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Lotus sets first IndyCar test date
Simona de Silvestro climbs in the 2012 Dallara Automobili chassis and exclaims “I could sleep in here it’s so big.” A few feet away at the HVM Racing shop, “Pork Chop” rests on stands, destined to be a show car.

The Swiss driver, who completed her second IZOD IndyCar Series season with HVM Racing in 2011, affectionately dubbed the chassis “Pork Chop” during an exasperating season. With prospects for a brighter 2012, will she name the next-generation car?

“Last year was the first time I named them and it was not the greatest year I’ve had, so I’ll have to think about it,” said de Silvestro, who missed two races – one because of injury and another because of issues while re-entering the U.S. – and had one top-five finish. “If we go to St. Pete and have a really good race, maybe a good name will come out of it.”

Watching the multitude of unpainted components being unpacked snapped de Silvestro into a competitive mind-set. HVM, which will house the Lotus engine program at its Indianapolis shop, is scheduled to commence the on-track engine development program Jan. 13-14 at Palm Beach International Raceway with de Silvestro behind the wheel in the Lotus-owned chassis. The team will join Chevrolet- and Honda-aligned teams Jan. 16 in their resumption of manufacturer testing at Sebring International.

“Now that the car is here, we can’t wait to go out to the track and try it out,” she said. “I’m pretty excited to be with Lotus and the team that has chosen me to start doing the development on the new engine and with the new car.

“I’m really lucky to be back with HVM and Nuclear Clean Air Energy and Entergy, and I’m pretty sure we’re going to have a better year in 2012 than we had this year. We just have to work really hard.”

HVM Racing manager Vince Kremer said he expects to pick up the Lotus car before the end of the year, and the team’s No. 78 car likely will make its track debut in February. The IZOD IndyCar Series opener is March 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.

“(The testing schedule) is quite ambitious, and that’s just the on-track,” he said. “We haven’t talked about any off-track testing, seven-post shaker rig testing or twisting the chassis. The good thing is we’re working as a co-operative group with Dreyer & Reinbold and Bryan Herta (Autosport) and we seem to be working quite well together.
“Palm Beach will be more of an engine shakedown test. We’re not really concerned about how many miles we run. Sebring will be getting more into developing the engine on the track.”

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Bryan Herta Autosport drivers will share in the preseason on-track testing, which will include Auto Club Speedway in California, much like the Chevrolet and Honda programs.

As Lotus partner teams, Dreyer & Reinbold and the Herta group will carry black and gold liveries announced recently by Group Lotus. Because of its commercial partnership with Nuclear Clean Energy and Entergy, the green and white HVM Racing car will look much the same as it did in 2011, according to Kremer.

"We may go to a little darker green and have a yellow stripe," he said. Lotus has been very good about working it out with us. The recognition will still be there."

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