Apr 28, 2012
SÃO PAULO, Brazil – Lotus HVM Racing owner Keith Wiggins sees short-term benefits and long-term positives in the less-is-more approach announced earlier this week by Group Lotus.
Group Lotus is reducing the number of its engine lease agreements from five to three by mutual agreement with Bryan Herta Autosport and Lotus DRR. The Herta team is not competing in the Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle this weekend, while the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team will complete the contract with Oriol Servia in the No. 22 Wicks car. Both teams are expected to announce their new agreements with either Chevrolet or Honda next week.
Lotus will continue to work with Wiggins’ group (one car for driver Simona de Silvestro) and Dragon Racing (cars for Sebastien Bourdais and Katherine Legge) the remainder of the IZOD IndyCar Series season. Director of Motorsport Group Lotus Claudio Berro said the company intends to continue to assist its engine supplier, UK-based Engine Developments Limited, by providing external support and additional financial resources to expedite the development program.
In related news late this week, Lotus Cars has secured enough investment from its new Malaysian owner, the automotive giant DRB-Hicom, to restore full car production in the next few days. A 60-day financial “freeze,” a routine occurrence when Malaysian firms sell major assets, had interrupted the flow of agreed development funds and introduced considerable production delays in the passenger car line.
Resources are key, according to Wiggins, for continued development via on-track testing that has been squelched because of the short supply of the 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engines.
“The short term is obviously the biggest impact,” Wiggins said. “It’s no secret that originally it was planned to have two teams and the amount of engine supply for two teams. We’ve been playing catch-up and there have been some technical matters that have made things worse. While we like and welcome more teams and the competition of more Lotus teams, the reality was it’s going to take a long time to dig out of the supply and also the development because there weren’t enough engines.
“It’s the right situation to have three cars and now we have to focus on the development with the engines we have available."
There is an ample window, weather permitting, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May to make gains, though the three drivers aren’t expecting to contend for the Indianapolis 500 pole May 19.
“There’s a plan on engine development, but we’d be foolish to think we’d turn up at Indy with all our problems solved,” Wiggins continued. “We are going to have a deficit and we are going to have a challenging May, but in the long term it will get better. The motivation is to get it right and I think we’ll see a progression through the season and get up to par.”