With ten years of development, Piotr Soja’s been able to extract the most from this very capable platform. It may not have outrageous levels of power some hillclimb cars have, but this Lotus Exige S2 has the balance, the weight, the response, and the suppleness to handle anything most backroads can throw at it.
The powerplant is something quite special. The 2.4-liter Honda engine, available in a variety of vehicles from the TSX to the Odyssey, displaces quite a lot for a four-cylinder. When assisted with a little boost from a centrifugal supercharger, the resulting torque absolutely launches this 1,760-pound scalpel out of hairpins with incredible urgency. In fact, it’s hard to grasp this propulsion via the onboard camera; the scenery seems to keep moving at a constant rate despite the presence of many slow corners here at this hillclimb in Banovce, Poland.
A pump-action sequential gearbox is responsible for a bit of that relentless shove, but the Exige’s bodyshape plays a part as well. The stability offered by this GT3-esque bodykit, wing, and splitter help Soja keep his right foot pinned in the quicker stuff, and the stiff suspension keeps the aero platform fairly level, even with the regular bouncing from the Exige’s rear.
Still, a noticeable amount of lean is present, but then again, there has to be some softening to help this car handle the imperfections of a public road. This doesn’t slow the breakaway much, but the Lotus is so well adhered to the road most of the time that occasional snaps and shimmies don’t hinder Soja’s charge.
With a decade spent driving this car in all manner of hillclimbing events, Soja’s become quite the smooth operator. The slides are kept sensible, and he’s clearly very patient in his throttle and steering applications. With so much torque and perfect timing, he can catapult off certain corners, yet look almost casual doing it (0:34). There’s subtlety and lots of thought in this man’s driving; the result of years and years of experience in these trying situations.
It’s just a shame that such a silky, accurate run ends in a tire blowout, but having been around this course a few times before, at least Soja isn’t fazed by it.