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Lotus Speeding Its Way Into IndyCar

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 18 2011

The Wood Brothers service the Lotus of Colin Chapman and driver Jim Clark at Indianapolis in 1965. Lotus is set to return to IndyCar in 2012. (Photo courtesy of The Wood Brothers Racing team)

Lotus Motorsport, a direct descendant of the company founded by Englishman Colin Chapman over 60 years ago, will partner as engine supplier to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, Bryan Herta Autosport and HVM Racing for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

The partnership agreements announced Thursday during the Los Angeles Auto Show will enable the teams to utilize the Lotus twin-turbocharged V-6 engine as well as build long-term technical and commercial, marketing and promotional collaborations.

Lotus announced at last year’s LA Auto Show that it would join Chevrolet and Honda as an INDYCAR engine manufacturer in 2012. Based in Norfolk, England, Group Lotus has competed in a variety of motorsports series, including domestic Indy-car racing, since Chapman founded the company in 1948. Jim Clark drove a Ford-powered Lotus chassis to victory in the 1965 Indianapolis 500, two years after the Formula One champion and American Dan Gurney launched the rear-engine revolution at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A partner with KV Racing Technology the past two seasons, this will be the first time Lotus has produced an engine for Indy-car competition. The 2012 season – featuring a new “Safety Cell “ chassis supplied by Dallara Automobili – will mark the first time multiple engine suppliers will compete in INDYCAR since 2005.

“The numbers that the engine is already achieving in our dyno testing are extremely encouraging, so our hard work is well and truly paying off,” Moidrag Kotur, Group Lotus director of motorsports operations, said in Los Angeles.”These partnerships with Bryan Herta Autosport, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and HVM Racing mean a great deal to Lotus Motorsport and mark the start of a new chapter for Lotus in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

“We’re thrilled that these already successful and illustrious teams have chosen Lotus, as we believe that our capabilities as a partner will pay dividends for them in the future. These three teams have immediately become part of the Lotus legend and have joined us in our journey as one of the most innovative and successful sports and racing car brands in the world.”

As a factory partner team, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing will be responsible for a significant amount of on-track testing and off-track research and development activities. DRR is planning to run two cars fulltime in 2012 with an additional entry for the Indianapolis 500.

“To enter into a partnership with Lotus as a factory partner team is a huge step for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing,” said Dennis Reinbold, DRR co-owner with Robbie Buhl. “In working closely with the team at Lotus over the past few months, we have had unique access and awareness of their strong commitment to the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. Many of our collective efforts are already underway and we could not be more enthusiastic about this offseason’s testing and development program.”

Lotus will open a U.S. base of operations in Indianapolis early in 2012 for support and logistics.

“We’re very excited at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing to have a partnership with Lotus Motorsport and to be a part of the rich and meaningful history of Lotus,” Buhl said.”The goals were simple _ to partner technically with a sophisticated engineering team at Lotus to ensure on-track success in this new era of IndyCar racing, and commercially to align ourselves with the most appropriate fit to our brand, our current partners and our long-term goals in motorsports.”

Group Lotus plc has three operating divisions – Lotus Cars, Lotus Engineering and Lotus Motorsport. The latter operates the motorsports activities of Lotus and includes the strategy to return the Lotus name to a great number of series including endurance racing with GT2, GT4 and LMP2, single-seater racing with GP2, GP3 and INDYCAR. Lotus also has returned to Formula One with Lotus Renault GP from the start of the 2011 F1 racing season onwards.

Bryan Herta Autosport won the 100th anniversary Indy 500 on May 29 with Dan Wheldon, who was fatally injured in a multiple-car crash in the season-ender at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 16.

“Despite the choices, once it was apparent that Lotus would produce an engine it was a clear decision for us to run with them,” said HVM Racing owner Keith Wiggins, whose team fielded Simona de Silvestro in the No. 78 Dallara/Honda this past season. “I have great respect, confidence and enthusiasm in the product they will produce. I have good historical knowledge of the companies involved and their abilities. Being the first team to commit reflects this and being an integral part of the Lotus development process is important to the re-establishment of HVM as a leading team, this time in the IZOD IndyCar Series.”

The Lotus V-6 has been designed and is undergoing testing at Engine Development Ltd. in the United Kingdom, a company owned by longtime Indy-car engine-builder John Judd. The engine is expected to make its on-track debut in early January.

“We have managed to produce a very light powerplant, in the true spirit of Lotus,” Kotur said. “However, we are keen to test the package on-track and look forward to our first test in early January, slightly later than originally planned but designed to give us more time to fine-tune our package before taking to the track.”

KV Racing Technology, a former Lotus Motorsport partner, will be powered by the Chevrolet IndyCar V-6 racing engine for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season. KV Racing Technology was founded in January 2003 by Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser and joined the IndyCar Series in 2008.

KV Racing Technology joins Team Penske, Andretti Autosport and Panther Racing as IndyCar Series teams aligned with General Motors for the 2012 season.

Vasser, who owns a Chevrolet dealership in Napa, Calif., competed with a Chevy engine for the first two years of his Indy-car career and earned his first career podium _third at Phoenix International Raceway in 1993 _ with the Chevy Indy V-8.

