June 12th, 2009 – didn’t something happen that day? Indeed – Lukas Lichtner-Hoyer, Thomas Gruber and Germany’s Alex Müller got to the finish of the 79th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, sensationally taking third place in their class in their very first appearance!
“It was an incredible moment – it will live on forever in my memory”, Lukas Lichtner-Hoyer says looking back . . .
Two years later – this weekend (June 11th & 12th) – the squad from Oeynhausen in Lower Austria will again compete in this classic event – but under completely new conditions:
Jetalliance Racing has become Lotus Jetalliance – climbing up a step, so to speak, now being the official factory team of the traditional British marque. And with the Lotus Evora GTE a completely newly-developed car is being fielded. Following the première at the ILMC round in Spa, Le Mans is now the first great crucible for this new racing car – but also for the entire team!
And the latter has been working almost continuously since Spa to be ready for Le Mans. The new Lotus testing area in Hethel has recently seen almost daily night shifts to further develop the Evora GTE and to eliminate the mistakes that occurred at Spa.
New team, new car – and new drivers as well. Because none of the triumvirate that was successful in those days is still actively involved in driving – team owner Lukas Lichtner-Hoyer and Thomas Gruber will be on location but will not race themselves: “As I’ve already said in the run-up, I’m currently indispensable as the CEO of Jetalliance. And you can’t contest such a race without intensive preparation. But I’m looking forward to it nevertheless – because I’m proud that we will be there at such a traditional event as the Lotus factory team”, Lichtner-Hoyer explains.
The same goes for Vitus Eckert – the chairman of Jetalliance’s supervisory board was originally slated for the amateur car – but he too had to pass for occupational reasons.
Because of Lichtner-Hoyer’s absence from the cockpit due to professional necessities no Austrian will on the starting grid for the Lower Austrian team this year. One car will be driven by the two Englishmen James Rossiter and Johnny Mowlem as well as Switzerland’s Jonathan Hirschi. All three drivers bring a lot of endurance racing experience with them so that they should also be able to help the team. Three successful amateurs – namely Martin Rich (GBR), Oskar Slingerland (NED) and John Hartshorne (GBR) – will share the second Evora GTE.
As far as expectations are concerned, team manager Jan Kalmar has a realistic outlook: “We managed to build a new car in record time and have even contested a race with it already – but the fact remains that we’re still in the early stages of development. Even with the rule changes recently issued by the ACO sanctioning body we probably won’t be in a position to win. But I can promise one thing – we will be closer. Because Spa has shown that we have a lot of potential, but also that there’s still a lot of work ahead of us. We’ve accepted that and made a lot of changes to the cars. But we also lost a lot of time this way and weren’t able to run the endurance test earlier than this week. That’s actually unheard of in motor racing – but for us the time factor is really our biggest rival right now. We will head for Le Mans directly after testing.”
However not just the Evora, appearing in a new livery for the first time, will be the focus of attention, but also the exclusive hospitality that Lotus Jetalliance has put up in the paddock area for customers and friends of its sponsors – droves of supporters are therefore guaranteed, plenty of people keeping their fingers crossed as well . . .