IndyCar – Lotus Can Supply for 2012, Compete Though?
The off season was rich with speculation that Lotus may or may not make the 2012 season with its Judd engine. Think back to late December when there was little to no contact between Lotus or really any of the teams that were in the market for an engine. Autosport.com featured an article this morning that indicated Lotus was in fact capable of supplying the teams they had signed for the entire season. That includes bonus parts and support for HVM, Herta, DRR, and Dragon. The recent change in ownership with Lotus from Malaysian based Proton to DRB-Hicom certainly had an effect with finances and development of the power plant. While it is all fine and grand that the team can provide, the true question after St. Petersburg is whether or not the Lotus engine will ever be competitive. All of the before mentioned teams had to share one chassis and one engine during testing. Needless to say the results after round one were pretty disappointing.
So can the Lotus engine compete with the Chevrolet or Honda? The generic answer would be let’s see what happens over the next couple of rounds. However, I think over the next couple races we will see similar results. Lotus can take comfort though in Sebastien Bourdais and his promising pace during the season opener. The Dragon racing driver was flirting with the top five for much of the middle portion of the race before retiring on lap 73. His race pace was just tenths off of the fastest drivers. That has to be a good sign that Lotus can run with the big dogs, but the issue was reliability for all of the other Lotus powered cars. We also cannot forget that Bourdais is no slouch. The four times ChampCar champion can certainly pedal an open-wheel machine.
The thing that I believe is hampering the Lotus from truly succeeding is the teams that signed to drive. I said it early in the season, there is no real flagship team that has a chance of being successful out of the gate. While one could say that DRR has the lead, it was obvious this past weekend they didn’t have a handle on the engine/chassis combo. I think this is where it is very important that the teams that signed with Lotus in fact pass their data. A big deal was made of all the Lotus teams joining together for testing and data, after St. Pete it is obvious that it needs to be happening as often as possible.
We still have a whole season ahead of us and I think the Lotus will develop overtime into a car that can run in the top 10. Will it challenge for victory? It really depends on what Sebastien can do on the road courses going forward and if the power plant will hold together. I don’t think so this season, but perhaps after one or two more seasons of development, things could change. We have to remember the British firm was in fact eight weeks behind the other manufacturers. I agree with what Randy Bernard said though, “Let’s give them every opportunity to try to win. It’s important for us to see them competitive, as we want the sponsors that are tied to Lotus to be successful as well.”
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