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Lotus Pushes First Track Test Back To January

Mark H

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Fears regarding Lotus' ability to answer the bell as an engine supplier for 2012 have been put to rest, but the amount of time its teams will have to prepare for the season opener at St. Petersburg on March 25th is now a growing concern.


SPEED.com has learned that the first scheduled track test for the new John Judd-built 2.2-liter, twin-turbo V6 Lotus engine, originally set for December 13-15 at Sebring International Raceway in Florida, has now been moved to an undetermined date in January.


With the Chevrolet and Honda factories commencing their track testing programs in October with their respective partner teams in attendance, the disparity in learning curves between those factories and Lotus was always going to be hard to overcome.


But with Lotus facing an even smaller window of testing time--possibly as little as eight weeks between the first track test and the first race in late March—its teams could be at an even greater disadvantage.


Provided no issues are encountered during the engine's initial track tests, teams will be under increased pressure to develop unique setups that suit the Dallara-Lotus package.


With the Lotus engine expected to have a differences in center of gravity and power delivery, teams will need to tailor the Dallara's handling to the British powerplant once it arrives, and with its level of power still unknown, the amount of downforce teams will need to run in comparison to the other engine manufacturers must also be tested and verified.


Although the odds appear to be stacked against Lotus--at least in terms of fielding a competitive effort to start the 2012 season--the marque could have an ace in the hole.


Bryan Herta Autosport, winners of the 2011 Indy 500, conducted all of the Honda-powered 2012 Dallara track testing on behalf of the IZOD IndyCar Series, is believed to be close to signing on as an anchor team for Lotus.


BHA's Todd Malloy, who engineered Dan Wheldon to victory at Indy and handled all of the engineering during the 2012 car tests, would be an invaluable asset for Lotus to have at its disposal.


And the team's mechanics, who worked through most of the problem areas with the installation and running of Honda's 2012 engine, would be able to apply those lessons to the Dallara-Lotus before it hits the track which should, in theory, limit many of the time-consuming issues that tend to slow initial testing.


INDYCAR, the sanctioning body for the IZOD IndyCar Series, is also believed to have a few changes to the engine regulations sent out within the next 7-10 days, giving Lotus, Chevrolet and Honda more work to do before the final engine specification can be run in anger.



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