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11 July 2011

Group Lotus Motorsport brings you something from the weekend

GP2 - Silverstone

Lotus-ART driver Jules Bianchi took his first ever GP2 win at Silverstone on Sunday. Starting from pole position in wet conditions, he defended from Christian Vietoris and, after the pitstops, fought wheel-to-wheel to regain the lead, drove at qualifying pace, and took the flag, claiming a fantastic victory. Team-mate Esteban Gutierrez started seventh and made up several positions, but as the track dried and the team switched to slicks the Mexican struggled to adapt. He was classified 10th after a clash with Jolyon Palmer, which saw the Arden driver punished.

In Race 2, Gutierrez made two positions at the start and finished eighth, outside of the points, while Bianchi had another strong drive from eighth to cross the line fifth.

After a lot of points-wrecking incidents this year so far, Bianchi was thrilled to finally take his first victory: “This win was really important, because at the beginning of the season, which was quite difficult for me, it was important to show we can fight for victories. It’s good for everybody that they can see we are here.”

F1 - British Grand Prix at Silverstone

Changeable weather conditions at the new-look Silverstone circuit made life difficult for Lotus Renault GP, who struggled to squeeze a fast flying lap from either car in Q2. Vitaly Petrov missed out on the cut by two tenths, lining up 14th and team-mate Nick Heidfeld set the 16th fastest time.

There were deliberations throughout the weekend over which direction to take over the off-throttle exhaust blown diffuser rules, which is an area in which the R31 excels. At Silverstone, there was a clampdown. “The alterations to the engine rules have clearly upset the order somewhat, but that’s not where all our focus lies,” explained technical director James Allison. “The fact is that for the past three or four races we have been on a trend that is far from impressive and, at this event, we have been showing far less performance than we should be showing with our car and of the efforts of our team and partners. We need to pick ourselves up from here and get a lot of the forthcoming developments, because P14 and P16 are simply not good enough.”

As we have often seen this season, in the race Heidfeld came to the fore, tearing through the field from 16th to eighth. Petrov improved too, finishing 12th. But a total haul of four points is a lot less than the team are targeting at each race.

“We saw on Saturday that this would be a tough weekend but as usual I said ‘never give up,’” explained Heidfeld. “I had a good start. The big question for the race was when to change from the intermediates to the slicks and we were one of the first to do this. It was a good call, however we didn’t get as much of an advantage as you can sometimes get from timing your stop well. After that it was an interesting race for me as I had to look after my tyres. Finding the balance between attacking, fighting and not killing the tyres was not only very satisfying, but it also worked out well for us with four valuable points.”

Team Principal Eric Boullier congratulated Heidfeld on his points finish, but was disappointed by the team’s overall pace: “This weekend we have not been able to reverse a poor period we are currently going through and we will continue to work hard to rectify this. We have some good developments coming. These will take our performance forward, of that I am convinced.”


Indycar - Toronto

An incident-packed race at Toronto’s temporary street circuit, with eight caution flags, saw KV Racing Technology-Lotus’s EJ Viso overcome two punctures to finish ninth, having started 18th and earning the team 22 points in the process.

Team-mate Takuma Sato, who started directly behind Viso, suffered an early tangle with Danica Patrick. It broke his front wing and suspension, the repairs to which cost him six laps in the pits. He finished 20th, using the race as an elongated test session. Tony Kanaan, who was also disappointed to qualify a lowly 16th, pushed hard at the start to make up four places on Lap 1. But on Lap 3 misfortune struck and, in 11th place, he was hit from behind and taken out by Ryan Briscoe.

Kanaan believes he could have had a very strong race, despite his grid position: "I gave Briscoe plenty of room and he still took me out. It was too early in the race to be doing stupid moves like that. I had a good car and was moving up the field. I was going to the front. It's a shame for the GEICO KV-Lotus guys."


British GT Championship - Spa Francorchamps

Ollie Jackson and Phil Glew took their first class victory of the year, and the maiden win for the Lotus Evora GT4.

The Lotus Sport UK team were on course to win the first race but were taken out of contention due to a safety car issue. The lead Evora was waved through by the safety car driver just as it came into the pits, demoting Jackson and Glew by a lap. They fought back to fourth place while the other Evora of Freddy Nordstrom and Leyton Clarke finished third but with accident damage.

In Race 2 and with no more safety car headaches the Jackson/Glew Evora fought hard with first race GT4 victors Dan Denis and David McDonald in their Ginetta but then pulled away, taking a dominant win by 23 seconds. Nordstrom and Clarke came home fifth.

“Phil handed the car over to me in the lead,” said Jackson, “and though it was tough out there with all the cars on the track we made it through to the end for a great result for Lotus Sport UK.”

Team Principal Gary Ayles was thrilled with the result. “This is our first win, and we’re chuffed to bits. The car was really competitive all weekend. It’s frustrating not to have won both races, because we should have done and it was not our fault that we didn’t. The safety car waved us through and then pulled into the pits, and we found ourselves a lap down with nothing we could do about it. It was a cock-up by the FIA, and they’ve since apologized for it. But what is most encouraging is that the Evora has emerged as the GT4 class of the field and so we can be very optimistic for the rest of the season.”

Group Lotus Motorsport Director, Claudio Berro, is pleased with Lotus’s GT4 and GP2 performances this weekend. “Congratulations, first of all, to Jules Bianchi who is a very promising talent, and who is developing well at Lotus-ART. This first victory is, I’m sure, the first of many. And simply fantastic news from Belgium that the Evora GT4 has taken its maiden win. Well done to everybody at Lotus Sport UK for making this happen. In Formula One and IndyCar it has been a more trying weekend, but that’s motor racing and we hope for stronger performances in the next couple of rounds.”