“I’m very excited Chevrolet is returning to IndyCar racing and that we will have the opportunity to work with them,” said Vasser, the 1996 Championship Auto Racing Teams driver’s champion. “I have a long personal history with Chevrolet. My first car was a 1969 Camaro. We look forward to a very successful relationship with Chevrolet for many years to come.”

Celebrating its 100th anniversary this month, Chevrolet has racked-up a total of 104 Indy-car wins, including six series championships and seven Indy 500 victories. The 2012 Chevrolet IndyCar V06 features an aluminum block and cylinder heads, direct injection and twin turbochargers. The engine will also be a fully-stressed chassis member supporting the gearbox and rear suspension.

“Jimmy Vasser was already part of our extended family as a Chevrolet dealer, and like our company co-founder, Louis Chevrolet, his roots run deep in racing,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. vice president for performance vehicles and motorsports. “The team puts a high value on advanced technology, as does Chevrolet with its IndyCar engine program that uses key technologies from our production engines.”

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has hired Tom Anderson to direct the team in not only defending the three American Le Mans Series championships that it won in 2011, but also to take a lead role in ramping-up toward an anticipated return to the IZOD Indy Car Series.

Anderson has been appointed president of racing operations, bringing the veteran of more than 40 years to the Ohio-based team. Anderson began his career in 1969 but is better-known for his successes as managing director at Chip Ganassi Racing beginning in 1990, helping guide the team to four consecutive championships in the CART Series.

“I have known Tom since the Can-Am days in the 1970s and have always respected and admired how he went about his business,” team co-owner Bobby Rahal said. “I look forward to working with Tom and raising the competitive level of all aspects of the team. Also, I want to point out that Scott Roembke remains a valued member of our team and will act as a consultant and advisor to the team in 2012 and beyond.”

Anderson left Ganassi after the 2000 season for Adrian Fernandez and his startup Indy-car team, where he served as managing director for nine seasons. The Modesto, Calif., native has six IndyCar/CART championships on his resume as well as three Indianapolis 500 wins. He has worked with a list of star drivers including Emerson Fittipaldi, Jody Scheckter, Al Holbert, Alex Zanardi and Jimmy Vasser.

“I am extremely excited to be a part of the expanding program at Rahal Letterman Lanigan,” Anderson said. “They have a championship-winning team in the ALMS and what we want to do is to continue that success and build the IndyCar side to enable it to match their sports car prowess.”

IndyCar team-owner Sarah Fisher has been selected recipient of the Team Principal of the Year honor via voting in the Professional MotorSport World Expo Awards for 2011. The event in Cologne, Germany, concluded Thursday with awards presented in eight categories.

Sarah Fisher Racing earned its initial IZOD IndyCar Series victory at Kentucky Speedway with driver Ed Carpenter in October, capping its fourth season of competition. In forming the team in February 2008, Fisher became the series’ first female owner/driver. She’s also the youngest team-owner in the series.

Fisher vacated the cockpit following the 2010 season to concentrate on management duties fulltime. In September, she gave birth to a daughter, Zoey.

“What an incredible honor to receive such a prestigious award,” Fisher said. “We are a small team, who as a small group go above and beyond our job titles to get the job done both on and off track. Our team is built on the leadership from every individual here. They all contribute so much to our goals and successes and we all take ownership together in both the good and bad times. This award means a lot as well to my husband Andy, the COO of SFR, who has been a rock-solid leader for the team.”

The 20-member judging panel included Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti and Andrea Toso of Dallara Automobili. Other nominees were Amato Ferrari of AF Corse, Olivier Quesnel of Citroen Racing & Peugeot Sport and Frank Wrathall of DynoJet Racing.

Indianapolis-based Xtrac, gearbox supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series, received the Powertrain Innovation of the Year award for its Instantaneous Gearchange System. Design of the mainshaft of the gearbox allows the next gear to be engaged before the current gear is disengaged. With no loss of tractive effort during gear changes, performance of the vehicle can be measurably improved.

Dallara Automobili is shipping two 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series chassis per day from its headquarters in Italy to its temporary facility in Speedway, Ind., through next week to fulfill initial team orders.

Dallara associates will complement with items delivered to the U.S. technical base _ wiring looms, radiators, etc. _ for team pickup starting Dec. 15. Engine manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda are continuing on-track evaluation with their own Dallara chassis through mid-December. The next session is scheduled for Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., at the end of the month.

Dallara officials expect to move into their new design and production facility on Main Street in Speedway in early January.

Cosworth Group has been recognized as SME Manufacturer of the Year and the UK Manufacturer of the Year. The award is based upon Cosworth’s innovation in manufacturing and engineering, financial success and growth in supplying the aerospace and automotive markets. Cosworth Group is co-owned by KV Racing Technology co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven. … IZOD IndyCar Series driver E.J. Viso and former Firestone Indy Lights drivers Jay Howard, Martin Plowman and Raphael Matos and current Firestone Indy Lights driver Victor Carbone are among more than 500 entrants from across the world competing in the 15th SKUSA SuperNationals karting event this weekend in Las Vegas.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 18 2011
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Dave Ihlenfeld says:

    Welcome Lotus To The Indy Car Series. I Wish Your Group The Very
    Best. Your Past History Of Excellence In All Forms Of Racing Will
    Serve You Well.