bottom of the page.">

Freestyle handling kit - fitted

Dampers, springs, adjustable front anti-roll bar. Latest updates are at the bottom of the page.

I rose early (but not very bright) on Saturday, ready for the journey down to Juno, near Brands Hatch. Steve was at a loose end and decided to take up my offer of a lift down, so I had to remove Thomas' seat from the passenger side. That wasn't as difficult as I had feared (only took five minutes), and then I was away.

After picking Steve up it wasn't long before we were on the M25. This was the first time that I'd had a passenger since suspecting the dampers were shot, and Steve confirmed my thinking - as we went over some of the dips on the motorway the front end was bouncing out of time.

The journey also saw a major milestone for my car: the odo clicked over 50,000 miles!

We arrived about 10 minutes late, just after 10 am. After a bit of banter, Gary set to work. He'd already been briefed that I do lots of road miles and a couple of track days a year, so I wanted a road-biased setup, but which wouldn't be an embarrassment on the track. Gary and Len had recommended their road & track spring and damper package, and I wanted to try their adjustable anti-roll bar.

Steve got some of his questions in too. Now he's got the racing bug, he's got his priorities the other way round to me. Nigel also turned up to quiz Gary about suspension setup, and dampers in particular, since Nigel's had lots of bad experience with these.

Gary tackled the front of the car first. The pattern for the day was set here, with everything taking longer than expected, largely due to 50k miles of corrosion. Dampers grudgingly left their home of three years (see Cadwell Park), but the anti-roll bar surrendered more rapidly.

The Freestyle ARB looks like a lovely piece of kit. With a twist of an allen key it's adjustable from the equivalent of Caterham's 1/2" bar, to their 5/8" bar. It'll be a while before I get to play with it; at the moment it's full soft, since I want to experiment with the damper settings without getting myself all confused. The Avo dampers have (I think) 24 distinct settings. The plan is to start off fully soft, and work slowly up from there to try to find an optimum road setting.

The rear dampers proved to be just as awkward to remove. Equally troublesome was the rear anti-roll bar, which I asked Gary to remove based on his advice in Low Flying. Incidentally, some confusion was caused on BlatChat when I mentioned that I'd read the articles by "Juno's Michael Gray". Apparently that was Gary's nom de plume a while ago.

Fairly late in the afternoon (certainly later than I had expected to be there), we were ready for the flat floor setup. No point leaving without finishing the job properly...

Flat floor setup

This is what the corner weights looked like before Gary started tweaking. This is just the car, with sidescreens (and a warning triangle and a foam-in-a-can spare wheel replacement, because they were heavily tank-taped into the boot).

Left front: 139.0 kg Right front: 127.5 kg
Left rear: 144.0 kg Right rear: 140.0 kg
Total weight: 550.5 kg
Weight at front: 48.4%

Or, with me in the driver's seat:

Left front: 137.5 kg Right front: 147.5 kg
Left rear: 170.5 kg Right rear: 176.0 kg
Total weight: 631.5 kg
Weight at front: 45.1%

Afterwards, car only:

Left front: 140.5 kg Right front: 125.0 kg
Left rear: 143.0 kg Right rear: 143.0 kg
Total weight: 551.5 kg
Weight at front: 48.1%

Me in the car:

Left front: 139.5 kg Right front: 146.0 kg
Left rear: 169.5 kg Right rear: 178.0 kg
Total weight: 633.0 kg
Weight at front: 45.1%

I asked about the figures for the weight distribution, and Gary said you don't want a 50/50 split. Apparently one of the things that's good about the K-Series is that, because the engine is comparatively light, you get a greater proportion of it over the back end of the car.

The car had about 2/3 of a tank of petrol, which I reckon weighed about 16 kg, making the weight of the car 534 kg. This is quite a lot more than when we weighed the car on Steve's homebrew corner-weight system. I would hope (judging by how expensive they looked) that Gary's kit would be more accurate than Steve's, but it doesn't really matter - repeatability is the key.

