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      08-07-2017, 04:12 PM   #1
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Talking i8 on track at Brands Hatch!

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Last week, I took my i8 on track for the first time I normally use my Lotus for any track activity, but I wanted to see what the i8 would be like on the limit.

I am glad I tried it out The pit marshal said it was the first i8 he had seen on track there.

Sorry about the poor quality pics, but I only had my iPhone.

Spot the i8




Pit lane:




There was a nice range of cars there and most were a LOT quicker and more track focused. Some were full race cars on slicks. Ferraris, Lamborghinis and McLarens aplenty.

Cars included F488GTB, F458 Speciale, McLaren 675 LT, Aventador SV, Radical RXC, and Mercedes SLR McLaren. Supercar Royalty basically

I took the i8 out a little nervously, as I have no track insurance on that car, but I gradually built up speed.

I found the i8 to be very precise and sure footed, just as on road. Power was sufficient.



It also felt pretty quiet on track, because everything else made so much noise

The weakest aspect, preventing quicker laps was the weak braking, which was nowhere near powerful enough for track use. The primary limiting factor was tyre grip and not the brakes themselves. If I could have braked later and harder, I could have gone a LOT quicker.

The poor braking meant I was often off line and missing my apex, as I am more used to a Lotus, which brakes like it has dropped an anchor into the tarmac. I was therefore braking far earlier and softer than I normally would, and this was throwing me off.

The next biggest weakness, which was linked, was the lateral G I could pull. The car needed more grip to be able to corner harder. The chassis felt impeccably balanced and capable of so much more than the relatively skinny tyres could give me. Relative to the other cars on track that is.

With wider, stickier, rubber the i8 would easily be able to go round much quicker than some of the cars that I struggled to catch. For example, I found that the i8 was very slightly slower than a V12 Ferrari I chased for a couple of laps. He surely but slowly edged away from me over 2 laps.

Of course no tyre option would have allowed me to catch the quicker machines in an i8 e.g. F488 GTB.

I did not feel power was lacking, and nor was the handling. Handling on the limit was in fact simply delightful. The i8 was beautifully balanced, and would 4 wheel power-slide in a wonderfully balanced, progressive, easy to control manner when I pushed it past its limit. It also cornered in a beautifully flat and poised manner, just like it does on road.

This was fantastic to experience, as it is very rare to be able to safely power-slide the i8 on road.

Only when I braked too late, and then turned too hard, off the racing line, did the i8 understeer. It was entirely my fault whenever this happened, but I made the mistake often, being used to dramatically stronger braking in my Lotus.



The other big problem of taking the i8 on track was that it uses FAR more electric power than it can regenerate. My charge only lasted 20-30 laps, and then the power reduction was dramatic and noticeable. Also noticeable was the significant deterioration in handling and balance, as the car lost its 4 wheel drive, becoming rear drive only.

On road of course none of this is an issue at all. The i8 recharges quickly and very effectively on road in Sport mode. Braking is sufficient, and cornering capability far exceeds anything you would want to do on road.




For comparison with a more track focused car, here is an old video I shot on the same track, from my Lotus Exige R.




Or a shorter one:





A little tip for i8 owners wanting to film from it. Whilst I have GoPro mounting hardpoints on my Lotus, I didn't want to do anything permanent on my i8. I don't trust a suction mount for track use, so I used a rucksack clip mount!



I simply clipped this to the front splitter, and put 2 pieces of thin kitchen sponge wipe between the jaws to stop them scratching the car. It was perfectly secure I should patent that

In summary, I am very glad I took my i8 on track as it allowed me to experience it safely on the limit, and measure it against the fastest supercars around. Yes it is much slower, but it was interesting to do nevertheless.

I found the i8 is wonderful on the limit, and its limitations on track are a complete non-issue on the road. It is perfectly designed for its intended use on road.

Last edited by JasH; 08-07-2017 at 05:38 PM. Reason: typo
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      08-07-2017, 05:59 PM   #2
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Excellent post! Informative, thank you.
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      08-08-2017, 01:50 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by ericsi View Post
Excellent post! Informative, thank you.
Thanks, glad you found it useful
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      08-08-2017, 09:35 PM   #4
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Cool. Were you able to use full power all the time? Or did the battery drain at some point?
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      08-09-2017, 10:51 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Longboarder View Post
Cool. Were you able to use full power all the time? Or did the battery drain at some point?
Yes indeed, as I wrote:

"The other big problem of taking the i8 on track was that it uses FAR more electric power than it can regenerate. My charge only lasted 20-30 laps, and then the power reduction was dramatic and noticeable. Also noticeable was the significant deterioration in handling and balance, as the car lost its 4 wheel drive, becoming rear drive only."

