Formula One’s feeder series stayed out in Bahrain for a second successive weekend, with Lotus GP hoping to repeat their brilliant triple-podium performance. However, a poor qualifying session made Race 1 rather frustrating.
Both cars sat out practice in order to save tyres, but found the track conditions were very different come quali without the benefit of sticky F1 rubber. Traffic, too, cost the team dearly. Esteban Gutierrez could only muster P13. Team-mate James Calado continued to struggle with the balance issues that dogged him a week ago, and lined up 22nd.
Esteban made a good start but then tangled with a rival and had to pit for a new front wing, dropping him to 21st. It made sense to change tyres too, but this meant his second stint was painfully long. He fought hard for a points-paying position and, with a post-race penalty for Felipe Nasr, was rewarded with 10th. Calado’s woes continued. He stalled on the grid and had to start from the pitlane. His ill-handling car destroyed the front tyres and he had no choice but to pit twice for new boots and finally finished 17th.
Race 2 proved a stronger showing for Lotus’ Mexican. Esteban sliced through the field up to third but with the chequered flag in sight the tyres started to crumble and he was forced to settle for fourth. Calado’s race was slightly happier than his last, with a number of overtaking opportunities coming his way. He finished 12th, a five-place improvement on where he starte
Esteban Gutierrez: “My wing was badly damaged at the start of Race 1, and that made life very difficult. Not only did I drop to the back of the field, but I had to wait for the pitstop window to open so as to avoid two-stopping. In the circumstances, we adopted the best strategy we could and I was also very happy with the balance of the car. I was able to fight back and, thanks to another driver’s penalty, I earned one point – so the day could have been worse. Race 2 was very interesting. I pushed very hard at the start and made some decisive passes. However, this cost me tyres and I paid the price for it at the end. Fourth place is not so bad, but I know I could have finished on the podium had qualifying been better. Having said that, we have a quick car and that gives us confidence.”
James Calado: “It was a terrible weekend with the same car handling troubles we had last weekend. We thought we had fixed it but the car was under-steering and it was destroying my front tyres, I just couldn’t find any grip. We changed everything we could: dampers, suspension and everything. We have to fix the handling problem in time for the Spanish races. I know what this team is capable of, and I will keep the faith.”
Lotus DDR driver Oriol Servia showed impressive speed on the streets of São Paulo as he crossed the line in 11th place, despite starting 23rd due to an engine change and taking a drive-thru penalty en route. Sebastian Bourdais finished 18th and hoped for more, but he was mugged at the re-start – the long straights making life difficult for the Lotus-powered machines. His Lotus Dragon Racing team-mate, Katherine Legge, hit the wall at Turn 10 on Lap 20, bringing the shutters down on her day. It was a frustrating mistake for the British driver because, at the time, she was lapping faster than the cars ahead of her. Simona di Silvestra also went for an early bath when gearbox gremlins set upon her Lotus HVM and, after ten laps stuck in sixth gear, she was forced to retire.
Oriol Servia (#22 -Lotus DRR): "We almost didn't make the start of the race. The guys did an amazing job. They were working until the last second putting the engine together and we didn't think that we were going to make it. Somehow we picked up the best result of the year and we'll take it."
Sebastien Bourdais (#7 – Lotus Dragon Racing): “You just need to look at the splits from the race: We have three fastest sectors (corners only : Turns 1 & 2, then T5 and T6) but it is not enough when we get in a pack of cars for a restart or a straight fight. We could have finished in the top 10 if we had not been collected in a multi-car incident that put us a lap down, but that’s racing.”
Katherine Legge (#6 Lotus Dragon Racing): “For the first time this year, we were actually faster than a few of the cars in front of us. I clipped the rear against the wall coming onto the back straight. Normally, that wouldn't cause much damage, but it depends on the angle of the impact. I thought it was just a flat tyre, but we came in and found out it was a bit more than that.”
Simona de Silvestro (#78 – Lotus HVM Racing): "I think we ran pretty good in practice this morning and we were looking forward to having a good race. The guys on the team have been doing a great job and working really hard. I feel bad for them that we couldn't finish the race. Now we just have to go back and work hard to get everything working right for Indy."
Lotus’ Evora GT4 scored a podium in the Algarve at the first round of the 2012 International GT Open, while its big brother, the Evora GTE, was running top five in its class until an accident curtailed the team’s race.
Lotus Giudici Racing’s Evora GTE qualified 16th in the Super GT class, 23rd overall. Changeable conditions throughout the weekend made both races challenging. In Race 1 the car crossed the line eighth in class, the Evora working well in the wet. Sunday’s Race 2 was damp at the start but the teams went with slicks anyway. Team leader Johnny Mowlem spun at Turn 2, dropping to 26th, but his recovery was brilliant. By changeover time in the 37 lap race he was fifth in Super GT and on course for a strong finish. However, team-mate Marcello Puglisi earned a drive-thru penalty for speeding and, as he rejoined the track, clipped a Ferrari and damaged the front-right suspension. This lost the Italian team four laps, dropping them down the order.
Portugal’s Goodsense Racing Team contested the GT Light class with their Evora GT4. Angela Negrao and Joffrey Didier qualified for Race 1 second in their class but failed to finish when a wheel nut came lose on Lap 10 after Didier’s pitstop for slicks. For Race 2, the team qualified third and maintained this position to the end, reaching the podium and setting the fastest GT Light lap in the process.
Johnny Mowlem (Lotus Giudici Racing): “The International GT Open is probably the most competitive GT championship there is. Given this was the first time the team had seen the car, we’d not been to this track before and it was our first time on Dunlops I didn’t hold out much hope for a result. I was therefore pleasantly surprised by the car’s performance. Starting the second race in the damp and on slicks was great, the Lotus loves that. We were on course for a storming finish, coming from the back up to fifth place. In the wet we were able to match the pace of everyone except the top three. The car handles beautifully, it’s just lacking aero and development. We’ll work on it, but I left Portugal feeling encouraged.”
Frederico Tome (Engineer, Goodsense Racing Team): “It was a very satisfying home race for us. Qualifying on the front row for Race 1 and third for Race 2 shows the car has the raw pace. We were unlucky not to finish on the podium in Race 1 because a wheel came lose and Joffrey was forced to pull over. In the second race the car was perfect and we were thrilled to set the fastest lap and earn third.”