Lotus has lifted the lid off an ambitious and wide-ranging motor sport attack that will take it back to the Le Mans 24 Hours race on two fronts.
The “360-degree programme”, announced ahead of the Paris motor show in late September, includes an all-new LMP2 sports car prototype (right) and a GT-specification Evora. The British sports car manufacturer is also linking up with the French ART team (far right) to effectively create junior teams in the GP2 and GP3 single-seater series on the Formula 1 support bill and will expand its involvement in the IndyCar Series in America (above).
The company’s new motor sport director Claudio Berro explained that Lotus is “committed to doing our motorsport heritage justice” and that the organisation wanted to “tick all the boxes”.
Central to the plan is a return to Le Mans for the ﬁrst time since the Elise-based Lotus GT1 competed at La Sarthe in 1997. This could happen next year with a GT2-spec version of the Evora Cup GT4 that competed in the Britcar 24 Hours at Silverstone in October, but in any event will deﬁnitely take place when an all-new LMP2 Lotus hits the track for the 2012 season.
The LMP2 will be designed and built in house by the company and would not be “a Lotus by Dallara or a Lotus by Lola”. To that effect the company has recruited the designer of the Peugeot 908 HDi, Paolo Cantone.
The new car, a coupé, will be powered by a 4-litre V6 based on a Toyota powerplant, which will be developed in conjunction with Cosworth Racing. This unit will be shared with a car designed to the Le Mans GT Endurance and FIA GT2 regulations.
Berro envisages that the Lotus LMP2 will be up and running by the end of next summer and could take part in a couple of end-of-season events in 2011. This will be a precursor to a Le Mans attack in the following season and the sale of cars to customers.
There won’t be a full factory programme, Berro added. Lotus will take part in races for development purposes but “will not be a team that does a full championship”, something that “will be left to our customers”.
The Lotus name could be back on the grid at Le Mans next year if any customers of its new Evora decide to apply for an entry. The GT race car is already under development, with Dallara supplying aerodynamic expertise, and the ﬁve cars ordered so far are scheduled to be delivered ahead of next season.
This car will be superseded by a car based on the next-generation Esprit unveiled in Paris. The race version of the Lexus-engine sports car isn’t expected to race until 2013 or 2014.
Lotus is also increasing its single-seater activities, which started this year with a technology tie-up with the KV team in IndyCars. The plan is that this will expand to two cars in 2011, most likely with KV, after which Lotus will develop its own aerodynamic package for the new-for-2012 Dallara IndyCar.
A similar arrangement is being forged with the ART Grand Prix team, a winner of multiple titles in the F3 Euroseries and GP2, as well as the inaugural GP3 crown.