AUTOSPORT magazine reports this week that Lotus is likely to abandon its IndyCar engine program at the end of the current IZOD IndyCar Series season, despite being just one year into a five-year supply contract it entered into at the beginning of the series' new turbo formula.
The John Judd-built Lotus engine was a late arrival to the IndyCar field last winter, and faced further obstacles when the Malaysian-owned, British-based sports car manufacturer was sold, which resulted in a freeze on its accounts and strained relations with Lotus' partner teams in IndyCar.
By April, HVM Racing's entry, driven by Simona de Silvestro, was Lotus' sole representative on the IndyCar grid apart from Jean Alesi's quixotic Indianapolis 500-only run. Both Lotus-powered cars were quickly black-flagged on race day at Indy for being unable to run at competitive pace, and de Silvestro has regularly been at the back of the field in subsequent races, despite an approved update program that upgraded the Lotus V6 starting at Toronto.
Lotus IndyCar project manager Olivier Picquenot told AUTOSPORT that "we are still committed to the end of the season," although he declined to be speculate about the future beyond that. "Our new owners [DRB-Hicom] will study every department at the end of the year – in motorsport, in production, and everything. It's very difficult to say if they will be committed for the next four years."
If Lotus does decide to end its program, it would have to negotiate an exit from its contract with IndyCar, whose CEO Randy Bernard said he has had no such conversations with Lotus officials to date.
Picquenot said he expected that the final decision on the IndyCar program will be based on the level of progress Lotus is able to demonstrate over the remainder of the season in closing the performance gap to Chevrolet and Honda. He added, however, that there are no plans to expand beyond the current one-car program.
"There is no second car this year, for sure, he said. "You need to have the commitments – find a driver, find mechanics, and three or four races before the end of the season is too late. We will just concentrate on trying to serve HVM as best we can."