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Lotus to be the engine to have in IndyCar? It is well documented now that the new IndyCar handles diabolically on the ovals because the inferior designed Dallara has too much of its weight on the rear tires. It's oversteer in and understeer on exit to a corner, the worse possible scenario.
While Chevy and Honda are already turning laps on the race track, Lotus has been quietly designing their engine and may have come up with a superior lightweight engine that will alleviate the Dallara's heavy rear-end.
The minimum weight for each power plant is 100 kilograms, or 212 pounds. Lotus has reportedly come in well under that mark, some saying by more than 40 pounds. While they will have to meet those requirements, coming in under-weight could be a strategic advantage. In adding ballast to meet the minimum, they could lower the center of gravity by placing the extra mass at the bottom of the engine, as designer John Judd explained to SPEED’s Marshall Pruett. And we do not know if Honda and Chevy have met that minimum or are over the 212 pounds.
Claudio Berro, director of motorsport for Lotus, was formerly with Ferrari and worked under Jean Todt. Don't underestimate him.
Lotus even admitted as much in their press release. “We have also managed to produce a very light power plant, in the true spirit of Lotus. However, we are keen to test the package on track and look forward to our first test in early January, slightly later than originally planned but designed to give us more time to fine-tune our package before taking to the track."
We all know adjusting the center of mass for a car will have a great effect on its handling. Similarly, it stands within reason to believe altering an engine’s center of mass will also change a car’s handling characteristics. And if speculation is true that Chevy and Honda are over the 212 pound minimum, the Lotus teams will be able to add ballast forward on the car as compared to the Honda and Lotus teams to improve its diabolical handling.
So while it's too early to tell if Lotus is in position to beat Honda and Chevy, and we still do not know if the lightweight engine is reliable, but if it is, the smaller teams who were forced to go with Lotus because Chevy and Honda would not have them, could end up having the last laugh. While a bit of a stretch, it does make for interesting Silly Season fodder.
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