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GP Week : Issue 160
RALLY >>> FEATURE Celebrated Italian engineer Andrea Adamo has been consultant to Lotus for the Exige S rally car project, having had rally experience at Fiat under Claudio Berro with the Grand Punto S2000: “In 2010 the FIA made enquiries with regard to bringing sports cars back into rallying. The sport has been missing the exciting cars that we had in the old days. FIA’s Jacques Berger drew up proposed guidelines and showed these to the WMSC (World Motor Sport Council) in December 2010. Since then there have been a lot of personnel changes in the FIA, and the idea was dormant for a while for want of someone able to progress the project,” says Andrea. Lotus was the first manufacturer interested in the R-GT plan, under encouragement from their Director of Racing, Claudio Berro. The new Exige S was due to be launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2011: “Initial work showed that a lot of features of the proposed rules, many items of which came from the policies used for other existing formulae, should not have to apply. Things like it was impossible to keep the standard location of the anti-roll bar, because this was mounted below the line of the hubs, which in rallying would be vulnerable. “Also, for example, the standard production location of the windscreen water reservoir was unsuitable for competition. Rally rules are constantly changing, for example the limits on servicing require changes to car specifications.” The last series of required adjustments to the R-GT rules were finally approved by the WMSC on 15 June 2012 by the WMSC and the FIA got ready to receive applications for homologation. Details of the required production runs had to be agreed, like the length of time required before the specified number of units (300) had been built. Normal homologation rules allow the production numbers to be reached within one year. And of course in the middle of everything else, the whole ownership of the Lotus company was in the process of changing as well... There are many sporting categories for which the competition version Exige S could be used, but the first priority is rallying: “Once work on a rally version can be done, it is relatively easy to adapt this for racing applications. The Exige S R-GT brings back the old traditions of cars which customers themselves could use on the road for competition rather than having to go to a company that specialises in modifying cars for competition. “Development work has concentrated on making cars strong enough for competition, focussing on reliability rather than increasing performance. Not a lot of testing has been carried out so far, because there were many issues which first needed the go-ahead from the FIA before there was any purpose in detailed testing. “A lot of the testing was carried out at the Lotus test track at Hethel in England, usually by Lotus’ resident test driver Johnny Mowlem, and on typical rally roads by Luca Rossetti and Bernardo Sousa. The whole project was something new for everyone. We had to look at it as a way to improve the whole rally scene not just for the benefit only of this car” . Lotus has become aware of a lot of interest in this type of rally car, especially by gentleman drivers who will want to look for sponsorship: “The name of Lotus is a lot more attractive than the names of a lot of other manufacturers in the sport! The aim is to make the car reliable. By regulation the engine has to be standard except for an air restrictor (34mm), intended to be used for many thousands of kilometres without attention. The engine had such huge torque as standard that normal engine tuning would not be wanted anyway. Suspension demands the original design layout, and Lotus was working with Ohlins to get the best base product” . The current aim is to have everything ready for the car to make a debut at Madeira, with a lot of testing to be carried out in the next month between now and then. And then, the start of a bright new formula? “We do not know which other manufacturers are expected to follow Lotus down the R-GT route, but knowing how things have happened with new projects in the past, new competition categories always need one brave manufacturer to open the road. Think about the last revolution, how long it took before things started moving with the Super 2000, and how Fiat were originally alone at first. We expect the same will happen in R-GT.” 30 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: