Simona de Silvestro at Long Beach - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
Lotus Racing is moving forward in its efforts to improve the 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged IZOD indyCar Series engine it produces with the engineering assistance of Engine Developments Ltd. and its owners John Judd and John Judd Jr. EDL has been producing engines for a variety of series over the years and has been involved in Indy cars in the past.
This year's project arrived late and has been hindered by organizational changes at Lotus that pretty much inhibited the flow of funds to EDL for engine development exercises.
The result has been a departure of Indy car teams from the Lotus stable: the first teams announced by Lotus at the Los Angeles International Auto Show last November - the same site where Lotus announced its INDYCAR involvement a year earlier - were HVM Racing, Dreyer & Reinbold (DRR) and Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA). Dragon Racing joined the queue after the first of the year, giving Lotus five cars for the first three races of the intended 16-race season.
It all began to unravel after Long Beach, the third event of the year, when BHA said it would forego the trip to Sao Paulo for race No. 4, intending to concentrate on the fifth event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the series premier Indianapolis 500 race.
Shortly thereafter, both BHA and DRR announced they were leaving Lotus with permission from the series - which had to do so. At the beginning of May Dragon Racing filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging Lotus owed if $4.6 million after the team had been forced to spend money on items such as chassis that Lotus had originally agreed to provide. It, too, wanted out.
By the time the series arrived in Indy, there were only two teams running Lotus engines: HVM for Simona de Silvestro and Fan Force United, which was fielding a Dallara/Lotus/Firestone entry for former F1 driver and Lotus ambassador Jean Alesi. Any guess which were the slowest cars throughout the May meeting?
By that time BHA had aligned with Honda and DRR signed a technical alliance with Panther Racing, taking over their second Chevrolet lease. The results for both teams have been excellent, with Oriol Servia, in particular, vaulting through the point standings with his top-five runs since becoming a Chevy man.
Dragon Racing used two Chevy engines at Indianapolis but currently has a single lease, relegating either Sebastien Bourdais or Katherine Legge to the sidelines on alternate race dates. She'll complete the trio of oval contests at Iowa this weekend; he gets back in the DW12 for Toronto.
At Iowa Speedway on Friday, Lotus Indy Car manager Olivier Picquenot stated, "Lotus has been working with outside engineering firms, in conjunction with Mr. John Judd and his enterprise.
"As a matter of fact, they were all together this past Wednesday hard at work. The purpose is to get some outside help to assist in the new development plan for the Lotus engine in Indy Car. Everyone has been working well together and looking to make some quick progress in a concrete way."
Confirming what's been expected as INDYCAR tries to close the performance gap for Lotus, who are easily 2.5 percent behind their competitors Picquenot concluded, "Now that the IndyCar Series has given us permission to improve the engine performance, things will be moving soon."