In line with its ambitions, Lotus rolled into the Autosport International Show – the preeminent annual motorsport expo in England – with a whole mess of racing cars and programs to go with them. The firm's F1, GP2 and GP3 teams have all fallen under the new Lotus Racing banner and all will wear the same black and gold livery. A new Lotus Club GT offers the full racing experience to gentlemen racers with the money to pony up for a track-spec Evora, similar to the Type 125 customer single-seater that just underwent further development by the company's grand prix team. But the real news comes from the IndyCar program.
After five years of exclusively using Honda power, the IndyCar Series is switching to a new chassis next season and with it is bringing both Chevrolet and Lotus on board as alternative engine suppliers. Lotus is already contracted to power three independent teams – HVM Racing, Bryan Herta Autosport and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing – who will each choose their new livery from the Lotus back catalog of color schemes. Dragon Racing, however, has been selected by the factory as its new works team in the series, running the same black and gold livery as the F1 team.
The team is owned by Jay Penske (son of Roger Penske), and has just announced its driver lineup for the upcoming season, bringing multiple Champ Car champion and former grand prix driver Sebastien Bourdais on board together with Katherine Legge, another DTM and Champ Car driver eager to steal some of Danica Patrick's spotlight. With Lotus providing the motivation, the upcoming season of open-wheel racing in America is shaping up to be an interesting one. Follow the jump for the full announcement.
Group Lotus Commercial Director Tony Schulp and Factory Driver Johnny Mowlem took to the Autosport Stage today to announce a series of exciting new developments. For those of you who missed it, we'll try to keep it top line...
LOTUS INKS ITS DRAGON TATTOO
Lotus has chosen the Autosport International Show to announce its full factory partnership with the Dragon Racing IndyCar team. Lotus Dragon Racing will be an official Lotus team, racing in the black and gold colours that are shared by the marque's Formula One programme. Owned by Jay Penske – Chairman and CEO of the Penske Media Corporation, and son of US racing legend Roger Penske – Dragon Racing debuted in 2007, picking up fifth at the Indy 500 straight out of the box at the hands of Ryan Briscoe. In 2009, its first full season, Dragon driver Raphael Matos took the Rookie of the Year honours. In 2012, the Lotus Dragon Racing line up is a particularly strong one: Katherine Legge, the first female driver to win a major open-wheel race in North America, and four-time Champ Car Series champion and former F1 racer Sebastien Bourdais.
Claudio Berro, Group Lotus Director of Motorsport: Claudio Berro: "We are very pleased to be able to announce this new and exciting partnership with Dragon Racing today, a team which has demonstrated its potential and which we believe will achieve great success thanks to the Lotus IndyCar engine and the security of a major backer. Last year was Lotus' first foray into this prestigious open-wheel series since Jim Clark won the Indy 500 back in 1965. We have a tremendous legacy in this sport, and are determined to become winners again. The American market is one of the most important to Lotus in terms of road car sales, hence our aggressive marketing strategies through US auto racing. We believe Lotus Dragon Racing and our other partner teams will give us the best opportunity to achieve our ambitious goals."
INDIANA CLONES AND THE FAST CRUSADE
In 2012 no less than four teams with an anticipated minimum eights cars will be packing Lotus power in the IZOD IndyCar Series. The company's all-new twin-turbo V6 has its first shakedown today at the Moroso circuit in Jupiter, Florida, with Lotus HVM driver Simona de Silvestro working the loud pedal. The engine program, which was announced in November 2010, has come together quickly without teething problems, and fire-ups away from the track have ticked all the boxes. Lotus Dragon Racing, Lotus HVM Racing, Lotus Bryan Herta Autosport, and Lotus Dreyer & Reinbold Racing are all confirmed as engine partners. The Autosport International Show marks the first public appearance of this ambitious powerplant.
Claudio Berro, Group Lotus Director of Motorsport: "The engine has performed extremely well so far, and we and our partners are very pleased with the results. We had our first fire-up in a Dallara chassis in Palma, Italy on 21-23 December, then the engine was sent to America, and today we're having our first on-track shakedown, at Moroso, which is very exciting. On January 1st we opened a Lotus facility in Indianapolis which will be our US engineering and logistics hub, so it's all go. We've still got a lot of work to do before the start of the season, but I couldn't be happier with the progress we're making."
LOTUS MOTORSPORT BECOMES LOTUS RACING
In order to reflect the broad range of Lotus' competition activities, Lotus Racing becomes the new umbrella name for Group Lotus' racing division. All of our official works teams will now race in the evocative black and gold livery. These include the Lotus F1 Team, GP2 and GP3 team Lotus GP (formerly ART) and Lotus Dragon Racing. Partner teams, such as the Lotus-engined IndyCar teams Lotus Herta Autosport, Lotus Dreyer & Reinbold Racing will also run in black and gold with Lotus HVM Racing running in predominantly green, yellow and white. Customer teams have the option of running other classic Lotus liveries, such as Lotus Sport UK's 'Gold Leaf' red, white and gold, which was raced to victory in the British GT Championship last year.
