Two IndyCar teams leaving Lotus
INDIANAPOLIS -- The day-late, dollar-short saga of the Lotus IndyCar engine program has taken an unusual turn.
Group Lotus announced on Tuesday that it is releasing Bryan Herta Autosport and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing from its engine supply contracts in an effort to provide better service to its two other core teams -- Dragon Racing and HVM Racing.
A Group Lotus statement said that consolidating from five to three cars will help Lotus and subcontractor Engine Developments Ltd. catch up to the superior engines from Chevrolet and Honda.
The statement claimed that the decision to pare back was made by Lotus. But BHA and DRR must be relieved to escape being tied to an engine program that has been a shambles from the start, harming their ability to perform well on the track.
Chevrolet engines in cars fielded by Team Penske have won all three IZOD IndyCar Series races in 2012, whereas Lotus' best finish was ninth place by Dragon's Sebastien Bourdais at Barber Motorsports Park.
The Lotus program got a late start and the company's twin-turbo V-6 engine did not begin track testing until January, some five months after Honda and three months after Chevrolet.
It is widely known that Lotus does not have the resources to support an engine program at the level of Chevrolet and Honda, and Lotus' problems were compounded by a change of corporate ownership that shut down funding for two months.
Lotus suffered additional problems when it began using IndyCar's standard-issue ECU. The Lotus engine is believed to be down at least 30 horsepower on the competition, resulting in straightline speeds at Long Beach that were some 7 mph slower than the quickest Chevys.
BHA has already announced it will not enter this weekend's IndyCar race in Sao Paulo, Brazil, while DRR will field a Lotus-powered car for the last time for driver Oriol Servia.
INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard has stepped in to help BHA and DRR secure alternate engine supply for the rest of the season. BHA has reportedly signed with Honda and DRR with Chevrolet. Both manufacturers will supply 12 cars in the races that follow the Indianapolis 500.
"Our focus is on the Brazil race and we are still a part of the Lotus team," said DRR co-owner Dennis Reinbold. "We wish Lotus all of the best going forward. We are in the midst of finalizing our future plans and we are talking to the series to conclude that process. We will be making a public statement in the very near future."
Lotus says it intends to provide EDL with additional resources and financial support that it hopes will result in improved engine performance for the rest of the season.
"Lotus in IndyCar is like David versus Goliath," stated Claudio Berro, director of motorsport for Group Lotus. "We are and always will be a niche British sports car company, built for the few not the many.
"That said I'm delighted with our solution and I can assure everybody that the actions were taken after careful consideration and will assist in ensuring the brand's high racing ambitions and the high expectations of the IndyCar community are realized."