Despite its troubles on the track and in the court rooms, Lotus’ quest at getting its brand ambassador, former Grand Prix veteran Jean Alesi, onto the Indianapolis 500 grid shows no sign of stopping.
The beleaguered IndyCar engine partner has confirmed that it will enter the French-Sicilian at the world’s most famous oval race in an entry run by the Fan Force United team, a team which competes in Indy Lights but which will make a one-off step up to the bigger league.
This late announcement means that the 47-year-old will run in tomorrow’s customary Rookie Orientation test ahead of what he hopes will be his first ever oval race at the Indianapolis 500 in three weeks time.
Under the IndyCar Series rules, Alesi must demonstrate his ability to safely handle the car at speed around the ‘Brickyard’ before he’ll be allowed to participate in the event’s qualifying programme.
Alesi had been originally expected to partner with the Newman/Haas Racing team’s one-off outing at the race, but last week’s withdrawal of its entry threw that speculation into chaos.
Alesi was linked with a possible second seat at the one-car HVM Racing team alongside Simona de Silvestro.
“We’ve been talking about this race for a long time, and trying to find the right team to go with,” Alesi has said of the latest news.
“I’m very happy to be joining Fan Force United. Lotus believe it’s the right place for me to be, and I trust the team completely and am sure we will do a super job. I did a seat-fitting on Monday and from now onwards I’ll concentrate on preparing for the race ahead of the other drivers getting out there.”
The announcement is good news for Lotus, which has endured a dire couple of weeks in its first year of IndyCar competition as one of the series’ three engines suppliers.
Two of the four teams it supplied – Bryan Herta Autosports and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing – successfully petitioned series officials to allow them to change engine suppliers. Both teams cited dissatisfaction with the uncompetitive and unreliable performance of the Judd-developed, Lotus-badged turbo engines, which have had little in the way of testing or development.
More recently, the Dragon Racing team also announced its intention to split with Lotus, launching a $4.6 million damages claim for what it has claimed are repeated instances of “contractual fraud” by Lotus.
The news leaves HVM Racing as the only full-time team left in the championship to run with Lotus engines.