Encounter: A British Gentleman in Japan – Satoshi Konno’s Exige S

I’ve always viewed the Outer Plus Lotus builds as such a breathe of fresh air in the realm of Japanese time attack.  They’re such a far cry from the norm, and among the only imported cars in the paddock at the grassroots level.  The Lotus epitomizes the gentleman like qualities of motor sport that is sometimes harder to find in Japanese cars.  The Chiba based outfit Garage Shimaya, known for race parts development of chassis’ such as Lotus and Caterham, has been providing their customers with the resources to infuse these British made cars with Japanese style.  With over 20 years of experience under their belt, Kenji Shimakage and his team, are without a doubt the go-to group for people wanting to own and race these cars.

A great example of the fusion I’m referring to can be seen in Satoshi Konno’s Exige S.  The modern, lightweight British coupe chassis paired with a supercharged Toyota motor is a match that was made for the circuit.  Couple this with parts from Japan’s foremost Lotus aftermarket brand and you have an end result that can hold it’s own among the domestics on any track.  The Exige S was the companies third reiteration of the car, following the Series 1 and Series 2 respectively with the biggest change being the addition of a supercharger to the once naturally aspirated 2ZZ motor.  Clocking in with a very healthy 218 horsepower and a curb weight of just 933kg (2,057 pounds), the car was very formidable right out of the box.  This type of performance, on paper, would do well to satisfy even the most particular of drivers.  However, it didn’t take Satoshi long to double down on what Lotus provided in order to build his version of the perfect time attack car.

While the car is still street registered, it is now less than ideal as a commuter car, so it is transported from venue to venue via a flat bed – especially when the commute to the track is over 5 hours away.  At first glance it’s easy to see the wide variety of exterior carbon pieces that are utilized to cut weight and assist in aerodynamics; many of them from Outer Plus.

Outer Plus side steps, GT wing and Reverie diffuser make up the rear portion of exterior upgrades.  Carbon side intakes have been paint matched and adhered to the rear quarter panels, while a carbon hard top just peeks over the top of the car.

The almost iconic, forged Hethel LE48 wheels that are found on most TiRacing cars adorn each corner of the Lotus.  Advan A050 tires (of course) compliment the wheel with a 225/45/16 variation up front, and slightly wider 255/40/17 in the rear – quite literally filling in all available space in the wheel wells.

A titanium exhaust rests above the diffuser to help further reduce weight and expel exhaust gases out back.

Despite Outer Plus having many cool carbon side mirrors to choose from, Craft Square prevails again as the choice of mirror for this car.  They just look so good no matter what they’re on.  You can get a good look at the vented front brake setup here with the wheel off.  A custom splitter and canard setup round out the aero package up front.

Custom valved dampers and a plethora of Outer Plus suspension arms make up the majority of suspension components underneath the car.

After taking a step back to examine the car in it’s totality, there isn’t one piece of criticism I could offer the build.  It truly looks amazing.  Catch a glimpse of the Outer Plus demo car in the back; the V6 variation of the Exige.

Ready to be unleashed onto Suzuka.

The Toyota 2ZZ power plant has been caressed with several additions to give the car an edge over it’s competition. The supercharger remains, however with the support of upgraded engine components, the boost has been increased and power output is now at an incredible 350hp.  For a car that now weighs a mere 860 kilograms (1895 pounds!) that is an incredible power to weight ratio…admittedly it’s rather scary.  The transmission has been swapped out for a sequential gear box to aid in faster, more efficient shifting.

Restraining it’s indignation of being on a trailer for a day, the Lotus growls down the hot pit for it’s first lap out.

As beautiful as this car looks, it sure retains it’s aggressiveness.  Fun fact, I was talking to Yukimitsu tonight about the car, and he mentioned that Mr. Nyan (Hiroki-san) painted it at his shop, New Type.  The color suits the car quite well.

Out on track the duo were able to garner a best lap of 2’22.778 in the wet.  Don’t let the slower time at this track fool you though, Satoshi has clocked very quick personal bests – at TC2000 a lap of 57.9 and a respectable 1’51.2 at Fuji Speedway.

There are a handful of Lotus owners that attend Attack and Evome events in Japan, and each time I see them I’m always eager to compare them to their Japanese colleagues.  I hope to see this group grow both in competitiveness and size, as more and more people catch onto just how fun these cars can be – especially if you have the support of a specialized shop like Outer Plus at your disposal.  I sure know I want one…