Group Lotus has announced that it is developing a brand-new LMP2 car for the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours as part of a massive expansion of its motorsport strategy.
The British sports car company has already launched a GT4 version of its Evora model, with GT2 and GT3 variations set to be made available as well, but will also be entering the prototype arena. Its LMP2 coupe is being designed by Paolo Catone, who was the chief engineer behind the Le Mans-winning 908 HDi FAP, and will begin testing late next year.
"The car is being developed to meet new ACO rules, it will have a closed cockpit and is due to be on-track late 2011, with an assault on the 24 Hours of Le Mans planned for 2012," the company announced.
Lotus has also promised that in addition to the GT2 version of the Evora, it will create an all-new GT2 car "based on one of our eagerly anticipated future road cars, set to be unveiled at the Paris Motor Show."
The announcement of Lotus' increased involvement in sports car racing comes amid the backdrop of its escalating dispute with Tony Fernandes' Lotus Formula 1 team over the use of the Lotus brand in motorsport. Group Lotus also entered into a GP2 and GP3 partnership with multiple champion team ART last week, and is ramping up its grass-roots motor racing programs and its IndyCar involvement with KV Racing, as well as building a new test track at its Hethel factory in Norfolk, UK, that the company says "will be ideal for customer experiences, GT racing and F1 testing."
Lotus Motorsport boss Claudio Berro said: "Lotus is motorsport and racing is in our DNA. We have a special place in motorsport history and now as we unveil the beginning of our future plans it's important for people to realize just how committed we are to doing our heritage justice.
"There is no better platform to demonstrate the transfer of technology from track to road car than a full range of pure motorsport activity – we have to tick all the boxes."