Lotus Cars – Something from the weekend – 29/08/12

The F1 may be on a summer break, but Lotus involved in plenty other motorsport last weekend….


Lotus-Rebellion extended its lead in the LMP1 Team Trophy for privateers, finishing fourth and sixth overall. Neel Jani made up one place from his P5 grid slot at the start and then gave chase to the dominant works Audis and Toyota. After a trouble-free first stint in the six hour marathon, he handed driving duties to Nicolas Prost.

Unfortunately his #12 car spun after contact with the GT #57, which had already traded paint with the #1 Audi. The Lotus-Rebellion team was forced to pit to change tyres and was then handed a stop-go penalty. Come the next driver change, damaged bodywork was replaced costing the Swiss team more vital time.

Jani retook control and pushed to recover from seventh and finished the race sixth overall and third in the privateer class.

The sister #13 car, starting with Andrea Belicchi at the wheel from P6, made up places. Harold Primat took the second stint, which was equally strong and finished ahead of Jani and Prost in fourth position and first of the non-works outfits.

Neel Jani: “I made a good start and put in a strong triple stint. At the mid race, we were, with Nico, fourth overall, one minute ahead of the petrol cars. The penalty and the unscheduled stops ended our race because we lost more than two minutes doing this, and as all the cars were driving more or less at the same speed, it has been impossible to catch up again. It’s a pity but we have taken the points we could take. We are now fourth in the driver classification and are still aiming for the third place. And we are leading the FIA WEC Trophy of Best Privateer Team.”

Harold Primat: “We have had a trouble free race. In a way, we have taken benefit of the troubles of our sister car #12 but it is good to see that when one car of the team can’t succeed, the other one can. It shows that we are a strong team and I’m happy with that. Personally, I feel more competitive and we’ll have to be more and more efficient to stay ahead.”


With regular driver Luca Moro having to skip Round 4 of the WEC for personal reasons, former F1 driver Christijan Albers joined the Lotus LMP2 team in the #31 car, alongside Thomas Holzer and Mirco Schultis. Kevin Waeda, James Rossiter and Vitantonio Liuzzi took up the fight in the #32 machine.

Works driver Rossiter celebrated his birthday on Saturday with LMP2 P7 in qualifying (14te overall), while Holzer put the sister car in P14.

Unfortunately the #32 car was unable to make the distance in Sunday’s endurance race. An engine change meant Rossiter had to start from the pitlane and a lap down. He fought successfully to make up positions but then had to pit with a broken exhaust. Waeda attempted the second stint but had to pull over after a few laps due to engine failure.

Car #31 finished 12th in LMP2. Due to an unplanned service on the last lap the result is not as strong as had been hoped.

Thomas Holzer: “Today, we got a lot of track experience and learned a lot about the car. We had the race speed and could do constant lap times. We are improving race by race and this is important for us.”

James Rossiter: “It is a shame we couldn’t finish the race after we experienced another engine failure. After we had to start from the pitlane, I was able to overtake a lot of cars and make up many positions. Suddenly, the exhaust broke and the engine wiring loom caught fire. There was a lot of smoke in the cockpit and I wasn’t able to see anything. The mechanics couldn’t fix the car again and the engine failed again. It is just a weekend to forget.”


Holland’s Nigel Melker scored a podium finish on his Lotus debut at Silverstone at the weekend during Round 6 of the World Series by Renault championship.

The first qualifying session was run in wet conditions, and season-long Lotus racer Marco Sorensen lined up for the Race 1 grid in ninth place with Melker down in 14th. Come the race, though, it was clear that the qualifying times were not representative of the Czech team’s speed despite the changeable weather conditions. On Lap 2, though, bad luck struck Sorensen and he crashed out at Luffield along with several other cars due to gambling on slicks on a wet track. Melker also went off there but was able to rejoin, and when the red flags came out due to the number of stricken cars and the flooding, he was up to fifth. Come the re-start, the conditions remained wet and Melker kept his head down to finish a brilliant third on his Renault 3.5 debut.

