Slow Lotus: Could the Indianapolis 500 Have Just Two Engine Manufacturers?

Tiffany DaviesCorrespondent IMay 18, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 24:  A view of the scoring pylon during the IRL IndyCar Series 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 24, 2009 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Since the departure of Oldsmobile and Toyota following the 2005 IndyCar season, the Izod IndyCar Series (IICS) had been dependent on Honda as its sole engine provider. However, beginning with this season, the IICS welcomed the return of Chevrolet and Lotus as additional providers.

Although Chevrolet has been on par with Honda throughout the season, Lotus has been far from it. It remained to be seen just how far behind Lotus' engine program was, but Indianapolis has shown that they are lightyears behind.

Coming into the month of May, Lotus provided engines to Dragon Racing, Dreyer and Reinbold, Fan Force United, HVM Racing, and Team Barracuda-Bryan Herta Autosport. However, Team Barracuda-BHA and Dreyer and Reinbold both terminated their agreements with Lotus prior to the opening of IMS.

Dragon Racing, mired in a lawsuit with Lotus, secured two Chevrolet engines for its drivers just yesterday. This leaves just two teams, Fan Force United with driver Jean Alesi, and HVM Racing with driver Simona de Silvestro using Lotus power.

In practice this week, Lotus driver Jean Alesi said, "I feel very unsafe, being quite slow in the middle of the track."

With his top speed of 205.389 was significantly slower than any non-Lotus car in the field.

Simona de Silvestro was slightly faster in Thursday's practice, with a top speed of 205.690. However, this does not make the required 105 percent-mark needed for race day speeds.

Although this brings up debate regarding driver safety, it also raises questions as to whether the Lotus cars should be allowed to attempt to qualify.

Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star has reported that A.J. Foyt himself has stated that the Lotus cars are too slow for starting spots, and has also raised the possibility of drivers fielding three cars to bump the Lotus drivers out of the field.

Foyt hinted that his team has prepped a third car in case of a crash by Wade Cunningham or Mike Conway, but that it could be used on Bump Day for an additional driver.

Other teams with the potential for additional drivers include Dale Coyne Racing, Schmidt Hamilton Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing, and, only if needed, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. 

It is difficult to believe that a team owner would stretch his resources to the limits solely to bump Lotus from the field, but this may be a situation that proves to be true.

Additional drivers are available, with Vitor Miera, Davey Hamilton, and Pippa Mann all being spotted in Gasoline Alley, and Simona de Silvestro would be an asset for any of these teams if HVM decided to pull their Lotus entry. 

No matter what happens, it seems that Bump Day may have some excitement after all.