Had an interesting chat with Claudio Berro yesterday afternoon, the man who heads up the other incredibly ambitious part of Group Lotus's business plan - motorsport.
The Frankfurt offering is a rally car based on the new Exige V6, a car that is able to compete in all FIA rally championships and is honed to compete on asphalt events.
Look back over the past 12 months and Lotus has got involved in even more new motorsport projects than it has road cars. While going track racing in F1, GP2, GP3, GT, Indycar and Le Mans may sound ambitious enough, taking a small, firmly-sprung, rear-drive sports car rallying is a radical departure even by Lotus’s recent standards.
Lotus will look to partner with strong rally teams based in various countries and offer factory support, without fielding a fully-fledged works team. “The performance will be near the S2000 and my dream is for it to be as quick as S2000,” says Berro.
He also thinks FIA R-GT cars (the spec to which the Exige is built) can make rallying more exciting, as the current S2000 cars are based on more mundane machines found in local supermarket car parks.
“You don’t see the Exige at the supermarket,” says Berro. “Rallying should be more exciting with higher performance cars.”
Berro says an Exige rally car has been possible as the model was planned from right at the start of the new V6’s development, something that was not possible with the Evora. But its racing plans are not stopping there, as Berro has his eye on Lotus’s new V8 engine for use in its racing cars.
“We need more power as the V6 isn’t enough,” says Berro. “Having our own V8 engine in production will allow us to compete with Porsche and Ferrari in GT racing with the new Esprit.
“The Esprit is similar to the Exige in that the road car is built in parallel to the race car. Road and race teams are working together. In a very short time we have an engine testing.”
Berro’s ultimate racing goal is to get Lotus to the front of the field in Le Mans. Expect to see a new Lotus LMP2 car in time for 2013, complete with a racing version of the Esprit’s new V8 under the bonnet.
One thing Lotus is keen to sort out more immediately is the F1 naming dispute it’s having with Norfolk neighbours Team Lotus. Berro expects a court ruling in Group Lotus’s favour soon, so the confusion over whether the Renault-powered Team Lotus in the classic Team Lotus British Racing Green or the Renault-powered Group Lotus Renault in the classic Team Lotus JPS Black and Gold livery can race as Lotus will be cleared up once and for all. Phew.