Lotus releases 2 teams from engine contracts

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 24, 2012
Struggling engine manufacturer Lotus released Bryan Herta Autosport and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing from its IndyCar engine contracts Tuesday. The release clears the two teams to cut new deals with powerhouse manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda, and leaves Lotus with just three cars spanning two teams. BHA had already said it would not take Alex Tagliani to Sunday's race at Brazil, while DRR driver Oriol Servia will make his final start with a Lotus this weekend. ''It was clear from the start that the 2012 season was going to be a huge challenge as Lotus debuted its IndyCar engine, but it was a challenge that Lotus was determined to meet,'' Lotus said in a statement. Letting BHA and DRR go probably helps Lotus, which has not been able to build enough engines and lags far behind the other manufacturers in horsepower. A reduced workload could give Lotus a chance to catch up. It's teams have been severely restricted in testing this season because of a lack of engine availability, and no Lotus teams participated in the open test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this month. ''Lotus has acknowledged that whilst the engine has demonstrated a lot of promise, minimal testing has resulted in reliability issues,'' the statement said. ''Having now had the experience and feedback from the first three races of the season, Lotus undertook a strategic review of its position to decide what course of action would be in the best interests of IndyCar and the teams it supports.'' Tagliani has failed to finish the last two races, and the team decided late last week not to travel to Brazil. Servia has had three engine changes through three races already this season, and each one earned a 10-spot penalty on the starting grid. IndyCar has also said teams are limited to just five engines all season before they will be again penalized. The strict rules are in place to protect the engine builders, who have given IndyCar multiple engine competition for the first time in seven years. But IndyCar is adamant it will help the engine manufacturers keep costs down to make it viable for them to compete. But Lotus was a late entrant into IndyCar, and has been unable to catch up to the competition. ''Lotus in IndyCar is like David versus Goliath,'' said Claudio Berro, director of Lotus' motorsports group. ''We are and always will be a niche British sports car company built for the few not the many. That said I'm delighted with our solution and I can assure everybody that the actions were taken after careful consideration and will assist in ensuring the brand's high racing ambitions and the high expectations of the IndyCar community are realized.'' Lotus' entry has been somewhat comical at times, particularly the season-opener, when Sebastien Bourdais had conceded he would not be able to compete because Lotus did not have an engine for his Dragon Racing car. Instead, the backup for Servia was transferred to Dragon the night before the first practice, allowing Bourdais to race in the season-opener. But the Lotus drivers have not been competitive, and the lack of horsepower is most noticeable on the straightaways at the road and street courses. Bourdais' ninth-place finish at Barber is the best of a Lotus driver this season. With BHA and DRR moving on, Lotus will now field engines for Dragon drivers Bourdais and Katherine Legge, and Simona de Silvestro of Lotus HVM Racing. In comparison, Chevrolet has 11 drivers and Honda has 10 - before either picks up BHA or DRR. In addition to finding a new engine manufacturer, DRR also will have to go through another rebranding. It changed its name from Dreyer & Reinbold Racing to Lotus DRR at the start of the season, and adopted Lotus' factory black and gold colors for its cars and uniforms. .
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