WELCOME TO THE CLUB
As mentioned earlier this week, Lotus has formed one of the most exclusive members clubs in the world - Lotus Club GT. It's a gentlemen's – or ladies – club with a difference. No leather Chesterfields, wood-panelled walls or cigar smoke – here, you'll find bucket seats, carbon-panelling and the smell of burning rubber. It is the ultimate club for sports car enthusiasts. The club's current entry requirements are met with the purchase of one of Lotus' premium race-bred models – the Evora GT4 and Evora Enduro with club specification. Member benefits include one-to-one driver tuition catering for drivers of all abilities from our professional works drivers and the Lotus F1 Team. Members also receive exclusive VIP access to Lotus events, like going behind the scenes at the Lotus F1 Team's high security HQ and in the pits at glamorous grands prix.
Matthew de Morgan, businessman and Lotus Club GT member: "You will enjoy it, and I think what you get out of it is more than what you give. We aren't out there to be pseudo Michael Schumachers, we're there to have fun competing, to enjoy ourselves in an environment which is safe, educational and challenging. I think this is what the GT club is all about. I didn't come here with a previous history of driving cars round a track and having done it I'm delighted. Frankly it's probably the best thing I've done for myself in the last ten years."
Claudio Berro, Group Lotus Director of Motorsport: "Through all our activity on and off the track, we want to make the driver experience as incredible and unique as possible so creating the Lotus Club GT was a natural step for us. Our clients have come to expect more than just to be handed the car keys, they want to be part of the team and to really understand how to get the very most from their investment. Everything is tailored to match the individual expectations of our clients allowing them to truly realise their potential behind the wheel. So far the feedback we have had from members is fantastic - they really become part of the Lotus family"
Check out the Lotus Club GT in action here: www.4lot.us/motorsportvideos.
F1 TEAM PIMPS OUR ULTIMATE RIDE
Lotus' Formula One customer experience, the Type 125, has become even more F1, thanks to its final phase of development work by the Lotus F1 Team. Newly-announced driver Romain Grosjean put the car through its paces in Portugal recently as engineers honed the car's set-up to replicate those of a current generation Formula One beast, while keeping it safe, easy to drive and reliable for Lotus' private customers. A normal F1 car requires a huge crew just to start it up, yet the single-seat Type 125 can be fired up at the touch of a button. It's 640bhp 3.5 litre Cosworth V8 engine is linked to a six-speed gearbox with paddle shift. It weights just 560kg resulting in a phenomenal power-to-weight of nearly 1000bhp per tonne. The Type 125 mule sits in a race bay at the team's Enstone factory, where the 2012 F1 car is being prepared. It has now reached the end of its comprehensive development programme.
Romain Grosjean: "The idea was to bring the car as close as possible to F1 level. We needed a car that was close to the lap time of a Formula One car, but that was also easy to drive. Development is something that I love to do, and the Type 125 has been a really interesting project for me. Some things were quite funny, like the auto clutch the car has for when you leave the garage and the option of auto up-shift, which seemed odd the first time I used it – a bit like a computer game – but it works well. We achieved a strong level of performance and sensation, but it is not too hard or too on-the-limit to drive which is important, because this car is designed for private customers. We did a lot of laps during our three-day test in Portimao and we had no reliability issues at all. Everything worked perfectly."
Arnaud Boulanger, Head of External Projects, Lotus F1 Team: "Lotus asked us to take on the Type 125 in September 2011 through to its final development. The programme was not to re-engineer the car completely, but to hone the set-up and the car's performance envelope as close as possible to Formula One, and match the build quality to 2012 F1 standards, while also making it safe, reliable and easy to drive. We needed a car that was exhilarating to drive, that was reasonably forgiving, that was relatively easy to operate but that still offers extreme performance – very close to F1. Our programme had the added benefit of development from a current F1 driver, Romain Grosjean when he ran the car at Portimao in mid-November and gave us the valuable feedback we needed.
"Working closely with Group Lotus, we have managed to fulfill all our engineering objectives in a very short space of time. The performance is just a small step back from Formula One, so as to allow the practical aspects I mentioned, but still provide the F1 experience customers crave. It's going to be very physical still, and not many drivers will be able to cope with more than a few flat-out laps. Drivers will be thrilled with the finished product."
BACK TO BASICS
You're never too old to drive a Lotus. You're never too young either. Arguably the most fun, raw and inspirational racing machine on our stand in Birmingham is the new Lotus Racing Kart, built in Italy to the highest standards by Wildkarts. The official Lotus Racing Karts team will be evaluating drivers at the end of the month in Lonato, and will compete in the CIK-FIA KF1 Karting World Championship. Championship events will take place at Varennes sur Allier in France (29 April), Suzuka in Japan (20 May), Brandon in UK (22 July), Sarno in Italy (9 September) and Macau-Coloane (21 October).