At the end of the day the ride heights looked like this, car only:

Left front: 136 mm Right front: 137 mm
Left rear: 146 mm Right rear: 148 mm

That gave these heights, with me in the car:

Front: 134 mm Rear: 140 mm

I'm sure that's all very important, but for now it's just for the record, ready for when I need to tweak things later.

Initial driving impressions

On Gary's advice, I started with the dampers and front ARB set fully soft. It was obvious straight away that the car was actually being damped now - there was a big improvement. (It must have been quite comfy, because Steve fell asleep on the way home.) There was also much more traction from the back-end (even though I didn't think it was short to start off with). The steering felt heavier. I'm pretty sure we didn't do anything to mess with the geometry so I guess that must indicate more grip at the front end. The downside is that the car felt rather dead - capable but uninvolving.

I didn't get to drive the car again until the drive into work on Tuesday; no change to the setup, more of the same.

Before the drive home I added two clicks to the front dampers. Transformation! The car felt much more lively, definitely an improvement. Next step is to add a couple of clicks to the rear, and keep alternating like this until I've gone too far, then back off a bit. Gary suggested that six clicks rear, four front was about the maximum for road use. Then I will start messing with the anti-roll bar!

I'll post some more once I've messed about a bit. I'm actually looking forward to getting some rain, so that I can try everything fully soft!

28 August 2002: I tried 2 clicks all round on the way in to work. Even better! I did a couple of laps of the big roundabout near the office, and the car felt very well balanced. So much so that I had to talk myself into even trying any more settings. I added 2 clicks onto the front before coming home (now 4 front, 2 rear), and it's even better still. I'll try 4 all round in the morning. I don't remember the car ever feeling this good.

29 August 2002: 4 clicks all round is too stiff for the potholed roads we have in Berkshire. I find that I have more confidence going quickly on the softer setups because the car doesn't bounce around so much. Having said that, 4 clicks did work great for the few smooth corners I came across, so I should have fun stiffening up the car on the track. I intended to try 3 clicks all round for the journey home but by accident set 2 on the front, 3 on the rear. I noticed this just from the feel of the car, and confirmed it when I got home, which I was quite pleased about. (When I set the fronts I counted fully soft as 1, so I only added 2 clicks, "1, 2, 3", if you see what I mean.) 3 clicks on the back is still too stiff, so tomorrow morning it's back to 2 on the rear, and 3 on the front to see how it compares with the best setting so far (2 on the rear and 4 on the front).

30 August 2002: 3 clicks front, 2 clicks rear didn't feel anything special, so for the drive home I tried 4 front / 2 back again. Definitely the best so far; the comparatively stiff front gives plenty of feedback, and the soft rear means it's quite comfy. This is now settled as my base setting. I'll give 5 clicks on the front a try, but I don't want to go any harder on the back. It's probably a waste of time adjusting the ARB on the road, because it's obvious that I prefer a fairly soft setup.

2 September 2002: Tried 4 front / 2 rear on the way into work. Still felt great. Went for a test on "the" roundabout, and hit something slippy. The car understeered but came back nicely, and on into slight oversteer, with a lift of the throttle. All nice and controllable. Tried 5/2 on the way home. Initially it didn't feel any different, but once I got to the bumpy stuff I couldn't confidently keep up as much speed as with 4/2, so that's what I've gone back to. I will now stop messing for a while, unless it rains.

6 September 2002: I don't know whether I'm just getting used to it, or whether something has "settled", but 4/2 didn't feel as firm as I remembered so I tried 5/3 for the drive home. Much better - 5 at the front didn't feel overly stiff, as it did last time I tried it.

9 September 2002: It rained. In the morning I kept the 5/3 setting, and it was typical Seven tip-toeing in the wet. Before leaving for home I set the dampers fully soft all round. Transformation! Grip levels were obviously higher, and the whole feel inspired much more confidence. Definitely worth making the tweak.

4 October 2002: I played with the adjustable front anti-roll bar at Kemble airfield.

Contacting Freestyle Motorsport
Website: Freestyle Motorsport. You can get hold of Len on +44 1892 540828, or possibly (not tried). Gary is on +44 780 174 9054.

This page is It was first published on Tuesday 27 August, 2002 and last updated on Thursday 14 August, 2003.