of what people are looking for, on advisement. We test a lot of cars - we've got some good little test routes local to us. We're blessed with being in a very rural sort of location, but we have a mixture of all the kinds of roads you can imagine, just locally. Low speed stuff is quite easy. We have an airfield if we ever need to go and spend a bit of time over there and come to you, if we've got anything particularly complicated.

But ultimately, yeah, we're very close with most of the stuff now. And touch wood, we only get feedback from the guys who really want to push to the limit, of what might be considered probably, too much for the road.

You have to sort of say, 'Well, look, you could try this. Let's try it on a track, in sort of damp conditions and find your limits'. But most people understand, and they get the fact that you can't have that horse for every course. You know, if you want to push the car really effectively on the track, then you're going to have to compromise. You can't run a spring that's twice as hard as the normal road-going version of a car and expect it to behave gracefully in the wet.

Colin: Yeah. I think also, it's very easy to turn your once nice car, that you did the odd track day in and enjoyed the family driving tour, got out about on the highway and enjoyed yourself, and turn it into an uncomfortable, bone shaking monster, can't you, if you go in the wrong direction. I'm hearing that you're guiding your clients with a significant amount of background knowledge on the product, so people get what they need from the car, as you say, virtually right first time. How does that translate into other areas of the car in terms of brake pad materials or perhaps changing gear ratios and the more complex stuff? Where do you sit with all the other add-ons that make the car right for the owner's specific requirements?

Greg: I think the key is, I was saying before, you've got to look over the whole piece. You've got to look at what they're going to be doing with the car - you've got to establish whether or not they're asking for the right thing. It's easy to say, 'Oh, I'm not going fast enough through the corners - let's fit an LSD', or 'Let's stiffen up the rear, because I'm finding I've got too much grip', or, 'I'm having trouble with this corner or that corner on the local back roads'. You've got to look at what people are doing with the cars.

I'm big on documentation. I'm very geeky and boring in that respect, but I like to make notes on everything that I've done. I've got to the point where, if ever the memory starts to go and then I'm kind of, I've got lots of paperwork that I can refer back to, which we are gradually putting in electronically, but it's important to understand the differences between one thing and another.

Colin: You speak about getting something right at 70% of the time, straight in there. How has that come about?

Greg: Making notes really. Evaluating cars in different situations; a lot of road use; a lot of track use; for customers and understanding why they're having the problems they're having and solving them. Tends to lead you down a road where you know what works and what doesn't. Over time, we’ve come up with a recipe through doing that kind of research and making fastidious notes on those evaluations, steering people in the same way as we've worked through it ourselves. There's an awful lot of industry data out there, where manufacturers of brake pads, dampers, tyres and that, they've all obviously done their research. But like I say, in all of this, it comes down to our core philosophy and probably our core driver for the business in the first place - if you've got a nice Lotus, you want to enjoy it. The bottom line is, that you're not going to enjoy it if, say, the Cheng Yang tyre company sell you a tyre that's half the price of, but looks the same as the Yokohama tyre. If you go out pleased that you've bought that tyre, but have a terrible experience with it, we've got that information and we've logged that over time.

Greg: We know what people are disappointed with and happy with. I think that's the main thing, is that a lot of other people out there, manufacturers don't necessarily get feedback directly from the public. We're in a nice position in the sense that we don't manufacture the stuff so, it's fairly easy for us to turn around and say, 'Well, we don't', we as in our customers and I agree with them, 'we're not keen on your tyre.' There used to be some terrible stuff that was floating around which people were trying, and with mixed results - but now I think a lot more people are serious about all this stuff. Lotus owners buy a car informed, whereas before, they were buying it and kind of complaining about the wrong things.

Greg: Nowadays, it's easier to advise someone because we've done all of that stuff to find out what the best damper is for their rationale and the best spring combinations, for example, and whether they need an anti-roll bar to go with their road-going track day tyres or not, you know. There's a lot of data that’s been captured over time and we use that sympathetically to products and new products that come out. Our philosophy, as I say, is just we want people to enjoy their cars. You can't enjoy a car if it's doing something that you don't a) understand or b) don't feel comfortable with.

Colin: Sure.

Greg: I'd like to think we give people the proliferation of options to get the brakes, the handling and the performance …

Colin: Yeah, the parameters working.

Greg: And yeah, we do other stuff, seats, seating positions and we can mess around with all sorts of aero and things like that. But that's really more for sort of focus track day type stuff. I think we're saving people an awful lot of time and effort.