In Saturday afternoon’s second qualifying, Sorensen saw a return to form and secured second, while Melker was down in 18th. Race 2 wasn’t affected by rain. At the start, Marco immediately seized the lead and built a gap over Sam Bird while pole-sitter Jules Bianchi fell back. The Dane looked set for a commanding win, but on the penultimate lap he suffered a puncture and was forced to retire. Nigel also experienced the blues, retiring after eight laps due to a technical problem.

Lotus remains fourth in the team standings with 102 points, 72 behind leaders Tech 1 Racing, while Sorensen drops to fifth in the drivers’. Robin Frijns leads with 131 points.

Marco Sorensen: “I can’t believe this happened, we were so close to another victory. The team did a great job and I am really happy that we had so much control of the race. There is no doubt that we have the speed, now we just need the last bit of luck.”

Nigel Melker: “My first race in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series and I’ve got my first podium finish. I can be happy with that, but it was a difficult race. I struggled in qualifying and I was a bit lucky during the race, I must admit. But there was absolutely no room for mistakes. I’ll be in Hungary and perhaps [at another meeting] after that. I’ll need to speak about it with Lotus.”


Lotus’s Simona de Silvestro had to start at the back of the grid for Sunday’s Californian round following an unapproved engine change, but bounced back to gain ten positions in the race.

Good strategy and perfect pit stops made a big difference for the Swiss driver and her Lotus HVM Racing team during the action-filled race at the Infineon Raceway. After 85 laps, De Silvestro finished in 17th position. She performed a nice pass on Ed Carpenter’s eponymous #20 car near the end of the race.

Simona de Silvestro: “I guess P17 is okay; I think it was all we could get. We’re still getting passed like we’re standing still on the straightaways, but I think it was a good weekend. We kept our heads during the race and towards the end the yellows starting coming out. That really helped us with our fuel mileage. It was a good race.”

Keith Wiggins, team owner: “The team did a good job. Simona drove a good solid race, so we were able to make the best of it. Our windows were tight on fuel, but we managed to keep it within the three, so that was good. It was a good result for the circumstances we had. We don’t want to get too excited about 17th, but I think it was the best result we could get today with what we had.”

Vincent Pereme, Lotus’s motorsport engine manager: “We still need to improve, together with the team and the driver, the way we are using our push-to-pass as it seems that we are not using it in the best possible way.  We are well aware that our motor is clearly down on power compared to the competitors, but we will keep fighting.”


The Team Bullrun Evora GTC managed to finish first in class and third overall at Lotus’s ‘home’ track, Snetterton. Round 7 of the championship, on the weekend of August 18, saw sweltering heat which saw several drivers wilting with exhaustion. Bullrun went into the weekend under pressure, with just a single-point lead in the overall championship.

Qualifying was textbook, putting the Evora P1 in class and seventh on the grid. David Green started and pitted for his first stop under a safety car around the one hour mark. This worked out perfectly, and team-mate Martin Byford was able to emerge on the same lap as the leaders. He went long on this second stint, eeking the most out of his tyres and fuel load, before fortune prevailed again and the Evora stopped under a safety car, leaving Martin to finish the race comfortably best in class.

Team rivals Mosler spun out on the final lap, while Bullrun as able to keep a resurgent Ferrari 458 at bay in the closing laps and take its place on the overall podium.

The team enjoys a five point lead going into the final round, at Donington.

David Green: “On what was officially the hottest day of the year, conditions for endurance racing were far from perfect! But a perfect pole, win and fastest lap puts us in a great position going into the last race. I almost feel we can afford the extra 14 kg for air conditioning, the only flaw in what was a faultless performance for the Evora.”


Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell finished a respectable seventh on August 18 at the ALMS race at Elkhart Lake’s Road America. The four-mile, 14 turn course requires a strong all-round package to be competitive and, after diligently working on areas of high-speed downforce, the Lotus AJR pair had exactly that from their black and gold Evora GT.

Bill Sweedler: “We met our goal here this weekend. That was to come here and keep improving. Greg Fordahl, our engineer, and the team made great improvements on the aero. It showed in the performance.”

Townsend Bell: “The little car that can is showing some spark. Our science experiment took another step forward today. We had a better balanced car this weekend and that allowed us to keep within shouting distance of the GT field.  We will continue to keep our noses in the data and our hands working to move this project forward.”

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