The third season of Lotus Cup Europe under the organizational skills of LoTRDC saw an important change. With Dany Bahar's revitalised Lotus putting ever greater emphasis on racing, overseen by the experienced Claudio Berro, the Lotus Cup programme expanded throughout the globe. The series now sat alongside a number of other Lotus Cup series including those from the USA, Japan and UK.
The increased opportunities for the European Lotus racer changed the makeup of the grid, focusing it more on the French, Belgian and German drivers, and whilst British drivers still entered the races, the balance was now firmly in favour of those from the mainland. Despite this, grid numbers were higher than ever, with the 2-Eleven and Exige Cup classes experiencing huge growth. The Production class, which had provided up to a third of the field in the past, was now a sideshow to the main event but no less competitive for it.
A new class was also added for the V6-powered Evora GT4 race cars. 2010's outstanding driver, Gregory Rasse, was joined by Thierry Verheist and whilst the former's season started well with a podium at Dijon, he was unable to extract as much from the car as he had from his Exige. Verheist was as solid as ever and so it wasn't until the final round, with Lotus Motorsport ace Gavan Kershaw on board that the first Evora victory was claimed. With the top classes as equal as ever, drivers still had to make up the extra tenths to win races.
Even so, as with previous years, the majority of the wins came from the 2-Eleven class. In 2010, Bourcier Competition provided one of the stars of the season with Romain Ratureau. This year they had a new driver but despite an appearance somewhat less youthful than their previous winner, Rémi Pochauvin came with plenty of experience, including the Le Mans 24 Hours. He was no slouch either, and dominated the first two rounds at Dijon-Prenois and Magny-Cours.
It seemed as though he couldn't be beaten early in the season but missing from those early grids was regular Jon Walker, with a variety of mechanical maladies. However he and the car were back on form at the Nürburgring, taking a brace of victories. Meanwhile although Pochauvin didn't take the top step of the podium again he was usually to be found at the sharp end of the field and established himself as the one to beat.
The series joined forces with Lotus Cup UK at two rounds and since they were both at circuits familiar to the British contingent, it was no surprise that they dominated. Finishing second to Kershaw at Spa, Mark Fullalove took the Brands Hatch wins, with Steve Williams and Walker the challengers.
Christophe Lisandre upheld mainland honour at Brands Hatch and he could be relied upon to challenge in all the races. Unable to add to his 2010 Magny-Cours win, he came very close at the same circuit, even led, but could not resist Pochauvin. He found himself amongst a strong 2-Eleven contingent this year, with Phillippe Loup and Karl Vivion providing particularly tough competition. Jean-Pierre Genoud Prachex and British drivers Pete Storey and Simon Deacon also challenged on occasion in a very competitive class.
Whilst the Exige Cup class rivalled the 2-Elevens for numbers, one man stood above the rest in the races. With his brother having moved to the Evora category, John Rasse took almost every class win and sealed his season with an overall win at Zolder, a feat that Gregory had come very close to achieving the previous year. Awarded the best driver of the season overall, John's challengers ended up squabbling between themselves – Olivier Cunat was the only other victor, benefitting from John running wide at turn one in race two at Magny-Cours, whilst Jean-Baptiste Meusnier, Gregor Zetsche and Herbert Metzker joined him as best of the rest.
The Open Class was often fought out between veteran David Harvey, Xavier Georges in an immaculate Gulf-liveried series 1 Exige, and father-and-son pairing David and Rob Fenn. Harvey suffered a few problems and was unlucky not to score a class win, whilst Georges picked up a number of wins along the way. However it was the Fenns that were the frontrunners, in a superbly-liveried motorsport Elise but their season only lasted until Brands Hatch, so Georges had to share the honours with Campbell Cassidy and Matt Cherrington's Europa at the final Spa round.
Whilst not in the hunt for overall victories, the Production class provided plenty of entertainment as José Vaslin and Nigel Ayres usually fought it out for victory, the pair being joined by Elise racing returnee Paul Pattison part-way through the season. They were joined by occasional visitors from the UK's Elise Trophy and so the winners' roster featured many names, including Matt Bartlett (Magny-Cours), Adam Bewsey and Dan Plant (Nürburgring), Steve Quick and Ken Savage (Brands Hatch) and Ben Hyland (Spa-Francorchamps). The class also saw two new regular runners, Alain Adoud and Jan Christe, who fielded the first 2010-facelift Elise racer.
The 2011 season has provided many new faces, some of them visiting the podium, as the series establishes itself as a popular proving ground on the race circuits of western Europe. More of the same is expected next year as the Lotus brand continues to go from strength to strength.
2011 Driver of the Season – John Rasse
2011 Class drivers of the Season
2 Eleven – Rémi Pochauvin
Exige – John Rasse
Evora – Greg Rasse
Open Class – Xavier Georges
Production - José Vaslin
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2011 Lotus Cup Europe Season Review
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