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Lotus: We’ll challenge the establishment this season 31 Jan 2011

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus T127. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Friday 19 November 2010. Lotus T128 Mike Gascoyne (GBR) Lotus F1 Racing Chief Technical Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Preparations, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, 4 November 2010 Lotus T128 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Lotus T127.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, 6 November 2010

With just five months of preparation before they launched their first car, Lotus started the 2010 season on the back foot. But as they look ahead to their second at the online launch of their new T128 car, the Hingham-based team are optimistic they can compete with more established outfits this year thanks to a longer development programme.

“With last year’s car and especially the first half of the season it was just an exercise in survival, whereas from the middle of last year it was about building the team up - that’s when we started working on this car,” explained chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne. “I think that basically, when you look at this car it looks like a frontrunning car in every area.

“It really follows current design trends, and aerodynamically it’s much more evolved. I mean, a car is really the sum of 4,000 small details, so it’s hard to pick out specific areas that are particularly brilliant, but overall it’s a much more optimised work of design and engineering.

"We’ve said very clearly that we want to start challenging the established teams, and I think that’s very achievable. But that line has to continue going up, so we’ll have to target being up there with Toro Rosso, Sauber and Force India, and then end the season by targeting Williams and Renault.”

Despite his confidence, and the relief of having had time to fully develop the new T128, Gascoyne doesn’t pretend the process has been easy. Indeed, unlike most of their rivals, the team started the design process for their 2011 challenger with a mostly blank canvas. The result is that there is very little left of its 2010 predecessor in the new car’s makeup.

“I think the thing that was a challenge this year was that the 2010 car really was a one-off , because of the way it was done with the design team and the time we had,” added Gascoyne. “There’s been almost no carry-over of parts for the 2011 car, whereas normally you’d have a substantial carry-over and the chance to optimise last year’s parts. It looks substantially different from last year’s car - it has a much more ‘current’ feel about it. And it’s the basis of our cars for the future.”

Although Gascoyne is touting the T128 as a real step forward, the car won’t start the season with a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS), as the team decided the technology’s inclusion would have demanded they make too many compromises in the car’s design. Even so, Lotus didn’t rule out the addition of a KERS as the season progresses.

“If KERS was going to get us from eighth to sixth then we’d have it,” said chief operating officer Keith Saunt. “But when you look at the weight of it and some of the engineering challenges, I think it’s a good decision not to start with it. We might end up with it, who knows? But if we did we’ve got a lot of experienced people who could turn their hands to it. We’ve got some very clever people here.”

KERS system or not, Saunt is just as confident as Gascoyne that the team will challenge their more established rivals in 2011. And despite their points tally being stuck on zero for the entirety of last season, he is hopeful they will break their duck in a very significant way this season and perhaps even finish higher than the eighth place they are targeting in the standings.

“A lot of people might say I’m too optimistic… But I’d like to think we’ll get between 40 and 50 points this year,” he concluded. “I think we’re targeting eighth strategically, but I doubt there’ll be a lot between sixth, seventh and eighth. Depending on how the other guys are doing, seventh could be achievable.”

Launch over, the T128 will make its on-track debut during the multi-team test at Valencia on Wednesday.

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