Colin: And money. Yeah.

Greg: This is the thing, and I think that we're enthusiastic about doing that. That's our thing. I love the technology. Whilst I don't get the time to sit there and invest in maybe the absolute minutia in some of these things, I understand the principles and I understand when it's time to refer to someone else and say, 'Look, I need a little bit of help with this'.

Colin: Sure.

Greg: With my business hat on, the sensible way to run a business, has always been to understand your limitations and know and recognise your strengths.

Colin: Yes, agreed. What I'm hearing then, is there's an ethos behind that, as you've described. You've got the passion for it; you've got the structure; you've got the process; it's well managed; you've got lots of history on components and how they've evolved and how you wanted them to evolve - you tailor that to your client. Can we talk about the rolling road there? Because I must admit, when you said you were installing a rolling road, I thought, 'Ooh, okay, that's another leap into an area that is quite specialist'. Sometimes that stands alone doesn't it, in a business? We go to rolling roads. They're not always part of a tuning company's or a tuning house's repertoire, so where did that come from, Greg, the motivation to get to install your own rolling road?

Greg: I suppose the best way to ... I mean, I've always wanted one, don't get me wrong. I love a gadget and I enjoy the challenge of squeezing things to get just that bit more; always been a thing with regards to performance. The rolling road was originally through need. We used a rolling road in Colchester, just up the road from us - a lovely guy, very knowledgeable, possibly the best carburettor guy in the country in my opinion, a chap called Ray Keith. Lovely guy. He used to test the cars for us, he understood the way that we worked, and we never knowingly took him a bad car - he was pleased about that. He worked with us, and gave us the extra time. Prior to that, we'd gone to Dave Walker for a lot of our stuff for Emerald. Dave's another nice guy - I've known him for a long time. And like I was saying earlier, you appreciate your limitations, and you rely on people you know can do the job that you want them to do.

Greg: It was one of our development partners. He had a rolling road that was going spare, and it was an industry calibrated rolling road that was used for his spare rolling road, should his million-pound rolling road, which is very, very nice, be out of action on the days when he had to provide test results for random spot checks, developing catalytic converters, and that kind of stuff. We managed to pick that up for - it wasn't a snip - but it was considerably cheaper and much better quality and condition than anything else on the market at the time. It was one of those conversations where I sort of, stood far enough away from my wife to not get hit by anything, and said, 'I thought I just wanted a rolling road, but I think from a business point of view, we kind of need a rolling road, because of the next stage of things that I wanted to do'. We were spending considerable money trailering cars around the place. If you take a car to a rolling road and you have a fundamental issue with it, then, you've spent your money, you've done your time and …

Colin: Yeah - you've got to do it all again.

Greg: From a logical point of view, it just stacked up completely and we built ourselves a rolling road. I think somewhere inside that building is my back!

Colin: So, blood, sweat and tears?

Greg: Yeah. Certainly a good deal of the skin from my hands. We decided to build it ourselves because we wanted something very specific. Yes, Lotus-oriented, but we did go out there looking for the longest rear wheel drive saloon car possible. We tried to design it to be accommodating for everything and touch wood, I think we've had a Land Rover in there and I think we've stopped short of a couple of crazy camper vans, which are the high roof ones.

Colin: You're painting a good picture. What sort of horsepower can it manage?

Greg: I think we have been accurate to within 1% on 630 horsepower. It's sort of a hot-rodded version of the original product.

Colin: And if we think about what that is bringing to your business, that might sound like a bit of a stupid question, where are we in terms of what you take on? Are you putting in bespoke ECU's? Are you just tuning a vehicle to optimise it? What service are you providing on that rolling road?

Greg: I'd say a typical fortnight would be something like three carburettor set ups on a Saturday morning, do a bit of ignition timing and maybe do some camshaft adjustment, get a health check done on some classic Fords, on some classic and vintage cars as well.

Colin: Yeah, ok. I didn't know all this, Greg.

Greg: I mean, whilst it'd be a lovely notion for me to use it, three/four times a month, for just Lotus applications, the moment we advertised it - and we don't advertise it widely - we were inundated. We labelled it as Suffolk Rolling Road, which gets us some nice, organic search results. A big driver of it was when the Colchester guys shut down, Ray and his friends all retired on the same day.

Colin: Wow. Huge gap in the market.

