Auto blogTue, 19 Aug 2014 11:28:00 EST
If we had a nickel for every version of the Elise that Lotus has rolled out over the years, we might actually have enough spare change to buy one ourselves. And we're not even talking about the entire separate models (like the Exige and Europa) that Lotus has based on the Elise's platform or the other automakers' cars (like the Tesla Roadster and Hennessey Venom GT) that have used the same. And now Lotus appears to be testing another one.
Spotted lapping the Nürburgring, what we're looking at here appears to be the track-bound Elise S Cup R, but our intrepid paparazzi by the side of the track tell us it's missing the switches for the battery isolator and fire extinguisher. In their place, this Elise is wearing an even bigger rear wing as part of an altogether rather aggressive aero kit - not to mention a rockin' matte red wrap.
All of these telltales make us think Lotus has something extreme in the works, and we could find out what exactly it is as early as the Paris Motor Show in October, so stay tuned and watch this space.
Remember a couple of months ago when a mischievous Stig broke into the Lotus racing headquarters in Enstone and made off with an F1 car? Well, now we know where he went with it.
In this humorous clip from Top Gear, the tamed racing driver in the white suit disembarks with Pastor Maldonado's Lotus-Renault E22 (not the E21 he took from the team's headquarters, eagle-eye viewers might notice) in Durban, South Africa, and takes it to Moses Mabhida Stadium for the Top Gear Festival. After having some fun on a dirt bike, a chrome Mustang drift car and a few other curiosities, he hooks it up to a bungee cord and jumps off a tower behind the wheel.
Now we're not quite convinced they actually did this and that it wasn't all CGI, but it's still worth a watch and a laugh.
What separates a road car from a race car? You're looking at it. It's the Lotus Exige V6 Cup, a model based on what is already one of the most hardcore performance machines on the road, albeit upgraded to an even harder-core spec. It's a good 130 pounds lighter than the Exige S (a vehicle which didn't have much flab to trim in the first place) and can hit 60 in under four seconds. With the notably exception of certain versions of the Porsche 911, there aren't a lot of six-cylinder cars that can claim that kind of performance.
In fact, the Exige V6 Cup is so close to race spec that it's already eligible for a number of racing series. Just bolt in the removable FIA-certified roll cage, maybe swap on some slick tires and you're good to go. Then you can drive it home again when you're done, just like in sports car racing's heyday. But don't take our word for it: the team over at XCar took the V6 Cup to the UK's Goodwood circuit to see how it compared to the Exige S it recently drove, and you can view the stirring results in the video below.
With only three manufacturers supplying engines in Formula One this season, the teams have been fairly evenly split: Ferrari, Sauber and Marussia use Ferrari engines; Mercedes, McLaren, Williams and Force India run on Mercedes power; Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Lotus and Caterham employ Renault power units. But one important team is reportedly preparing to ditch Renault and switch to Mercedes for next year.
That team is Lotus, an outfit which has fallen off its pace the past few seasons but which has still been a vital partner for Renault. That's because until a few seasons ago, the team based in Enstone, UK, was owned by Renault and bore the company's name. The operation was founded in 1981 as Toleman, was rechristened Benetton in 1986, bought by Renault 2000, taking the company's name in 2002, sold to its current owners Genii Capital 2009 and adopting the black and gold Lotus livery in 2011. As Benetton, it ran Ford engines until switching to Renault in 1995, sticking with the French outfit ever since, but that decades-long partnership - which meandered through Renault ownership and back out again - is now apparently drawing to a close.
The departure of Lotus as a customer team ought to allow Renault to focus instead on its increasing ties with Red Bull, which has taken the Enstone team's place as Renault's principal team. It could prove a smart move for the Lotus team as well, as the Mercedes engines have been outperforming the Renault units this season by an order of magnitude: not only is Mercedes far outpacing Red Bull at the top of the standings, but each of Mercedes' customer teams is performing better than Renault's clients.
Lotus is recalling 860 vehicles after discovering that the oil cooler hose could detach from its fitting. Should the hose separate, it could spray oil on one of the lightweight car's tires, giving new meaning to the phrase "sudden loss of grip." The other case is, believe or not, more dire, as the spraying oil could hit the engine and ignite. Of course, neither situation is desirable, hence the recall.
The vast majority of the affected vehicles (780 of the 860) are the 2008 to 2011 Elise and Exige, built between November 2007 and July 2011. Another 80 Evora S coupes from 2011, manufactured between September 2010 and September 2011, are also included in the recall.
