Report: Gene Haas set for meeting at Lotus next week

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Gene Haas is set to visit Lotus F1 Team’s base at Enstone in England next week with a possible view to buying the outfit, according to a report broken by Sky Sports today.

The NASCAR team owner won the race to secure a place on the grid for 2015, and confirmed his plans for Haas Formula at a press conference last month. Former Red Bull technical director Gunther Steiner is poised to work as team principal, and the initial plan was for the team to be run from the United States, with a support base being set up in Italy due to possible links with Ferrari and Dallara.

However, with at least four of the teams facing financial uncertainty, it has been questioned why Haas does not buy one of them. That way, he would already have a workforce in place and some world class facilities, which he could then tailor to his liking.

It would also negate the problem of running a team from the United States for what is a largely European sport. Nine of the 19 races on the 2014 calendar take place in Europe, with just two in North America.

Lotus has been blighted with financial problems over the past two years, and this has resulted in a steady exodus of staff that has seen the team downsize by 20%. Most notably, team principal Eric Boullier left at the beginning of the year to join McLaren, and star driver Kimi Raikkonen walked away after going unpaid for much of 2013, and joined Ferrari.

The financial problems have been eased by finance courtesy of Pastor Maldonado’s backers, PDVSA, but the future is still uncertain.

Haas has previously been keen on making it a truly American team and starting from scratch, and despite many critics including Johnny Herbert and John Watsom, he is confident that he can make it work.

“As time goes on, we’ll learn,” Haas said last month. “We’ll figure it out, and the car will eventually evolve into our own car – and quite frankly, I think we can beat the Europeans at their own game.

“I’m sure most people are betting that we will fail, and that’s why it’s going to be successful, because if we don’t fail, then we’ve done something that other people haven’t. And that will definitely help sell Formula 1 in the U.S.”

Al Unser Jr. to race Pikes Peak Hill Climb for first time in 29 years

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Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. is coming out of retirement to race again.

Unser Jr., who turns 56 on April 19, will compete in the 96th Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 24. It will be the first time Unser has raced at Pikes Peak in 29 years, since the 1989 event.

Unser won the Hill Climb and was named “King of the Mountain” in the 1983 event.

Unser said in 2007 that he was retiring from racing and had no plans to race in the future. However, he has taken part since then in some selected vintage racing events.

Speaking of vintage cars, Unser is slated to drive a 1936 Chevrolet Sedan in this year’s Hill Climb, according to race organizers.

He’ll compete with a number of luminaries including eight-time Hill Climb winner Paul Dallenbach; Layne Schranz, who will be competing in his 25th “Race to the Clouds”; 23-time champion Clint Vahsholtz; 25-time Hill Climb competitor David Schmidt II and three-time Climb winner Spencer Steele.

Unser recently returned to IndyCar racing as a consultant with Harding Racing, which is beginning its first full season in the series with Gabby Chaves behind the wheel.