Greg: That was a party! The bottom line was we needed someone to replace that, which was one of the drivers for the rolling road in the first place. But Ray, he's a genius with the carburettors, and he and I working together, I know we seem to bounce, but we always have bounced off each other, and some of the results that we can turn out are amazing. We'll get a proliferation of carburetted cars from Pendine Beach racers, to historic Jaguar XJS rally cars, with sort of medieval fuel injection, and stuff like that - we understand a bit better now.

I will map cars; we will install ECU's. The workshop will hand me a car. The way it kind of works is that the workshop will do some installation and I'll help them with that. Then basically, they'll hand that to me to put into the Dyno and do the mapping. Sometimes, if it's more of a development job, if someone wants X, Y, Z camshafts in an ABC cylinder head and all the rest of it, then yeah, there's a couple of iterations sometimes, where we need to change things around, or make some improvements mechanically. The car will go back to the workshop, and then I'll schedule it in for another session in the Dyno. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure for me sometimes because it's a nice place to just sit, you absorb yourself into the numbers, for me, it's almost like, some people like Sudoku, some people like crosswords ...

Colin: I like to go fishing; you like to be in a Dyno!

Greg: Yeah, and this is it. When you've got all that data coming in, you're crunching it and you have a little bit of success with some changes that you've made - I get a real buzz from that - because there's so many factors when you're sitting there. A lot of people when they take their car to a rolling road, they don't realise that the guy at the wheel is usually conversant in compression. They understand what the engine should be doing where and why., they understand all of the things that are likely to come up as problems. They will have in their head a strategy for when they hear a specific noise, for example. Mapping a car is full of trip wires and full of possible mistakes you can make.

Colin: Time bombs. Yeah.

Greg: But you work through it in a safe and practised process and everyone maps a car slightly differently. The bottom line is that when you've got the right data coming in and you know that data is accurate, because you spent time setting it up and making sure it works correctly, you've got the car behaving in a predictable fashion, that will then allow you to map it. It is a bit like a horse, ironically. If a horse is prone to having fits and starts of aggressive behaviour, then you generally tend to not want to take it out on parade, you know. But once you've got a car that's stable and you understand it and you trust it, you can then ask it if it wants to go a little more, and a little more, and a little more.

Colin: Great way to put it. I like the horse analogy.

Greg: I love the chase - that's the thing. It's a bit like it starts off by being a first date and then it evolves into that second meeting and all that kind of stuff. To me, I get fun out of that - whether that's twisted or not, I don't know.

Colin: No, I think it's great your passion's coming through, Greg. Yeah, I love it. It's a window into what people are paying for, isn't it? You take your car to a rolling road, you hear the engine fire up, you hear the rollers whirring, and you don't always really know what's going on behind the scenes, do you? It's great to hear your analogies and your breakdown of what you're actually achieving and why. And your interrogation of the data.

Greg: The main frustration, I think, is probably that I've driven cars up to the value of £8 or £9 million, but only on the spot at the maximum RPM! There’s something slightly frustrating about that.

Colin: I can hear where you're coming from. Mind you, you've had a little taster, haven't you? Yeah, you've had the taster, but not the drive maybe, but I hear what you're saying. Cool. That's good information, Greg, and really interesting to hear your breakdown of that.

I hope I'm not going to put you on the spot with this, but if I'm thinking then of preparing my Lotus product for a track day, or a driving tour, or I'm heading off motor racing, have you got any particular do’s and don'ts that you can share, significant do’s and don'ts? I'll give you one to perhaps set the scene. When we had our S1 Elise - our training car - I bought bits and pieces, well, quite a lot of bits and pieces from you, dampers and various things just to prep it, to use it as a training car. You were very insistent that I shouldn't clean the rear wishbones up, I recall, with a wire brush, because you told me I'll take the coating off and it could cause significant damage. Can you just dial into a few of those perhaps for me?

I'll give you another one as well. Perhaps I'm speaking too much myself now, but I think I was talking to you some time ago, I said, 'I fancy an early Elan, the front engine version', and you said, 'Oh yeah, change the rear wishbones, because they rot from the inside out'. Have you got any great pearls of wisdom you can share with us on Lotus products, that we might want to be interested in, in terms of safety and durability of our cars?

