Lotus will launch an Exige-based rally car at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show, CAR has discovered. The company has announced it is broadening its already widespread motorsport activities to offer a race car for GT rallying categories.
Although Hethel no longer produces the Exige, CAR understands a successor is in the works and will be engineered as a lairy rear-wheel drive racer to slot beneath the Super 2000s.
There’s no word yet on which formula in WRC or IRC the Lotus rally car will compete in. Privateers have competed in amateur rallying for years in Elises and Exiges, and Lotus sniffs an opportunity to sell them factory-prepped cars.
When will Lotus launch the Exige rally car?
Lotus will homologate the 300 models necessary in time for launch in January 2012, according to Claudio Berro, Lotus’s director of motorsport. Insiders suggest it could in fact build a few hundred more than that figure.
Customer race cars like this make good business sense and Hethel expects to harvest a decent margin on the Exige racers, just as Prodrive does from rally-fettled Imprezas or Peugeot from its race hatchbacks.
Berro, Ferrari’s F1 team manager a decade ago, is no stranger to rallying: he was co-driver in a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus and Italian Group 2 rally champion in 1981 and 1982.
Is Lotus trying to compete in every single motorsport formula?
It appears so! It already partners Renault in F1 and came seventh in its GT class at Le Mans in 2011. If it adds a factory rally team as well as flogging privateer cars, it would have one of the broadest spread of motorsport activities of any single brand.
Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar said: ‘Rather than spend a single pound on advertising, I would rather invest in motorsport. It’s so core to Lotus – and a great way to reach our potential customers.’
What’s next? Le Mans? The moon?
The company has also stated its intent to race in the LMP2 category at Le Mans. CAR understands that the company could even have a prototype ready to race in 2012, although other factions at Hethel believe this is too ambitious and 2013 is more likely.
Lotus is developing its own dry-sump 4.8-litre V8 for use in its future road and race cars. The LMP2 car will use the V8, which is being developed so it can be a stressed member suitable for top-level racing.
‘Our target is for it to rev to over 9000rpm,’ confides engineering chief Wolf Zimmerman. ‘This thing is going to sound amazing.’
Lotus will fire up its first prototype V8 at Hethel in August 2011.