Lotus Racing Karts has also set its sights on the Asia-Pacific zone and, represented by a Japanese partner, will form a team in the exciting All-Japan Championship.
Another important task for Lotus Racing Karts will be CIK-FIA «U18» Karting World Championship. This new series is aimed at promoting drivers between 15 and 18-years-old through an FIA World Championship in which costs are rigorously limited, in particular thanks to the free allocation of engines and tyres to all participants. Free? That's not a word you hear often in this business, is it?
TEAM BULLRUN'S NEW BABY
Team Bullrun will be running a Lotus Evora GT4 in the 2012 Britcar MSA British Endurance Championship. The team has previously won the series' production car titles, while the Evora placed a very credible third in the Britcar 24 Hours last October, but this will be the first full season's racing for Lotus' endurance model. Former Britcar Production Champions Richard Adams and David Green will be joined by 2011 BTCC driver Martin Byford. Formula Ford veterans Fluid Motorsport are joining forces with Bullrun to manage the team.
Team Bullrun refers to the US-based luxury rally in which fun-loving and cash-rich enthusiasts take the public roads by storm. Expect some eye-catching Lotus models as well as Burt Reynolds look-a-likes on the Bullrun this year, which kicks off in Hollywood on June 23 and promises seven days of high-octane hedonism. A few thousand miles from Tinsletown – and with no pressure to obey the rules of the road - the first round of the 2012 Britcar series will be held at Silverstone on March 24.
Claudio Berro, Group Lotus Director of Motorsport: "We are delighted that Bullrun share our view that the Evora could be a serious championship contender this year. It is clearly good news to see a British team, with a British car competing for a British title. The overall package Bullrun has managed to put together looks very strong and we look forward to closely following their progress throughout the season."
Lindsay Allen, Fluid Motorsport co-founder: "We have been considering a move in GT racing for some time – the combination of Bullrun's track record in Britcar, its trio of experienced drivers and our own race preparation and championship expertise should make for a very strong team. The new Lotus Evora package Bullrun have secured looks to be very competitive. We are very much looking forward to running this alongside our usual Formula Ford operations."
UP FOR THE CUP
The Lotus Cup Series, which sees enthusiasts race wheel-to-wheel across the globe, is set for even more action this year. In addition to the Elises, Exiges and 2-Elevens that already make up the grids, we will be welcoming Evora V6 entrants worldwide, including the GTS and GTN variants. Lotus-On-Track, which runs the Cup, has its own stand at the Autosport Show 2520 with the GTS on display. Here, you can also view the GTS/N conversion kit, which will turn your production-spec Evora into an out-and-out racer. Bolt it on, and stand well back.
The Lotus Cup has proved massively popular, with 350 participants racing worldwide on some of the most challenging and legendary race tracks and this year there is the added incentive of a prize for the most successful Evora running in the 2012 Cup. Championships are held across the UK, Europe, Eastern Europe, Italy, the USA and Japan, and we're hoping to add some more territories in 2012.
Echoing our famous Formula One livery, the Lotus Cup gets a lick of paint this year and a new logo in keeping with the refreshed Lotus Racing brand strategy.
Lotus is pleased to announce a couple of new corporate partners to our racing stable.
OCS is an international facilities management company, which provides many businesses with cleaning, catering, security, waste and maintenance services – and, by partnering with Lotus Racing, it hopes to wipe the floor with the competition.
OAMPS is one of the UK's leading independent insurance brokers, with a broad range of general and specialist insurance solutions – such as motor racing – as well as associated environmental, health and safety services. Partnering one of the most successful marques in motorsport they, too, are in safe hands.
Both brands will be carried on our GT championship Evoras. In addition, on the stand at the NEC, we have a Petronas-plastered Evora GT4. Our collaboration with the Malaysian petrochemical giant is going from strength-to-strength and it's great to have their growing support.
A PETROLHEAD'S SMORGASBORD
Lotus' stand at Autosport International is showing off some of our most exciting track-born and race-bred models. In addition to the Petronas-sponsored Evora GT4, in which Lotus Sport UK scored two wins during its maiden season of British GT, we're displaying a Lotus Renault GP F1 car; the black-and-gold R31 took podiums in the Australian and Malaysian grands prix last year. Then there's the Evora GT Enduro, our new 440bhp evolution of the GT4, which will be used in the Lotus Club GT. Finally, the NEC boasts the sensational Evora GTE – the ultimate road-going Lotus and by far the most powerful too. With its aggressive face and eye watering stats, it stole the show at last summer's Pebble Beach Concours, so we were compelled to put it into production.