All repairs will, naturally, be completed free of charge. In the Elise/Exige's case, that means replacing the hose fittings, while the affected Evoras will get a new hose assembly.
The Lotus Elise has given birth to some seriously fast and varied machinery. Aside from Lotus' own models like the Exige, 2-Eleven, 340R and Europa, electric vehicles like the Tesla Roadster, not to mention the never-released Dodge Circuit and Detroit Electric SP:01, are all based on the Elise's platform. As were/are the Melkus RS 2000, the Opel Speedster/Vauxhall VX220 and the Hennessey Venom GT. But this could be the most extreme use of the lightweight chassis yet.
This Series 1 Elise has been built by one performance-obsessed Brit with a single purpose: to compete in the UK's Time Attack championship. For those unfamiliar, Time Attack is something like a rally or a hillclimb event, only it takes place on a racing circuit. Each vehicle goes out on the track by itself and sets the best time it can, without needing to worry about other competitors until the finish line is crossed and it's the next racer's turn. That's what drove Lee to modify his Lotus so thoroughly, with more wings, diffusers, flaps and carbon fiber than a Boeing factory. Check it out in the video below.
As Top Gear's mysterious test driver, The Stig has driven just about everything on wheels - and more than a few things without. But an F1 car? That still remains a rarity, even on Top Gear.
That all changes in this latest promo clip, though. The video shows what happened when his Royal Stigness arrived at the headquarters of the Lotus F1 team in Enstone, England, where he somehow managed to scan his way in past security and got his hands on a Lotus-Renault E21, the V8-powered single-seater that Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean drove in the 2013 Formula One World Championship - and which the Stig will apparently be driving on stage during the upcoming Top Gear Festival in Durban. If you're not heading to South Africa this month, though (or even if you are), you can check out the footage in the video below.
Lotus is at Le Mans this week where it has unveiled its new LMP1. Only it's not racing at Le Mans. And it's not really a Lotus, either.
The prototype belongs to an independent German team that ran a Lotus chassis in the LMP2 category last year, but was granted license by the FIA and ACO to step up to the top-tier LMP1 category to dice it with the front-running hybrids from Audi, Porsche and Toyota this year. Unfortunately, the team - which licenses the Lotus name from the automaker, much as the F1 team does - faced some setbacks. Not the least of those delays resulted from a mid-stream switch in engine suppliers from the Audi-sourced, naturally aspirated V8 it was originally set to use to a new turbocharged V6 from Advanced Engine Research.
As a result it wasn't ready for the Silverstone race that kicked off this season's World Endurance Championship in April. Nor was it ready for the second round at Spa in May or not for the headline event this weekend at Le Mans, but it aims to be on the track at the next round in Austin.
Lotus has announced a new, special edition of its hardcore Exige for customers in the UK and Europe. Limited to just 81 units (for the Lotus Formula One team's 81 victories), the new Exige LF1 is the ultimate accessory for fans of the British manufacturer's Formula One efforts.
Befitting of a car inspired by the Lotus E22, this particular Exige is finished in the team's traditional black and gold colors, complete with red accents inspired by the F1 racer. The exterior is further enhanced with unique badges that proclaim the LF1's limited-edition status. Matte gold wheels have also been fitted, just like this Lotus' big brother.
This isn't purely a paint-and-stickers job, though. Lotus has also touched up the cabin, offering up black leather and "technical fabric," complete with gold contrast stitching and piping. The seat backs and floor mats feature embroidered logos, while an individually numbered, carbon-fiber plaque sits on the LF1's dash.
Being a Formula One driver has its privileges. First off, you get to drive F1 cars for a living. You get treated like royalty and fly around the world. And if you're lucky, you might get a supercar thrown at you once in a while. It all depends on which team you drive for.
Fernando Alonso, for example, has had countless Ferraris, Maseratis, Abarths and Jeeps thrown his way. Lewis Hamilton was a little disappointed not to get the keys to that rare McLaren F1 LM when he won the championship. But Pastor Maldonado just got his hands on a new Lotus Evora S.
Pastor who now, you ask? Pastor Maldonado. The first Venezuelan driver in F1, Maldonado won the GP2 title in 2010 then made the jump to F1, driving for Williams for the past three seasons, impressively winning the Spanish Grand Prix in 2012. Now he's at Lotus filling Kimi Raikkonen's seat, and took delivery of his white Evora - complete with 3.5-liter supercharged V6 and six-speed sequential gearbox - in Monte Carlo last weekend during the Monaco Grand Prix.