Lotus’ Twitter hilarity powers through a challenging Renault sendoff

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Lotus hasn’t won a race since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix, but it basically won the Internet during today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

It was the team’s uproarious Twitter account – one that often is self-deprecating, full of snark and sass yet still full of engaging, important insights – that may have been the fuel that kept it going in the wake of a challenging season finale, and one that served as the Enstone-based team’s final race with Renault power units after a 20-year partnership.

The problems started for Lotus before the race even got going, because Romain Grosjean was slapped with a 20-spot grid penalty for exceeding the maximum power units.

Grosjean couldn’t even take all those positions off, so he had to serve a drive-through penalty within the first three laps to make up the difference.

That resigned Grosjean to 20th and last with Pastor Maldonado not much better in 17th.

Then Lap 27 happened, when Maldonado had a massive engine failure. There were flames. Maldonado’s race and season were toast.

And that’s when Lotus invoked one of its commercial partners – Burn Energy Drink – in a Twitter stroke of genius.

Burn was impressed, even after being beat to the punch at its own joke.

Shortly thereafter, Lotus reached out to @Charlie_Whiting – the fake race director and version of the real one on Twitter, as expertly played by Canadian Mark McArdle – asking if further penalties were coming to Grosjean. Here was that exchange:

Lotus paid tribute to Grosjean’s penalty in a series of tweets that, in true Lotus fashion, mentioned goats and yet made it not seem completely random.

The hilarity wasn’t done yet. Earlier this weekend Lotus revealed a video whereby one of its team transporters launched over one of its F1 cars. So Lotus had an opportunity to poke fun at that next.

Grosjean made it home to the flag in perhaps the most fitting position of all – unlucky 13th, and outside the points. The team’s post-race release had the headline of “Disco Inferno.”

“We did the best we could today,” said a diplomatic Grosjean. “My race wasn’t that eventful and unfortunately it came to an early end for Pastor, so I think that we are all glad that the season is now over.”

Added Maldonado, who was OK after his own fireball, “That was a surprising race for me. Our race pace was actually pretty good and I was able to fight with the Ferraris as well as enjoy the feel from the car. I was able to push and the car worked well on both tyre compounds. Unfortunately, my race had to end early. The flames showed the engine wasn’t working too well which also mean it was getting quite hot in the car!”

So Lotus ends its character-building season eighth in the Constructor’s Championship with just 10 points – two eighth-place finishes for Grosjean and a single ninth for Maldonado. A year ago, the team ended fourth with 315 points.

What a difference a year makes.

Hopefully, as has been the case for Williams this year, Lotus will be able to turn it around with a new chassis and a new engine, a Mercedes, in 2015.

In any event, we continue to thank Lotus for their continued brilliance on social media. If you can’t laugh at a day like today Lotus had, you’ll cry. And it’s good to see Lotus choose the former.

Follow @TonyDiZinno

IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta: How to watch, start times, schedule, entry list

AUTO: NOV 13 IMSA - Motul Petit Le Mans
David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Start times, TV schedule: The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will conclude the 2022 season this weekend with the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta, which also will mark the end of the line for the DPi class.

The premier Daytona Prototype international category, which started in 2017, will be replaced by the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with its LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to Le Mans.

For the third time in four years, an Acura will be crowned the champion in DPi as the No. 10 of Wayne Taylor Racing holds a 19-point edge over the No. 60 of Meyer Shank Racing.

Last year, WTR’s No. 10 entered the season finale with a 19-point lead but lost the title to the No. 31 Cadillac of Action Express.

Full-time WTR drivers Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor (who will be joined by Brendon Hartley in the No. 10 this weekend) have a series-leading four victories this season. The MSR duo of Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves this weekend) won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and have five runner-up finishes this year.

Championship scenarios in the other four categories:

GTD Pro: Points leaders Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet will clinch the title by starting in their No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.

–GTD: There are 140 points separating the top four teams with Roman De Angelis and the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 leading by 45 points.

–LMP2: John Farano is first in the driver standings by 33 points over Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel. In the team standings, the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports leads by 19 points over the No. 8 Tower Motorsport (Farano’s team).

–LMP3: No. 54 CORE autosport drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun lead by 83 points over the No. 74 Riley Motorsports of Gar Robinson.

With the 10-hour race requiring an extra driver, several stars from other racing series have been added. In addition to Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay will serve as third drivers in Chip Ganassi Racing’s pair of Cadillacs.

Jimmie Johnson also will be making his last DPi start in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac with Mike Rockenfeller and Kamui Kobayashi. Petit Le Mans could mark the last start in an IMSA prototype for Johnson, who has said limited inventory likely will keep him out of the GTP category in the Rolex 24 next year.

Here are the start times, starting lineup, schedule and TV info for the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta (all times are ET):


Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta start times, schedule, TV info

When: Saturday, 12:10 p.m. ET

Race distance: Ten hours on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course

TV: Noon-3 p.m., NBC; 3-10:30 p.m., USA Network. Peacock, the NBC Sports App,and NBCSports.com will have streaming coverage of the event from flag to flag beginning at noon. Leigh Diffey and Dave Burns are the play by play announcers with analysts Calvin Fish, Townsend Bell, James Hinchcliffe and Brian Till. The pit reporters are Kevin Lee, Hannah Newhouse, Dillon Welch and Matt Yocum.

IMSA.com live TV qualifying stream: Friday, 3:35 p.m. ET.

IMSA Radio: All sessions are live on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com; SiriusXM live race coverage will begin Saturday at noon (XM 207, Internet/App 992).

Forecast: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 63 degrees with an 85% chance of rain at the green flag.

Entry list: Click here to see the 48-car field for the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta


Daily schedule IMSA Petit Le Mans

Here’s a rundown of the Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia:

Wednesday, Sept. 28

9:30 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

10:25 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup

12:30 p.m.: Prototype Challenge practice

1:15 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 practcice

2 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup practice

3:30 p.m.: Michelin Challenge practice

Thursday, Sept. 29

8 a.m.: Prototype Challenge practice

9 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup qualifying

9:50 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

11:40 a.m.: Prototype Challenge qualifying

12:10 p.m.: Michelin Challenge practice

1:50 p.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 1

2:55 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

5 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 1

6 p.m.: Michelin Challenge qualifying

7:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

Friday, Sept. 30

8 a.m.: Prototype Challenge race

9:50 a.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 2

10:55 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 2

1:10 p.m.: IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race

3:40 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying

Saturday, Oct. 1

9:15 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

12:10 p.m.: Petit Le Mans