December 22, 2014

Lotus LMP2 season review

Lotus successfully completed the 2012 season of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The team showed a strong performance at its first year in endurance racing. A pleasant conclusion of the season was the start from Pole Position at the 6 Hours of Shanghai.

At the end of January, the team has announced its participation in the sports cars championship that includes the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. After a first roll out, Lotus was ready for its debut in endurance racing.

The inaugural season of the FIA World Endurance Championship started off with the 12 Hours of Sebring in March, where just one Lotus LMP2 car was in action. Thomas Holzer, Mirco Schultis and Luca Moro were at the wheel of #31. The three drivers showed a good performance in the opening event of the 2012 season and finished the race in sixth position in LMP2 class and tenth overall.

At the 6 Hours of Spa, Lotus was running two of its LMP2 cars for the very first time. Kevin Weeda and former Formula One test driver James Rossiter joined the team in Belgium. The quick and talented Briton Rossiter qualified car #32 outright in the front row of the LMP2 class, just four hundredths of a second behind the Pole sitter. Due to a start from the pit lane after an engine change, Rossiter and his team mates Kevin Weeda and Luca Moro made their way through the field and finished the race in eleventh position. Thomas Holzer, Mirco Schultis and Renger van der Zande in car #31 were able to achieve their best qualifying result of the season and started from fifth position. The race came to a sudden end for them after a crash one hour before the lapse of time.

The team continued its journey to the biggest race on the calendar, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which also marked the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Because of sporting regulations and limitations, just one Lotus LMP2 car was allowed to participate in the legendary endurance classic. So, Thomas Holzer, Mirco Schultis and Luca Moro represented the black and gold Lotus colours at the Circuit des 24 Heures. The event was interfered by technical problems and led to a retirement early in the morning. Until that time, the car was running well in the race and all drivers showed a solid performance at their first participation at Le Mans.

The FIA World Endurance Championship went into a two-month break before the starting field was back in action for the fourth event of the year at the home of British motorsport. From the 6 Hours of Silverstone, Lotus was contesting with two of its LMP2 cars at every round of the FIA WEC. Former Formula One racer Vitantonio Liuzzi joined the team and was driving alongside Kevin Weeda and James Rossiter in car #32. The weekend of the Italian Liuzzi and his team mates went off anything but ideal having suffered engine failures in the practice sessions and the race. With Christijan Albers, a familiar face was back in a race car. The Dutchman replaced Luca Moro in #31, who could not be with the team because of private reasons. Albers enjoyed being back in a race car after a two years absence and together with his team mates Thomas Holzer and Mirco Schultis he finished the race in 12th position.

The second half of the FIA World Endurance Championship started off with the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo. The fifth round on the calendar was the first of four oversea races in a row and Lotus was in good condition in Brazil. After six hours, both Lotus LMP2 cars took the chequered flag. Car #32 was fighting for the podium, but after an unreasonable decision by the marshals, the crew lost valuable time in the garage and finished the race in sixth position. Car #31 was running trouble-free and was eight in LMP2 class.

Lotus was travelling with a positive feeling to the 6 Hours of Bahrain after the strong performance in the previous race. The round in the desert was special as the race started in daylight and finished at night. Unfortunately, Mirco Schultis was ill and could not take part in the sixth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. So, just Thomas Holzer and Luca Moro were driving in car #31. The duo did well and Holzer had its best qualifying result until then. That it is very close in LMP2 category demonstrated the crew of car #32. James Rossiter qualified in sixth position, but just one tenth of a second behind the competitor in third position. In the race, Kevin Weeda, James Rossiter and Vitantonio Liuzzi were battling for a podium finish and proved once again that the Lotus LMP2 is competitive. The squad finished the race in fourth position just 30 seconds off from the second place.

The penultimate event of the inaugural season of the FIA World Endurance Championship took place at the foot of the Mount Fuji. The weekend started off with some problems for Lotus, but the team was able to change tack. Vitantonio Liuzzi qualified car #32 in third position, Thomas Holzer in car #31 repeated his best qualifying result with a start from eighth place. The 6 Hours of Fuji race started off well for both Lotus LMP2 cars. #32 was leading its class for a long time, but crossed the finish line in fifth position as a consequence of several collisions with competitors and an unplanned but requested change of the rear end. Thomas Holzer and Mirco Schultis in car #31 were on a solid run and had the pace to finish the race in sixth place. However, an alternator failure forced the German duo to retire. Nevertheless, the team was able to show another strong race performance before heading to the season final.

The 6 Hours of Shanghai marked the last event of the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship. Lotus was coming highly motivated to China and wanted to end the season on a high note. LMP2 class winner Jan Charouz joined the team as Vitantonio Liuzzi was not able to race in Shanghai. It was a good weekend for the entire Lotus team with Thomas Holzer (#31) being second in the first practice and James Rossiter (#32) in front of his competitors in the second practice session. Both race drivers continued their trend upwards and achieved their best qualifying result of the season. Thomas Holzer qualified sixth in LMP2 class, whereas James Rossiter put his Lotus LMP2 car on Pole Position, which was a big success for the whole team. It was the first Pole Position in Lotus’ young history in endurance racing and a worthy reward for everybody’s hard work. In the race, Briton Rossiter was on a good pace and used his tyres not too hard, so he could keep up with the competitors. Unfortunately, the race for car #32 ended prematurely due to brake problems. Thomas Holzer and Mirco Schultis in car #31 had a strong race and achieved their best result of the year by finishing in sixth position.

It was a good and exciting first season for Lotus in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The squad improved continuously and was a serious competitor in the LMP2 category. The drivers and team members did an incredible job and worked very hard for good results. The Pole Position in Shanghai was the icing on the cake for a challenging but also successful first season in endurance racing.

Lotus is using the winter break to get ready for the new challenges in the FIA World Endurance Championship and is looking forward to competing with its own and brand new sports car, the Lotus T128.

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