And it only lasted that long because I did those laps in 4 runs, with one cool down stop between each pair. The ICE was running between each run of course, giving me some additional charge. I was driving it flat out all the time.

Cooling down:



Finally found a good use for my front plate

If I had run continuously, the charge would have lasted 10-20 laps I expect.
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      08-09-2017, 07:32 PM   #6
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Interesting insights on tracking the i8. I didn't expect it to be nearly RWD during hard abuse.
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      08-09-2017, 09:06 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raysspl View Post
Interesting insights on tracking the i8. I didn't expect it to be nearly RWD during hard abuse.
Sorry if I was unclear. The i8 is fully 4WD and perfectly balanced etc under hard use. However, track use is an "abnormally" hard and continuous usage of it, which means the i8 is giving all it can, continuously.

This means it uses a LOT more electricity than it can regenerate, and when that battery charge runs out, it has to rely on the combustion engine only. This engine drives the rear wheels, making the i8 RWD under that scenario.

This never happens on road - ever. But will always happen on track in my opinion. Full on track driving is very extreme for any car.

A Tesla in Ludicrous mode would reduce power in less than one lap in my opinion for example. And it's brakes would overheat in about 2 laps. And many normal combustion cars need to cool down down their brakes after 5 or so laps on track.

Not many cars can keep running continuously at full power on track. My Lotus car, and many of the supercars on track that day could, but not all of the cars could eg Nissan GTR. Normal road cars can't either.
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      08-10-2017, 09:54 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JasH View Post
Sorry if I was unclear. The i8 is fully 4WD and perfectly balanced etc under hard use. However, track use is an "abnormally" hard and continuous usage of it, which means the i8 is giving all it can, continuously.

This means it uses a LOT more electricity than it can regenerate, and when that battery charge runs out, it has to rely on the combustion engine only. This engine drives the rear wheels, making the i8 RWD under that scenario.

This never happens on road - ever. But will always happen on track in my opinion. Full on track driving is very extreme for any car.

A Tesla in Ludicrous mode would reduce power in less than one lap in my opinion for example. And it's brakes would overheat in about 2 laps. And many normal combustion cars need to cool down down their brakes after 5 or so laps on track.

Not many cars can keep running continuously at full power on track. My Lotus car, and many of the supercars on track that day could, but not all of the cars could eg Nissan GTR. Normal road cars can't either.

Interesting info and probably quite predictable for a road car. Carbon Ceramic brakes and decent brake fluid really needed for track use, modified engine/brake cooling probably useful as well for 'normal' road cars.

Electric cars have a problem with rapid battery discharge heating the battery as well as the cabling - not a problem on stop-start road use but extremes of track use are different altogether as you say. Wonder what it would take to make an EV capable of continuous high discharge/recharge without frying the battery, cabling or motor - with today's tech it might simply be too heavy/costly to be worthwhile?
I think some research into Formula E is needed to see how they do it...!
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      08-10-2017, 10:39 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NGR View Post
Interesting info and probably quite predictable for a road car. Carbon Ceramic brakes and decent brake fluid really needed for track use, modified engine/brake cooling probably useful as well for 'normal' road cars.

I agree. The big issue is the car's weight, and brake size & materials. As well as cooling on the brakes of course.

I drove a modded Nissan GTR around the same track and after about 4-5 laps the brakes were literally smoking. I didn't drive it full-on either, as it was a friend's car. The reason for that is primarily the car's weight, but also the other factors above. The brake pads were finished after that day and had to be replaced.

My Lotus has normal steel brakes, but the brakes are big, pads are race pads, cooling is good, and the car weighs only 750Kg (half a F488), so it can go around all day.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NGR View Post
Wonder what it would take to make an EV capable of continuous high discharge/recharge without frying the battery, cabling or motor - with today's tech it might simply be too heavy/costly to be worthwhile?
I think some research into Formula E is needed to see how they do it...!
As you say, the answer lies in Formula E. Expensive, focused and light-weight. Even then, I don't know how many races a battery pack will last on those. Maybe just 1 race?
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      08-10-2017, 11:02 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NGR View Post
Interesting info and probably quite predictable for a road car. Carbon Ceramic brakes and decent brake fluid really needed for track use, modified engine/brake cooling probably useful as well for 'normal' road cars.

