Lotus Joins IndyCar Engine Wars
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
A genuine “engine war” is looming for domestic open-wheel racing in 2012, when Group Lotus will build an engine and aero kit for the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Lotus, generally credited with triggering the “rear-engine revolution” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1963, unveiled plans to produce its first Indy-car engine on Thursday afternoon during the Los Angeles Auto Show at Los Angeles Convention Center. Lotus’ announcement came down less than one week after General Motors and Chevrolet confirmed a return to the series with an engine/aero package.
The addition of Lotus will give the IndyCar Series manufacturer representation from the United States with Chevrolet, Europe with Lotus, and Asia with longtime and current partner Honda.
“Lotus is unique in the automotive world,” said Dany Bahar, CEO of Group Lotus. “No other car company has been more successful in such a wide variety of motorsports disciplines, whether it is Le Mans, World Rally, sports cars, F1 of course and Indy-car.
“This year, we teamed-up with KV Racing for IndyCar and we will significantly increase our participation next year. However, in 2012 IndyCar competitors will have the exciting opportunity to choose an IndyCar with a Lotus engine and body kit and immediately become part of a legacy that is Lotus _ one of the most innovative and successful sports and racing car brands in the world.”
Lotus, which sponsored the KV Racing Technology Dallara/Honda driven by rookie Takuma Sato in 2010, will release its engine specifications at a later date.
“Lotus is a renowned name in racing, with a long association with some of the greatest names of motorsports,” said Randy Bernard, IndyCar’s CEO. “We’re honored Lotus has chosen to serve as an engine manufacturer for the first time with us.
“We are excited about the future of IndyCar racing with the addition of Chevrolet and Lotus as well as the continued involvement of our longtime engine-supplier Honda. The IZOD IndyCar Series has the fastest, most versatile cars and drivers in the world, and now we have engine competition to provide even more excitement for our fans.”
Based in Norfolk, England, Lotus has competed in a variety of motorsports disciplines since the legendary Colin Chapman founded the company in 1952. Chapman changed the face of the Indy 500 in 1963, when he entered Scotsman Jim Clark and American Dan Gurney in a pair of Ford-powered Lotus chassis against a field dominated by front-engine Watson/Offenhauser cars. Clark finished second to Parnelli Jones on race day, while Gurney placed seventh.
In 1965, Clark qualified the famed No. 82 Lotus second and went on to lead an incredible 190 of 200 laps en route to victory over Jones. By then, the Formula One-inspired rear-engine revolution was fully underway at “The Brickyard.” Rear-engine cars built by manufacturers world-wide have won the Indy 500 every year since 1965.
“The history and DNA of Lotus is all about extracting the most performance out of a car in return for maximum efficiency, and we are delighted to offer our engine and aero body kit to the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series,” said Claudio Berro, director of Lotus Motorsport. “We will be using the knowledge gained from our extensive research into E85 biofuel and turbocharged engines to ensure we extract the maximum performance.
“As you would expect from the company that pioneered aerodynamics in sports car and F1 racing over the years, our aero body kit will also be a world-class solution. So all in all, will the 2012 Lotus IndyCar be as innovative and revolutionary as the Lotus Type 38 that won in 1965 and changed Indy forever? Maybe. We’ll have to wait and see.”
IndyCar Series officials announced in June that its next generation of engines would be more powerful and efficient than the current normally aspirated V-8 formula, along with being relevant to the public and automobile industry.
The 2012 platform allows manufacturers to produce engines with a maximum of six cylinders. The engines will be turbocharged, producing between 550 and 700 horsepower to suit the diverse set of tracks on which the series competes. All engines will run on E85, with additional details on the fuel platform to be announced.
General Motors officials confirmed last Friday that Chevrolet, in a partnership with Ilmor Engineering, would be returning to the series in 2012 with team-owner Roger Penske. The latest iteration of a Chevy IndyCar engine will be a 2.4 (or less) liter V-6 with twin turbochargers.
The General left the series in 2005, stating it could not keep up with the spending habits established by foreign engine-makers Toyota and Honda. Under the series’ new engine and chassis rules, all engines – regardless of manufacturer – must be available to any customer.
The new engine strategy is based upon a recommendation from the ICONIC (Innovative, Open-Wheel, New, Industry-Relevant, Cost-Effective) Advisory Committee, which was tasked by Bernard with reviewing, researching and making a recommendation to the sanctioning Indy Racing League on the next generation IndyCar engine and chassis.
Honda Performance Development became the first manufacturer to commit to the new engine package in August. HPD will continue to provide its proven Honda Indy V-8 engine to all competitors during the 2011 season, after which a 2.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 designed by HPD will debut in 2012.
Dallara Automobili of Parma, Italy, was introduced in July as manufacturer of the IndyCar Safety Cell. Dallara will manufacture and sell the basic platform at $349,000 each. In an effort to break away from the series’ current all-Dallara “spec-car” platform, the ICONIC group approved the idea of allowing interested suppliers from the racing, automotive and aerospace industries to manufacture aerodynamic kits to “clothe” the basic tub.
– John Sturbin can be reached at email@example.comOne Comment