Lotus is scheduled to get its new Formula 1 car out on track for the first time at Jerez in Spain on Feb. 17.
The Hingham, UK-based team, which is continuing its preparations for a return to grand prix racing in 2010, will join the final two F1 tests of the winter that take place before the first race of the season in Bahrain.
Chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne told AUTOSPORT: "We are actually a week ahead of schedule. When we got the entry on Sept. 12, our schedule said we would fire up on Feb. 12 – and we are now scheduled to fire up on Feb. 5. After that, we will be at the second Jerez test and then the final one at Barcelona. That will be the first time the world will see the car in action – and we are hoping that chassis two will run for the last two days of the Barcelona test.
"Being a week ahead of schedule is pretty good considering it is modern F1. To get an entry on Sept. 12 and to be there in good shape is not a bad effort."
Gascoyne openly admitted that with Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen on board, the team's ambition is to be fighting in the midfield by the end of the season. Although he concedes the start of the season will be tough, Gascoyne says a big technical upgrade already in the pipeline for the Spanish Grand Prix should provide a boost to performance.
"We've said we want to be the best of the new teams, and start not far off the back of the established teams," he said. "I still think that is possible – especially because there has been more and more disruption to some established teams.
"We said, if you are the best of the new teams then, with eight cars going out in Q1, you've only got to pick up one or two stragglers to get both cars into Q2 – and immediately you are a midfield team. That's if all the teams are there – which I hope they are, because it helps us."
Speaking about the car development program in the early stages of the season, Gascoyne said: "We started wind tunnel testing in October so, by the time we finalize the car, sort of around now for the first race spec, we will have had two months of wind tunnel testing. By the time we are in at the first race, we have had five or six months of wind tunnel testing, so the spec we are going to bring to Barcelona is going to be based on a hell of a lot more work than we have been able to do now.
"We have made pretty rapid progress, and if we can maintain that, then we will be in pretty good shape come Barcelona midseason – and that is really where you have to target where you've got to be. Yes, there is the getting there, but we've done the getting there now, we are going to be there, and we are going to be in professional shape and we are going to be OK.
"Now it is about where are you midseason, where are you end of season, and I want to end the season beating Force Indias and Toro Rossos and whoever is struggling – maybe Saubers. I want to be picking them off."