Lotus is paving the way for a return to the Indianapolis 500 and an entry into the LMP1 class of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Although details are yet to be decided, the motor sport team, headed by ex-Ferrari racing manager Claudio Berro, recently made its ambitions clear.
“We are looking at two studies at the moment,” he told Motor Sport. “One is for an Indy racing programme in America and another is for a Le Mans LMP1 challenge. It’s clear that Indycar is a little bit more advanced as a study, but if we want to compete in 2010 we’ll need to decide very soon.
“The Le Mans programme is a long-term study because there will be new rules in 2011 and maybe then it will be interesting for us to compete.”
If the Indycar campaign goes ahead, the team must run with the single-specification Dallara chassis powered by a Honda engine – a world away from Colin Chapman’s revolutionary approach in the 1960s which culminated with Jim Clark’s Indy 500 victory in 1965 (above). The company last planned a return to the 500 with the 96T Indycar for the 1985 CART season, although this was banned before ever setting tyre on track.
“We know that the rules are fixed with Indycar at the moment,” added Berro. “We would use an engine from Honda – and there’s already a nice historic link there [from Formula 1] – and we’d use some experience from America. With nine races on normal tracks and eight on ovals, it is not just for oval specialists. Our group is not a specialist on ovals, but I think we know a few things about racing on normal tracks.”
Berro is not underestimating the financial backing required for a full-scale LMP1 challenge, but he is keen to enter the series with hybrid technology. “It is a very expensive project, and to win Le Mans you need a strong team, which I don’t think would be a big problem to build up,” he said. “You also need a strong car with advanced technology, especially in the engine bay if you want to race a hybrid. It’s a challenge not only for the motor sport division, but for all of the Lotus Group.”