Monday, March 2, 2009
The experience of driving a well setup Caterham Superlight on track has somewhat redefined just how good a car can be. With its impeccably damped suspension delivering virtually zero body roll, its beautifully stiff chassis responding to every action, and its telepathically accurate steering delivering superb turn in and feedback, the Caterham was a revelation. It forms the perfect track day tool in the same way that the Lotus Elise comes together so beautifully on a B-road.
The real reason, however, that I found myself at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit last week to sample Quaife’s 60G sequential gearbox. It’s a race-spec unit intended to replace the ageing Ford Type 9 gearbox found in many kit and race cars, including various Caterhams, Westfields and Ginettas. What’s more in the case of this unit it features a Geartronics pneumatic paddle-shift system, which enables you to change gear at the touch of a button.
The system comes with its own ECU that provides an automatic ignition cut on upshifts and a throttle blip on the way down, meaning the car can be driven clutchless on the move. It renders heel and toeing redundant (which is useful if, like me, you can’t do it) and cuts gearchange times to as little as 30ms on the way up and 100ms on the way down.
It proved hugely effective and very straightforward to use when driving hard. A switchable auto upshift system prevents over-revving if you fail to change up, although on this occasion I suspect it had been set somewhat low to prevent careless journos destroying the test car. Meanwhile, the downshifts were very rapid and reasonably smooth at higher engine speeds. Meandering out of the pits and when on the road the system is a little more intrusive, but a simple dip of the clutch smoothes over the changes.
The paddle-shift system proved very impressive and would no doubt be a useful addition to the club racer’s armoury. It also made for an incredible track day accessory and perfectly complemented the Caterham’s racy persona. The chance to sample it in such an evocative setting was fantastic and many thanks to Race Tech magazine and Quaife for the opportunity.