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Lotus Racing has formally announced its motorsports program for the 2012 season, where we’ll see the highly anticipated Exige R-GT make its race debut in the FIA European Rally Championship. In addition, the British automaker will enter this year’s European Le Mans Series in an Evora GTE and will also be supporting drivers in the CIK-FIA Under-18 Kart World Championship.
The Exige R-GT (pictured above) will sport Lotus’ iconic black and gold color scheme and will be piloted by former Portuguese champion and SWRC driver Bernardo Sousa. The Exige R-GT is expected to go through its final testing runs next week before its submission to the FIA for homologation. Lotus will build a total of 10 cars this year, with seven of them going to the official team and European drivers.
Johnny Mowlem will be one of three drivers in the Evora GTE that will be racing in the European Le Mans Series’ GTE class. The other two drivers will be announced shortly. The team will be ran by Gianni Giudici, who ran an Evora GT4 in the European Blancpain Series last year with a runner-up finish.
“Gianni Giudici has long been one of Lotus Racing’s most important customers, and creating this official partnership makes perfect sense. He has been very successful in endurance racing, and has the capability to run the car at a very high level. With Lotus’ technical support this will be a good combination for the European platform,” said Claudio Berro, Director of Lotus Racing.
Lastly, the Lotus Racing Karts team are preparing for the 2012 CIK-FIA Under-18 Karting World Championship that will begin on July 8th. The Lotus Racing Kart is built in Italy and “is arguably the most fun, raw and inspirational Lotus ever to hit the race track,” according to Lotus Racing. The top three drivers in Lotus Racing Karts will be rewarded with a fully-sponsored Formula Monza test with the Lotus Formula Juniors team. They will also be afforded a go in Lotus’ F1-inspired Type 125 customer car, plus a two-day test with the Lotus Racing Karts team and a tour of the Group Lotus factory and facilities in Hethel, England.
Lotus Motorsport achieved a couple of major milestones recently, firing up their first ever IndyCar engine while also giving their Exige R-GT Rally car its first shakedown runs – both of which occurred within 24 hours.
On December 22nd at Dallara’s headquarters in Varano Melegari, Palma, Lotus successfully started up the first official IndyCar engine while under the observance of Group Lotus Director of Motorsport Claudio Berro and his team’s technicians. Once they were satisfied with the overall results from the engine, the team began preparations to have the powerplant and car shipped to the United States where full testing will begin in January.
“The fire up in the car went really well, there were no nasty surprises and I think our partners are going to be very happy with the results. It was only October last year that we announced that we would become an IndyCar engine supplier and just 12 months on, we had an all new Lotus engine and three teams signed up – Bryan Herta Autosport, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing, and HVM Racing. We’ve still got a lot of work to do ahead of the start of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar season but so far I’m very encouraged by what I see”, said Claudio Berro.
Lotus also had their first shakedown runs in their Exige S R-GT Rally car in Turin with the team delighted with the results. Testing on the rally car will continue in the new year in preparations for the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship where the Exige will compete in the FIA GT category. It’s powered by a 3.5L, supercharged powerplant and looks to be a formidable race car in the series.
GALLERY: Lotus IndyCar Engine and Exige R-GT Rally
Alongside a new Exige S street car, Lotus has unveiled its proposed entry into rally racing, the Exige R-GT, today at the Frankfurt Auto Show. Weighing in at around 2,600 lbs this race car trades the old Exige’s 4-cylinder for something close to what can be found out back in the Evora S – a supercharged 3.5L V6. Power makes it to the rear wheels using a sequential 6-speed transmission with paddle shifters.
All the necessary equipment is in place to meet FIA racing regulations (plus a few extra driving lights up front), although Lotus does point out that it has yet to get approval to officially campaign the car in motorsports. That’s is certainly the plan though.