Greg: Yeah. I think the first thing I say to anybody, if they're even remotely considering buying a Lotus, is spend as much money on one as you can afford. There is no such thing as a cheap Lotus. It will cost you some money, because it's the kind of car that needs upkeep in order to keep it the kind of car it's meant to be. Some cars are just like that. You buy a brand-new Ford, it will do 80,000 miles, probably have four services and never give you any bother, unless you do something you shouldn't with it. But a Lotus, especially a used Lotus, is going to require some attention and it's the attention to detail that is needed, in maintaining it, that is directly reflective of the amount of engineering effort that's gone into making that car what it is. You have to be a bit sympathetic to that, you know.

Colin: If we bounced our S1 Elise over too many curves on track days with customers, I was always getting a geo reset, because it just didn't seem to like that. Would that be an example of that?

Greg: Yeah. There are huge variants in degrees of cars' histories, what they've done, what parts they've got fitted and all that stuff. But from a general point of view, a lightweight sports car with suspension that's been designed to do all of the right things and give you the kind of response that you're looking for, it's going to need some attention to the geometry occasionally. The best way to look at it, some people give the analogy of, 'A track day is like doing 10,000 miles on the car, so you should maintain it accordingly'. That's not a bad one, actually, not really. But the practicalities of these things are, that you're really probably only looking after lubricants and inspecting all the same sort of things that you should do before a track day anyway. If you've done three track days, you've never wobbled a wheel or checked the oil, then you need to make sure you've got a healthy bank balance. You can't get round these things. You can try, but ultimately, you'll end up with a car that's just not worth anything and you won't get any reward out of driving it. Basically, if you've got a maintenance regime that goes hand in hand with your track day regime, for example, if you were looking to uprate the car, in such a way, that it would survive any abuse you give it, you'd be searching forever.

All sports cars and all cars with sporty credentials are going to need some kind of additional maintenance, versus your average family cruiser or SUV or whatever. You have to kind of build that into the equation. It's a matter of spotting things when they're starting to go bad. If you've got, like your scenario with the wishbones, a rusty wishbone isn't necessarily going to be the cause of wheel alignment changing. It could be. It could be that the impacts that are going through the suspension while you're riding kerbs, or even on the road if you hit a pothole, it may well be that that wishbone has gone weak. But in my experience, it's more likely to be things like the bolts that hold the upper and lower wishbone plinths to the upright; they can suffer equally as well. They can literally, if they've been on there for a very long time without any attention, or if they've taken a clobbering and they've bent a little bit already, they can move around. There's a lot of elements in the suspension, certainly on the Elise's and a few more on the later cars, that all would contribute to a small bump, or a knock changing or giving you a problem.

Colin: Yeah.

Greg: The best way to look at it is that if you hit a pothole in your road car and the steering wheel's slightly off centre, your natural thing to do would be, 'Oh, I'll go and get the tracking done'. On a track day car, it's a similar situation. If you find that the handling is degrading over time, certainly if while you're on the track, stop the car and have a look around it. Wobble the wheels, take them off if you have to - go into a track day with your eyes open. At the very least on a track day, if you haven't got the ability to a) lift the car, b) check your tyres or have an inspect around the place, a small tool kit and some fluids, then really and truthfully, you're either going to be relying on someone else to help you with that. We've all been to track days where there's people wandering around the pits, asking for stuff that you kind of think they should have brought themselves. If you're going to drive something hard, take the gear with you to maintain that.

Colin: That's a nice…yeah, that's a good thing to say. Yeah, agreed.

Greg: There's no point in, you know, I see a lot of these guys. A Porsche is a typical example, and Porsche's are a fantastic bit of kit, there's no doubt about that. But the number of times I've been on track days where you'll see a guy open the place where the engine should be at the front of the car, and they've basically pulled out a big tool kit, a bag and all that kind of stuff, and there's people standing laughing at them and you're thinking, 'Well, you know, it's not because he needs that to run a Porsche. It's because this guy wants his Porsche to stay nice and get him home again'. There's nothing worse than ending up with a problem you can't quickly solve. Ok, if you bend or damage something - if you're unlucky enough to do that - then yes, it's going to be a conversation with the RAC or whoever. It's a matter of keeping an eye on things really, with a track day.

Colin: I think on the whole, Lotus's seem to be quite kind to us on track days. They're durable, aren't they? I know our S1 Elise, we could squeeze five track days out of a set of tyres, a set of brake pads, and the car didn't really have any major vices. Despite what everybody says about Lotus products, I find them now - certainly like the V6 Exige - when you're working with clients on circuit and we're into the more modern versions - Evora's - they're very reliable and trouble free. Would you agree with that?

