Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Lotus Saga: Chocolate bunnies, rainbows ‘N sprinkles or Rotten eggs?

Whale wasn’t that clever - with Easter just having concluded, eh? As I find myself grimacing over the continuous Haranguing the Lotus IndyCar concern is receiving - which is funny since I’m not a firm supporter of the affair to begin with, as I’ll continue calling it ‘Lotus-by-Judd for the foreseeable future; yet obviously without Lotuses; Err somebody’s moohlah, say as in the government of Malaysia - there wouldn’t be a third engine option to begin with!

And I’ve heard that the Luddi ‘lumps are possibly 50-horsepower down to their ICS rivals ‘Chebbie & Honda, not to mention their Lucas ‘lectrics being woefully rudimentary compaired to Ilmor and HPD’s; reputedly ‘TAG’s chassis only being capable of 53mph on the Pitlane speed limiter in a  60mph zone...

Yet, if I can ‘Suss out the following basic info - then By-gummit! Some clever bonafied journalist can surely get to the bottom of this. As what I find extremely telling towards the entire Lotus Indy Car engine debacle, is that Engine Developments Limited, (EDL) the makers of Judd racing engines reportedly only has a staff of 25-people entirely! Which means how many people actually build the hugely lamented IndyCar engines and how many staff do other things ranging from foundry work, sub-assembly, design, R&D, Dyno-work, electronics to whatever else? As I suspect that Honda Performance Development (HPD) and Ilmor (Chevrolet) have larger workforces, whilst definitely having larger financial backing behind them - not to mention having started six months earlier then Judd...

Now I’m not defending Lotus at all, as I think they rightly deserve what they’re getting, especially since the companies CEO Dany Bahar, seems to believe in Aladdin’s lamp or the Pie-in-the-Sky philosophy - and that money can buy anything... Along with simply trotting out the nostalgic colours of black & gold to stir up the soul of those good ‘Ol dazes when Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti and JPS were F1 World Champions. Not to mention somebody named Ayrton Senna leading the team’s last hurrah in the late 1980’s with turbocharged ‘Reggie’s (Renault) sporting the famous hues of John Player Special on its cockpit flanks...

And I won’t dwell upon the Loti v Loti legal battle which rightfully went tony Fernandes way, nor the since uncompleted one million T-125 “Track-day” customer cars of which ‘Ol BLOODY NIGE (Mansell) and Jean Alesi were recruited into Lotuses fold as brand ambassadors to play upon the public’s purse-strings with...

Or the fact that Messer Bahar seems to have painted the motorsports landscape black & gold, with not only Lotus F1 (4.0) running this livery but; Nicolas Todt’s rebadged Lotus-ART GP2 and GP3 teams running the iconic colours, plus Colin Kolles LMP2 Lola/Judd World Endurance Championship (WEC) concern. While I even believe I received some PR fodder ‘bout the Aurora GTX; Err, 2012 Lotus Evora GTE running in ALMS under the Alex Job Racing (Lotus-AJR) banner this season, which surely makes you wonder just how much is all of this marketing costing and who’s really paying for it?

The Lotus F1 Team is actually owned by Gerard Lopez’s Genii Capitol investment firm, with PROTON, the previously owned Malaysian government Automaker footing the bill of $25m per season in a multi-year deal - along with having written off $35m of debt owed. And I say previously owned, since the countries 43% controlling stake of the continuously money losing automobile manufacturer was recently sold to DRB-Hicom who have the option to purchase a 50% share of Lotus F1 in the future.

Confused yet? I know I am, as none of this even includes the IndyCar/EDL side of the messy affair - as many of the Formula 1 team bosses are unwilling to do business with Mr. Bahar and henceforth we really don’t know his dealings with whomever is the principal of EDL.

Thus I’m simply left wondering if Judd, who primarily have been producing Sports Car engines in various guises, V-10’s for the top flight ALMS and LeMans petrol competitors, along with powering the lower prototype division’s Morgan cars - simply didn’t understand the scope of the IndyCar operation, or are playing with one hand tied behind their backs? As in not being able to hire enough qualified personnel to adequately compete against Chevrolet and Honda? As I’m certain that all of the ‘Dicking around by Bahar & Co put Judd at a disadvantage, right?

As can we all imagine what le Hamburgular, nee Sebastain Bourdais could do with his Judd powered Dallara DW12 chassis if it was as efficient as the ‘Chebbie lump which has won the first two races - as both Chevy and Lotus are utilizing the twin-turbo configuration vs. Honda’s single turbocharger arrangement.

As somehow I doubt that Alex Tagliani will repeat as Indy 500 Pole winner this year or that Oriel Servia will be able to drag his Lotus DRR ride up to his previous years outside Row-1 (P3) starting spot this May...

Yet for Lotuses sake; whale mainly its competitors, I sincerely hope all five ‘Luddi’s; Err Loti’s make the show - especially “Symona-Symona” (de Silvestro) and Thy Leggy ‘Juan. (Katherine Legge) Although I haveda wonder how much further will Lotus fall behind when the new & improved Body-by-Mennen Aurora AFX Aerokits are unleashed next year? Since I believe Pratt & Miller are working on chevy’s version while Nick Wirth is digitally mocking-up Honda’s via his CFD Supercomputer - whilst who’s doing Lotuses? As you’ve gotta wunder how long can a niche Automaker continue supporting such grandiose racing programs...

Naturally, the day after I finished this riveting piece - comes word from Europe that Group Lotus will NO longer sponsor the Lotus F1 Team, as DRB-Hicom has passed upon the option to purchase a controlling share in the Formula 1 racing team, whilst the Malaysian government will NO longer back the dreamy aspirations of Mr. Bahar’s planned assault upon Porsche and Ferrari with the British Sports Car marque - that has lost PROTON money since 1996.

And while Mr. Lopez was quick to dose out any speculation upon Lotuses Grand Prix finances by claiming that Genii Capitol would make up any differences in lost funding, you have to wonder what will happen to the iconic Lotus concern now, with the most obvious path being Genii Capitol becoming the companies owner. Yet will this lead to a cutback of its racing activities in the future? As after all, isn’t this what tony Fernandes intended to do originally? Although it would have potentially meant the loss of one of the two warring Loti F1 factions, eh?

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