Lancia kappa V6 - May 2004

First test session, May 2 at Brands Hatch.

In typical racing style the kappa was still being worked on right up to the eve of the test, but here she was, ready to roll. Not everything was ready, the kappa is running a Magneti Marelli dash display unit, but we only located the UK support company for this item on Friday afternoon, so the instrumentation was not working at all. Settings such as tyre pressures, camber and ride height, etc were all done by guesswork to give a starting to see how she ran. Luckily the weather change from inclement the day before to glorious sunshine, at least if the handling was a bit wayward, I would know it was the car and not the wet track.

The test was divided into 2 x 25 minute sessions, in theory for saloon cars, but more of that later. Straight out in the first session, I planned to take things fairly steady to start with, just to check nothing would fall off, but right from the off I was taken by the fact that the car just went where she was pointed. The expected major understeer just wasn't apparent. She sounded glorious when being revved out, but also showed despite running the lower geared differential from a 164 twin spark, I was still not reaching 5th gear anywhere on the circuit. She did launch up the hill towards Druids very quickly, and again surprised with her perfect stability under braking. I was conscious of the weight of the car (as yet unweighed, but the heaviest car I have raced for sure) but still I found I was more likely to be braking early rather than late. When taking the braking too deep into corners, the back end did move around a little, and Paddock seemed more settled at high revs in 3rd, rather than taken in 4th. Without any lap times being taken, it was hard to tell which method actually gave the fastest times.

But the one bug was heavy wheelspin, especially exiting Druids and all the way round Clearways, this alone must have been costing the best part of 2 seconds per lap. At the end of the session, I came back to the paddock and reported back to the team - I was being ably supported by Keith and Simon from Auto Integrale with Daniel Whittington (past LMAI driver) offering moral support and the use of his tyre temperature gauge. Another surprise, the nearest I have driven to the kappa was Tony Soper's Alfa 164 last year at Snetterton last season. The 164 struggled to get any warmth into its tyres, and the back end moved around a lot - in fact I spun it twice during the day. By contrast, the kappa was getting plenty of heat into both front and rear tyres.

In an effort to counter the wheelspin, Keith and Simon got to work lowereing the front and softening off the front dampers to maximum soft, and then it was time for session two.

By now I was getting a good feel for the kappa, the power steering while being very light, was still providing reasonable feel - but then again my daily car is also a kappa (coupe) so I should be used to it. She was cornering totally flat, there was no roll discernible from inside the car, and even the flick left into Surtees (at over 100mph) while full on the throttle gave no problem, she just pointed left with the slicks howling. I was still getting a feel for the brakes, and braking earlier than necessary. I was out on track mostly with cars from the Stock Hatch series that would be racing the next day and was wary of keeping out of there way. I was just trying to get a feel for the car, they were working on specific set up for their race. Even so, I passed quite a few of them down the straight despite being hampered by wheelspin all through Clearways. Clearly a limited slip differential needs to be added to the development plan. For some reason, there was a Radical out with us, at first I was worried that I wouldn't see it coming up behind, but once out on track the reverse problem ensued. The driver (admittedly a novice) was braking earlier than I was, the kappa must weigh twice what the Radical does. And he was definitely hilding me up through the corners. A few of the Stock Hatch guys afterwards were complaining about him, the trouble was he just left them standing down the straight - at least the kappa was able to stay with it under acceleration. On a race day, I would have got past, but was mindful that outbraking him on a test day might not be so clever as I'd bounce him into the next county.

Finally a bit of testing of behaviour across kerbs and the like - I stright lined Surtees across both kerbs, I ran wide outside the kerbs at the bottom of the hill after Padock, and nothing. No bump steer, just as there had been no torque steer all day. Maybe the wide tracked kappa isn't such a bad basis for a race car after all.

But all in all, a promising test session. Not only did the kappa drive far better than I could have expected, or even hoped for, but nothing broke, nothing fell off, a testament to the Auto Integrale build quality. One problem which did become apparent was that the big V6 engine rocks back and forth too much, a replacement gearbox mounting had been fitted the day before but as the second session went on, this seemed to lose its effect, and from then on selecting 3rd gear became a bit hit or miss. During the next week tying the engine down will be a main priority, along with setting up the instrumentation.

We took some pictures in the paddock - the kappa was getting a lot of attention from the other racers out there and a whole load of compliments.

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