Greg: I think by and large it comes down to, as the cars have evolved, additional technical advances have given, I would say, different trouble.

Colin: Ok.

Greg: You can't add lots more sensors, a more sophisticated engine, the way Lotus do it so beautifully, cramming an engine into an engine bay and getting it to work, and dynamically work, in relation to the rest of the chassis. You can't do all that without there being some kind of side effects, if you're going to push the thing in anger. Yes, I agree with what you're saying: Lotus's are very tolerant. I think the reason is the whole performance through lightweight thing in the earlier cars, because the inertia and the momentum that you're carrying in those cars is being put through the chassis in the right way, as that's how they've been designed. A Mark 1 Elise is not great at going through lots of potholes on the road.

Colin: Is that back to, the suspension goes vertically up and down, rather than the castor or the geometry doesn't go up and create an angle towards the windscreen and absorb the bump. I think, isn't it in an Elise it's a vertical, which doesn't absorb the bump very well, I believe I'm right in saying?

Greg: I think when you look at the suspension on the Elise, you've got more cues to what you'd expect to see on a race car. You're dealing with something that's essentially been put together to take abuse and work with the damper more effectively. I think all the forces that are imposed when you're hitting bumps or when you're ...

Colin: Yeah. Riding kerbs …

Greg: They're all going in the right direction. There are a few manufacturers who've got that terribly wrong in the past. A typical example is something like, I think an Audi R8 I saw on track, which had cracked an area just below the windscreen, right the way out to the damper, and apparently it was a common problem. I said to the chap, 'What do you think it is that's done it?', He said, 'Riding the kerbs - I just ride all the kerbs'. I thought, ok.

Colin: Wow.

Greg: That's a well-engineered car, no doubt about that at all. But from my point of view, little cues like that make me think how spoilt we are, with the overall geometry and configuration of the suspension on the cars, because they do take abuse really well. They won't stand up too well to lack of maintenance, that's the thing. It's funny really, how you do something for a very long time, then you all of a sudden come to a personal experience that gives you a real insight into how much more difficult or challenging dealing with, let's say, quote unquote, "proper cars" might be. Abby, our daughter, started racing, she's in a Fiesta. Looking around the place at the number of things that had to be fixed, tweaked, replaced or got bent and all that, so much more, even in just a track day use.

Colin: Yeah, I hear you, Greg.

Greg: I think some of that comes down to the fact that there is an awful lot more inertia going on in those cars. They're going to be unforgiving on the wheel bearings, they're going to be unforgiving on the brakes ...

Colin: Lower arm bushes

Greg: Yeah. That's why I think we've sometimes gone through an entire race season and running three Lotus Elise's, for example, we've only replaced about three ball joints or two wheel bearings.

Colin: Wow. Ok.

Greg: You start to think: are these guys going hard enough? Are we doing something wrong? Then they win a championship and you think actually, it is testament to the fact that the cars can be driven really hard. I mean, really hard. But, if you've got that sympathy and you've got that understanding of what you should and shouldn't do with the car, in a race scenario, a) you're going to get it across the line and b) you're going to be fast, because efficient is fast, etc. etc. They are a durable little car, but it's by design, and I think a lot of that is bleed through from the Chapman philosophy, the whole light bulb thing.

Colin: Would you say the Evora, the V6 Exige, do they follow the same pattern? That's my experience. You know what we do. I'm not doing what you're doing and having that daily contact with the cars, but my experience with Evora's and the V6 Exige is, that they're on a similar vein as an Exige four cylinder or an Elise - they just seem to do their job and don't really object on track.

Greg: Yeah, I think the V6 Exige, definitely. There are a few Achilles heels with those cars, people do have trouble with the gearboxes. It's very easy to forget that there are other things, other wear and tear items, when it comes to a track car or a race car. Because it's a reliable engine, if you then use it in an aggressive mode rather than road going, street kind of behaviours, then you've got to understand there are things you either need to do, preventative modification or preventative maintenance, to keep those cars in the shape they need to be in. The V6’s, the Exige V6, the biggest difference I believe, between two cars, is possibly between the Exige and the Evora, is probably the user base. It's quite an interesting one I suppose to get into. You've got your typical Exige V6 owner who is going to go on a track day - he's going to want to upgrade the car and he's going to want to push it hard. Whereas your typical Evora owner is more likely to want to go touring, or want to use it every day.

