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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lotus Looking to IndyCar in the Present and Future

The renaissance of the Lotus brand continues as Team Lotus USA will reportedly field two cars in the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

Originally, reports suggested that Lotus would return to the Indianapolis 500 only, which they won in 1965 with Jim Clark behind the wheel. Then it appeared that the brand would back James Rossiter at KV Racing Technology. Now it appears that the brand looks to make a stronger push into American open-wheel racing.

Lotus recently announced a partnership with Cosworth to develop engines for racing based on those in its road cars. Cosworth is partially owned by Kevin Kalkhoven, the "K" in KVRT. Cosworth supplied engines exclusively for Champ Car, which was run by Kalkhoven, from the mid-2000s through the series' demise in 2008. The company also supplies the spec engine for Formula 1, which the Lotus F1 team campaigns. (It is important to note that the Lotus involved with IndyCar is the "real" Lotus, the car company itself, and not related to the F1 team that licenses its name.)

This partnership may influence the brand's participation in IndyCar in 2012. The latest rumor is that Lotus will build its own car - chassis and engine - for 2012 and beyond. Lotus, however, does not appear intent on becoming an exclusive chassis supplier to the sport, instead harkening back to the innovation of Indy 500s past, and the uniqueness of each car still seen in F1 today.

The engine, however, would likely be used by multiple teams. It would probably signal a return to the series, and the sport, for Cosworth, and perhaps use Lotus badging. KVRT would be a likely bet to run the engine for the reasons stated above; if Gerald Forsythe ever returns to the ranks of open-wheel team ownership, the other owner of Cosworth would likely use the engine too. Many of the most enduring IndyCar teams have used Cosworth engines at one point or another.

Cosworth was shut out from IndyCar in 2008 when Champ Car was bought out, and this would likely be the best way for them to return. While they did not attend more than one of IndyCar's engine spec meetings in 2008, Lotus looks to build a turbocharged V6 engine with the company - exactly the type of engine that current IndyCar supplier Honda is looking for in 2012.

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