A chance glimse of a Lotus Esprit was all that was need to start a beautiful relationship. A relationship which blossomed between a man and a car, and which is developing to take on the giants of the Dutch motorsport world.
Dick van Elk wasn't planning to get into racing seriously but it seems he was powerless to stop the momentum. The 45-year-old had initially visited the Kroymans show room in Holland four years ago to look at an old Jaguar. But the Manager after noticing Dick's Esprit V8 in the carpark, proceeded to show him his own personal collection of Lotus'. After much talk, debate and inspection of the two Esprits, Dick was offered one of them to race, a type SE. It was one of only two built by the factory in 1992 for the Dutch Group N series. And so it began.
Dick who has recently sold his own electronics company debuted in the unmodified Esprit in the Supercarcup at the Assen circuit in Holland in 1998. He finished 16th in a field of 45. Not satisfied he decided to reduce the weight on the car, it weighted around 1,300kg, to increase acceleration. "It was extensive overhaul. We introduced hand-made carbon bodypanels to the doors, bonnet, the rear of the car and the bumper. The nose became removable. The cooling system was modified to include aluminum radiators, an original rear spoiler from on of the GT Esprits was installed and the car's Intrax suspension system was upgraded. It made a big difference. The Esprit's weight dropped by nearly 200kg to the new figure of 1,105kg," explains Dick.
His results improved. In the 1999 season he finished sixth overall and a year later third. But despite the progress, he still strived for move. The winner's podium was the ultimate goal, so at the beginning of last year he decided to completely rebuild the Esprit. The following parts were inserted: a new electrical system, a Motec integrated motor management display and data logging system M800 + ADL, a Lotus V8 engine with two turbos and two chargecoolers, a quaife 6 gear sequential dogtype transaxle, a 100 litre FT3 fuel system of Fuelsafe, and a modified water and oil-cooling system.
The season of 2001 loomed. All eyes were now focused on the inaugural Dutch Supercar Challenge, the successor to the Supercarcup. The event was and continues to be, hugely popular because there is an endurance element to the series, as each of the 10 races are 65 minutes long...
The Challenge has four classes: the GT, Supersports, Sports I and Sports II, which is defined on the balance between the weight of a car and its engine power. Each field consisted of 55 cars. ST's, saloon cars, such as Porsche 911, BMW E46, Z3 and Maseraties were part of the line up with competitors coming from the UK, Belgium and Germany to compete. Dick only started in the last race of the series as the Esprit was still being modified but managed to gain an impressive sixth place on the track after 58 minutes before he had to withdraw because of an overheated CV joint.
The Dutchman may have been down but he's definitely not out. He plans to win the GT class at this year's championship. Which brings us to his admiration of Lotus where did it come from?
His love affair with Lotus began at the tender age of eight. His brother's friend let him borrow his yellow Elan to drive around the block. "Since that day Lotus' were something special and I actively started to find out more about them," reflects Dick.
The first Lotus he bought was an Esprit ten years ago and a year later a new Carlton. Currently he owns four Lotus': two Carltons, the Esprit race car and a V8 for daily use.
He believes Lotus is unique. "Lotus cars have soul. Their vehicles are not just a bunch of mechanical parts fitted together but rather a car which lives and talks to you when you drive it," he adds.
Visit www.supercarchallenge.nl for more info