Colin: I can concur with that, based on the people that come through our door. Not that we haven't got Evora owners that do track days, we have. But yes, the demographic of the person that's going to buy one of those is, yes, I can see the divide that you're describing, and I've witnessed that myself, certainly.

Greg: I can safely say that we don't have in our industry, I suppose you could use the term 'hardcore owner'. People who know the car, they know their limits, the car's limits, they're very wise when they're looking at what money to spend, on what. They'll have their own opinions, but they'll be sensible enough to come and talk to someone, about what they should do next, when they've got to the point where they feel the car and they, have reached their mutual kind of limit.

Colin: Their optimum, yeah.

Greg: The Evora owners are a lot more casual than that generally - it's a very capable car. Make no mistake, a nicely set up Evora with 400 - we take them to about 475 brake now - properly maintained Evora, is a fantastic car. I'll be very honest now and say it's not the car I signed up for when looking for my thrills from a Lotus. The car that I fell in love with was a very different beast, but from a Lotus point of view, it's absolutely at the pinnacle of what they've sought to achieve, as a business and as a company. And they've kept their credentials completely intact with the V6 Exige and the Evora. But for me, the V6 Exige was a bit of a revelation. It's a heavy car and ...

Colin: You know that don't you. Yeah.

Greg: It commands respect.

Colin: Yeah agreed. I don't think you can turn the ESP off can you, completely, if I'm right in saying. There's always something there ready to help, if needed?

Greg: I think that's probably - you're right - my gut and conversations I've had with other industry people is that is just the legislative situation with all cars. BMW dress that up beautifully, stick a bow tie around it with the M2 and the M4, and you are delivered an experience - I think Richard Hammond once shouted out something like, 'I am a driving God', whilst driving something with more electronics and gadgetry on it than you'd normally come across. They've managed to achieve that. If you're pushing an Exige V6 to the absolute limit on the track which is difficult, because you'll scare yourself long before you manage it, unless you're a racer or you've spent a huge number of hours in the seat. But, if you get the pure driving enjoyment out of the car and you don't really think about the ESP or the anti-lock brakes or anything, unless you happen upon them, and you're driving the car in a respectful fashion, i.e., you're staying within your limits, then very rarely do you ever actually reach that point.

Colin: Yeah, agreed.

Greg: If you switch it off, then yes, obviously it's going to step back to as far as it possibly can. We see in the Dyno that there is never a true removal of the ESP, or the performance limitations. The vehicles with the modern ECU's, they know the torque that they're producing, they know if they're going outside the bounds of what the factory designated, on some of them anyway. From our point of view, the most interesting thing is you can drive the car with the ESP off and you get this enormous sense of wellbeing because, hey, 'I'm driving a 500 horsepower car with no traction control. I am the driving God'. You can do that and have a really fun time in it, and you don't care whether there's a little bit of traction control happening in the background. Chances are you'll hear it, and most people won't reach that point unless they're going full on hooligan. It's a necessary evil I think.

Colin: Yeah. I again, I agree with that. You know, you've got to be pushing on very hard in that car to get things electronically intervening. But yeah, I really enjoy being in them. I think they're very cleverly designed to give you the optimum sports car dynamic feel, and there's a big heavy weight behind you. I think it's superb how they've developed that car. Yeah. Greg, I think we're coming to the end of our time. I've really enjoyed listening to your insights and, not only the history of Hangar 111 and how you've developed your business, but also a little bit about yourself and your passion behind the business. As I've been learning, that seems to be the common denominator between all the people I'm speaking to in the motor industry and motorsport - that passion for what we do, and that clearly comes across. Thank you for taking part Greg. How do people reach you?

Greg: There's a few ways to do that. Best place is to start with Google. Just put Hangar 111 into Google and you should get most of our website and contact pages through there. Alternatively, if you want to give us a call for workshop related, dyno related and racing related subjects, call on 01473 811811 and speak to myself, Marianne or Dave, or email us at

Colin: That's great. Easy to fill time talking to you, Greg, because we can talk for hours, as normal, and we haven't even touched on Scholar Engines. Perhaps you'd like to come back and do another podcast a bit later in the year and we can talk about Scholar Engines? That might be an interesting subject.

Greg: Definitely.

Colin: Ok Greg. That just leaves me to say thank you very much and farewell. Thanks, Greg.

Greg: Thanks, Colin.

Colin: Thanks for reading. Follow our social media channels for our next podcast. Until next time.

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