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Lotus Indycar Engine Making Progress

Mark H

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“We are running on the dyno now—on and off the dyno a lot over the last couple of weeks with no major surprises,” said John Judd, whose Engine Developments Ltd. firm has been tasked with designing, building and supporting the new 2.2-liter, twin-turbo V6 Lotus IndyCar engine.

While Lotus remains silent on its progress in signing teams beyond Michael Shank Racing for next season, Judd was happy to update SPEED.com on how he and his staff of 40 are progressing with the Lotus powerplant


“We’ve ticked a lot of boxes,” he said. “We haven’t done enough dyno running to make any major statements on projections or predictions, but we haven’t had to stop our testing to deal with any issues, either. [Lotus] obviously started later than anyone else—if this engine was a baby, it’s just starting to crawl.”

As the last of the three 2012 engine manufacturers to sign on with the IndyCar Series, Lotus found itself in a unique position. While the Malaysian-owned company committed the budget to deliver IndyCar engines, it lacked a competition arm of its own to handle the design or production.

After a comparatively lengthy process, Lotus hired EDL to handle every aspect of the engine program, but with Honda’s Honda Performance Development and Chevrolet’s Ilmor Engineering far ahead in the race to getting their first engines on the dyno, Judd found himself with a production schedule that has been incredibly tight.

Nearly three months after Honda conducted its first track test at Mid-Ohio, the Lotus engine is still in its early stages of running on the dyno, but Judd says his team has done as much as possible to overcome the late start.

“There was not a lot of time to do a whole new engine; there’s very little in common with anything we’ve done recently,” he said as he described the need for a clean sheet design.

“It has some of the features of some of our other engines, but almost zero carryover for parts. We’ve got to be patient with running the engine and see what the issues are and resolve them when they come up. We’ll probably know in a month or so what we’ve done good and what could have done better. There’s always things you could have done better; it’s the same for everybody.”

Most of Judd’s work over the last three decades has involved naturally-aspirated V8 or V10 engines for Formula One and sports cars, but for followers of the CART Indy car series, Judd’s work with the 2.65-liter turbocharged V8 formula spanned the height of its most competitive era.


15 years after Judd’s last turbocharged Indy car engine ran--and provided everything continues moving in a positive direction on the dyno--he will get the opportunity to see his latest turbo engine run in anger at Sebring in the middle of December.

“It’s an interesting challenge and an honor to be doing a new turbo engine for Lotus,” he said. “For an engineer, technically, it’s fantastic to have the chance to do a new turbo engine from the ground up--it’s quite rare these days. We didn’t expect to be doing this, but we’re happy we are. Now, apart from the lack of time we’ve had, building a turbo engine has been a nice change of pace, and fortunately, the new IndyCar engines aren’t turbocharged all that much so it doesn’t involve anything we haven’t done before. We’ve done a number of turbos before in the CART series, first with servicing [Cosworth] DFXs then building a turbocharged V8 with Honda in the mid-eighties, and running that with Truesports and Galles.

“Then, in the nineties, we supplied the first V8 turbo engines to Toyota before TRD built their own. They ran in the Gurney cars—in the Eagles—when it was a joint program between Toyota and Gurney. That was the last of our turbo engines. We still have loads of data from our time in CART and the boost levels and RPM levels have changed somewhat since then, but not too much. There are certain fundamentals that haven’t changed, which is to our benefit.”

Technical freedom is something most engine builders crave, but as Judd explains, the tight scope IndyCar has maintained over the 2012 engine rules has been quite helpful.

“The restrictions on weight and materials and boost and RPM are all very sensible,” he said. “They do help to prevent it from becoming a case of the guy who spends the most in the design phase will win. It’s difficult to assume everyone’s equal, and it’s difficult to stop the big money manufacturers from finding an advantage at some point, but it’s not the kind of scenario where the rules favor big expenditures on stretching the RPMs to 20,000 or something like that. Cost containment was a part of the rules from the beginning.


The weight limit is attainable without great expense, and the same for the boost levels. I think the rules were drawn up by people with good and recent experience. HPD and Ilmor had a good hand in the rules, and we, because we came in late, had almost no involvement. If we’ve had any issues with the rules, from any party, we’ve come up with good solutions without too much disagreement. The IndyCar Series is not cast in stone with the rules, and they’ve been willing to make changes if necessary. It’s been a good working process.”

To prevent manufacturers from spending excessive amounts on lightweight materials and components, the series established a rather friendly minimum engine weight of 100 kgs (212 pounds), and Lotus, according to a few different sources, has come in well under the limit.


The goal is to lower the center of gravity by using ballast at the bottom of the engine to make minimum weight, but by coming in at a reported 20 kgs (44 pounds) light, and with the 2012 engines being used as a stressed member within the chassis, flexing is a natural concern.


“I hope not,” Judd said with a laugh. “We’ve designed the engine to be rather robust. It’s always a compromise. We’ll just have to wait and see how it pans out on the final weight limit set by the series. One of the three engines is significantly heavier than the others, and we have no idea what solutions they undertook. Maybe that’s what you need to do, maybe others are smarter than us, but we certainly didn’t go out and start our design with a [lightweight] F1 mentality. We designed our engine knowing it needed to last, to hit its mileage targets and to be financially prudent.

“You don’t want to be changing the block and cylinder heads after every round. We have come out pretty close to the figure being bandied about a year ago for the target weight. Yes, we will have to carry a significant amount of ballast, I’d say, but not at the expense of the engine’s durability. We’ve been around long enough to be aware of the shortcomings in engine design. We just need to be modest and keep our heads down and see where we end up when we go up against the other manufacturers.”

The compressed timeframe EDL is dealing with has produced a number of serious challenges. In addition to filling the initial engine order from Lotus, Judd has been forced to pull the trigger on a number of engine components before every phase of dyno testing has been completed.

“The priority, really, is that because we have to produce a number of engines in such a short timeframe, we’ve had to start the production on a number of components—ones with a long lead time to manufacture—before we’ve gotten very far on the development of the engine. The initial part of the dyno testing has been about validating the mechanical design so we can start the production on some of those more time consuming items. We can’t just test and test until January and then give the signal to start manufacturing the final components two months before the first race.

“That being said, we’ve taken a very careful approach. At each stage of testing, we’ve asked which components we can approve for manufacture, or if we can start the heat-treating on other items, and so on. It would be nice to work away on the dyno until we were fully satisfied and then start to build the final specification, but we have to work within the time constraints we have to get to the track and to get engines to our customers.”


With a 17,000 sq. ft. facility in England serving as EDL’s base, Judd expects to look after the pool of Lotus engines in the UK—at least for 2012.

“It comes back to time again,” he said. “We won’t have time to establish a facility in the United States, but the freight time to the UK is marginal and we’re fully equipped to service the Lotus IndyCar engines at our present facility for the first year. It means that all of the people who designed it and built it will get to see every engine as they come back.”

In addition to the dyno testing and upcoming track testing, Judd has been busy ramping up the support staff that will be needed to service IndyCar engines at home and the trackside engineers that will work with partner teams at every test and race.

“Lotus will handle providing the support trailers and such, and the support staff will come from Engine Developments,” he said. “This is a growth opportunity for us. We’ve interviewed new trackside engineers and taken on some. We’ve already hired people on the design and development side. We’ve taken more machinists on and more engine builders. The general build-up across the company is taking place and all while we’re working non-stop to finish the new engine. We’re not done yet, but we’re getting there quickly.”



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