Electric cars have a problem with rapid battery discharge heating the battery as well as the cabling - not a problem on stop-start road use but extremes of track use are different altogether as you say. Wonder what it would take to make an EV capable of continuous high discharge/recharge without frying the battery, cabling or motor - with today's tech it might simply be too heavy/costly to be worthwhile?
I think some research into Formula E is needed to see how they do it...!
I watched a /Drive video on the Drayson B12 (fully electric race car) and he said the technology exists for batteries to go that long, it just isn't safe/reliable enough for production. It surely is a matter of time, but it is being researched in more than just FE.

OP: Very cool review on the car though. Thanks for sharing
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      08-10-2017, 11:31 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JasH View Post
My Lotus has normal steel brakes, but the brakes are big, pads are race pads, cooling is good, and the car weighs only 750Kg (half a F488), so it can go around all day.
Due to the weight, I doubt a GTR could have discs big enough to work as well as Lotus brakes, you'd need 40 inch wheels!

Like all race-cars, the Formula E guys probably throw away the battery after each race ,like Formula 1 used to rebuild the engine every race. Someone once said the perfect race engine blows up just as you cross the finish line, it has absolutely no more weight or strength than needed to win that race.
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      08-10-2017, 11:45 AM   #12
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Quote:
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Someone once said the perfect race engine blows up just as you cross the finish line, it has absolutely no more weight or strength than needed to win that race.
Probably Colin Chapman. Lightness was everything to him.

Not just the engine, the entire Lotus could fall apart after the finish line for all it mattered, so long as it came in first

Lightness really does make a massive difference to everything - handling, cornering, braking, acceleration, feel etc etc. Sadly even new Lotus' are 50% heavier than my series 1.

BMW's i Division engineers get it though, and the i8 is very light for a big hybrid. That's why the only change I would make to mine personally is wider wheels and more tyre grip.

If they make a v2 car, it would not surprise me if they flare out the wheel arches slightly to enable this.

I can in fact reveal that a top i Division engineer told me in Munich that they have been experimenting with wider wheels for us (parts option), but they could not get them to fit perfectly (under all circumstances e.g. bumpy road, full turn). They have not given up on that.
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      08-10-2017, 05:33 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by JasH View Post
I can in fact reveal that a top i Division engineer told me in Munich that they have been experimenting with wider wheels for us (parts option), but they could not get them to fit perfectly (under all circumstances e.g. bumpy road, full turn). They have not given up on that.
Let's hope they come up with something - an official BMW wide kit would be a must for me, especially if they de-throttled the e-motor to use the better front grip. My money is waiting....
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      08-10-2017, 06:01 PM   #14
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especially if they de-throttled the e-motor to use the better front grip. My money is waiting....
Agreed, but they said that will not happen. Apparently is not the same motor as in the i3.

There is more to this point though, but it is covered by the Munich event NDA
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      08-11-2017, 04:10 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by JasH View Post
Agreed, but they said that will not happen. Apparently is not the same motor as in the i3.

There is more to this point though, but it is covered by the Munich event NDA
Thanks for the teases JasH, I'm just pleasantly surprised that BMW are seriously looking at parts upgrades for such a low-volume car. Their usual model across the range seems to be to get you into a new car rather than retro-fit any improvements (apart from selling watches, jackets, key-rings and roof bars!).
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      08-11-2017, 03:15 PM   #16
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Quote:
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I'm just pleasantly surprised that BMW are seriously looking at parts upgrades for such a low-volume car.
I went through my entire list of "i8 flaws" with the engineers, in detail As well as their plans going forward, to the extent that they could speak about those.

They fully acknowledge that the i8 is "special". Both to them, and to us It is impossible to overstate i Division's love for their i8.
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      08-17-2017, 11:36 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JasH View Post
I went through my entire list of "i8 flaws" with the engineers, in detail As well as their plans going forward, to the extent that they could speak about those.

They fully acknowledge that the i8 is "special". Both to them, and to us It is impossible to overstate i Division's love for their i8.
Fantastic review!

I agree with everything you wrote and truly believe that the i8, when fitted with proper tires, is one of the best handling cars on the road. I have 255's up front and 275's in the rear. The car sticks like glue. When we go on our spirited drives, I can keep up with everyone in the twisty bits with no problem, whatsoever.

The i8 is a car for all seasons. Truly revolutionary.
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      08-19-2017, 11:42 AM   #18
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Fantastic review!

I agree with everything you wrote and truly believe that the i8, when fitted with proper tires, is one of the best handling cars on the road. I have 255's up front and 275's in the rear. The car sticks like glue.
Thanks, and glad you enjoyed reading it.

I am not surprised that yours grips so well, with those tyres.

I think it's the most beneficial change that BMW could make to the i8
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