Lotus to skip first F1 pre-season test at Jerez

Leave a comment

Lotus has confirmed that they will not be present at the first Formula One pre-season test at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain at the end of this month. Instead, the team is aiming to unleash its upcoming E22 challenger ahead of next month’s sessions at the Bahrain International Circuit.

“We’re going to keep our car under wraps a little longer than some other teams,” team technical director Nick Chester said on the Lotus web site this morning.

“We’ve decided that attending the Jerez test isn’t ideal for our build and development program. We are likely to unveil the car before attending the Bahrain tests, and in Bahrain, we should really be able to put the car through its paces in representative conditions.”

Chester reports that the E22 is almost ready for homologation, citing that the car has “made very good progress” through the process and has just a “nose test” to pass before it is ready to go. He also says that chassis fittings have been made for both of their 2014 drivers, Romain Grosjean and newcomer Pastor Maldonado.

“Certainly, our partners who have seen the car have reported themselves to be very impressed with the layout and various solutions to the new technical challenges,” Chester said.

However, while insisting that development on the E22 has been positive so far, he said that Lotus is working with “very little idea” of what their competitors have in mind for 2014.

“This is the first year of radically different regulations which means that all teams are developing their cars along potentially quite different avenues,” he said. “It’s fascinating for us engineers and I hope it is fascinating for the fans too.

“We think we have a very good solution to the challenge and hopefully this will be seen when the E22 turns its wheels in anger.”

As a result of Lotus’ decision to skip Jerez (Jan. 28-Feb. 1), the E22 will have just eight days of on-track running prior to the start of the 2014 season in mid-March at Australia. The Bahrain tests run from Feb. 19-22 and Feb. 27-March 2.

However, the fact that Lotus is opting out of Jerez may not be all that surprising; the team reportedly asked last month that this particular test be delayed by a week.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

Follow@KyleMLavigne