Lotus. It is one of the most iconic names in the world of motorsport. And yet, despite its illustrious history, more than a decade has passed since the brand released a new car dedicated to racing. But that long wait is finally over, as earlier this month the next chapter of Lotus history began with the release of the Emira GT4.
“Lotus has to race, that’s what Lotus is about,” says managing director Matt Windl, who returned to Lotus in 2017 and previously worked in its engineering division. “For me, when I came here, it was one of the things I really wanted to achieve. I’m a big fan of motorsports and I think Lotus should be there.
“It led us to this decade, so we chased every decade, and I think that’s very important. And we will continue to race every decade ahead as far as I am concerned. “
The return of Lotus to where it belongs on the racetrack is at the heart of Vision80’s strategy of transforming its business ahead of its 80th anniversary in 2028. The Evora GT4 first entered car racing in 2010.
In particular, since it has a new owner, Lotus now falls under the wing of the Chinese Geely Group – which is also responsible for the successful cars Lynk & Co at the World Touring Car Cup. With the new owner also came a new lineup, the popular and long-standing triumvirate of Elise, Exige and Evora were discontinued late last year.
In their place comes the Emira – Lotus ’latest cheers in terms of production car with internal combustion engine – along with the transition to the electric arena with the Evija sports car and the transition to the off-road segment with the high-performance Eletre.
Lotus Windle boss says brand “should race, that’s what Lotus is about”
Photo: Charlie Magi
But the changes are deeper than just in the cars themselves. Hethel’s headquarters and other Lotus facilities have invested heavily in both facilities and staff. An example of this is the Lotus Learning Academy, which trains the next generation of Norfolk engineers and technicians ready to expand the manufacturer.
“We built from the ground up, so that’s it [return to motorsport] It’s not just a home project that we put a few stickers on the car, we developed all the systems, all the people and the team, ”Windl continues.
Another clear sign of this commitment to racing is the creation earlier this year of the Lotus Advanced Performance division, which deals with everything but the major Lotus road cars, which now include motorsport. But work on the Emira GT4 goes much further than creating a new department.
“Our original plan was to build 90 cars. It’s starting to feel like that’s not going to be enough, so maybe we’ll build a few more. Let’s see.” Simon Lane
The development was led by longtime iSport engineer Richard Salvin, who helped Tim Glock to the 2007 GP2 crown, and work on the Emira GT4 began two years ago.
“When we designed and developed Emira, we always had it [motorsport] in mind, ”explains Windl, and Salvin estimates that 40% of the parts are transferred from the road car. “We’ve always thought that ‘right, that suspension should do GT4,'” this system should do GT4. ” It’s not just a plugin we made in the end, it’s always been there as part of the strategy. ”
This is an approach that has brought dividends to several leading GT4 cars and one that Lotus hopes to build on Evora’s success. This model won eight GT4 victories over a four-year period from 2011 to 2015 in the British GT, as well as countless other triumphs around the world before it became too long in the teeth to keep up with the latest GT4 models.
Some elements of the Evora have been retained, such as the transversely placed 3.5-liter supercharged Toyota V6 engine, but in many ways the Emira is a clean sheet. And this is slate, which was created not by one but by two successful motorsport brands, and the well-known engineering company RML also plays a “very important” role. While Lotus has designed and engineered various elements, RML brings it all together.
Emira is the successor to the Evora GT4, which won eight victories in the British GT from 2011 to 2015.
Photo: Richard Stiles
“It was a very partnership – RML creates cars using all the bits we put in,” says Lotus Advanced Performance CEO Simon Lane, who previously held a similar position at Aston Martin. “They also supported us with tests. The car was in Portimao, it was in Paul Ricardo, and they supported it.
“Another area in which they are really going to help us is after-sales support. Now we do not have such a structure as RML. They have a call center, they have really great support for parts, so they will be on hand and also attend some races – for example, in the British GT, they will be nearby so we can give proper support to people who buy these cars when they are racing. ”
And in terms of these potential buyers, interest has been great from around the world.
“From all over the world, from New Zealand, Australia, the Middle East, from all over the United States, we have a huge demand,” says Lane. “Our importer in Australia brings several of them to participate in the Targa series so that they are not only used in the GT4 but also engaged in other activities.
“Our initial plan was to build 90 cars. It is beginning to seem that this will not be enough, so maybe we will build a few more. Let’s see. “
But such a significant interest can create several problems as well as be positive, especially due to the constant disruption of the global supply chain. The first cars are due to be delivered to customers in the last three months of this year, ahead of a major push in 2023, but Lane can’t be sure how many Emiras will actually be ready by the 4th quarter.
“The challenge we have now is obviously to build them,” Lane admits. “This is a problem only because there is so much uncertainty in the global supply chain and some of our suppliers for this car are struggling to get spare parts. For example, at the moment there is a problem with Xtrac gearboxes. But now we are very focused on that, and in the fourth quarter we launch the car into assembly and hand it over to the customer. ”
RML has played an important role in the development of the Emira GT4, which Lotus hopes will be in the hands of customers by the end of the year
Having reached this point, and with only a few months left before debuting in the race, Lotus is on the verge of once again ticking the box labeled “motorsport”. But this is only the beginning.
“What’s cool for us is what we’re talking about right now, so the GT4 is basically finished, and we’re going to start creating and supplying them, what are we going to do next?” Lane says.
“We really want to continue this story with motorsport, to continue this Vision80 strategy to return Lotus to motorsport. I like to talk about what we did in the past, we have an incredible history of motorsport, we also need to start creating them here and now. ”
“We have plans to develop a motorsport strategy in the future, but what we’ll do is run it first.” Matt Windl
Windle adds, “It’s about doing it right. So we’re back with the GT4, we have plans to develop a motorsport strategy for the future, but what we’ll do is run it first. We wanted to get a competitive product, see how we go, build a team based on the motorsport offer, and then move forward. ”
And while the range of road vehicles is leaning toward the world of electricity, that doesn’t necessarily mean Lotus motorsport will also be headed in that direction.
“We’ve said we won’t be releasing new ICE cars with a large volume, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be doing something else that’s in the motorsport arena, so through Lotus Advanced Performance we’ve already come up with some ideas. at different levels where the product will be located, ”concludes Windl. “Much remains to be done.”
For Lotus enthusiasts, this sounds just as good as the throaty new Emira. The road version has already been spotted as the new safety car of the British GT package. Now Lotus race cars may soon be back where they belong and will also be fighting on the cutting edge.
Lotus supplies Emira for the road as the official British GT safety car and hopes to soon fight in first place with its own GT4 driver
Photo: JEP / Drawings of motorsport