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Underdog Lotus/AJR Evora races ahead on the road to success

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The Alex Job Racing (AJR) team does not include magicians or miracle workers, but you might think otherwise judging by what they’ve accomplished with their new Lotus Evora. One month after they took delivery of an unproven and underdeveloped racecar along with six crates of spare parts and extra components, the AJR team had fashioned a car that competed in the toughest race series on the planet, the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) GT class.

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In its first outing, the Evora finished 12th in class some 27 laps behind the class winner in a two hour race. Contrast this with the most recent race in which the Lotus finished seventh in class on the same lap as, and only 42 seconds in arrears of, the class winner after four hours of racing and you’ll have some idea of the improvements made by the talented and tenacious AJR crew.

Lotus racing heritage
Few makes have the racing heritage of Lotus. Between 1963 and 1979 Lotus Formula One cars won seven constructor’s championships with the help of legendary drivers Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti. A list of Lotus firsts is truly impressive:

  • 1957 – First Le Mans win (Lotus Eleven)
  • 1960 – First Grand Prix win (Type 18 at Monte Carlo)
  • 1963 – First Formula One constructor’s championship (Type 25)
  • 1963 – First Formula One driver’s championship (Jim Clark)
  • 1963 – First British saloon car championship (Ford Cortina Lotus)
  • 1965 – First Indy 500 win (Type 38)
  • 1978 – First World Rally constructor’s championship (Talbot Sunbeam Lotus)

No car company outside of Maranello can approach Lotus’ success in all types of racing and rally competition.

Today’s Group Lotus PLC has picked up the racing baton passed down by previous incarnations of the company and is carrying it forward in various worldwide racing venues including the ALMS.

American Le Mans Series
The GT class of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón has a history of close racing and intense competition. In qualifying for a recent race at Road America, the first seven cars were separated by 0.6 seconds. After four hours of slam bang competition, the seventh place Lotus/AJR Evora finished only 42 seconds behind the class-winning BMW.

“It's a pleasure to welcome the Lotus brand and its spectacular Evora to the most competitive GT class of racing in the world.” said Scott Atherton, ALMS president and CEO. “I know that fans at each of our events will be enthralled when the AJR Lotus, complete with its iconic [Lotus black and gold] livery and Battery Tender sponsorship, hits the track.”

Please check the ALMS website for information on the racing schedule and how you can see all the action.

Alex Job Racing
Alex Job Racing is one of the most successful teams in sports car racing. The team was founded by Alex Job in 1988 and began racing full time in 1990. AJR jumped into the then-new ALMS with both feet in 1999 fielding a two car effort. Porsche was suitably impressed with AJR and gave them factory support beginning in 2001. The team’s achievements now include:

  • ALMS GT series championships in 2002, 2003 and 2004
  • A record of 22 consecutive ALMS GT pole positions
  • Two class victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
  • Seven class victories in the 12 Hours of Sebring.

It is no wonder that Lotus chose AJR as its ALMS GT development partner. “We are focused on winning,” said Dany Bahar, CEO of Group Lotus. “Alex Job has one of the best records in sports car racing. We look forward to working together and developing a top-tier team over the coming years. Racing is a core component of the Lotus brand, and we are thrilled to have this new partnership to further enhance our winning racing heritage.”

Underdogs can bite
The Lotus Evora is a two-seat grand touring car powered by a 4 liter V6 Toyota Cosworth engine mounted amidships. In racing trim the transverse engine generates 470 hp and is coupled to a six-speed, sequential Xtrac transmission.

Despite the inherent advantages of a lightweight, mid-engine car and support from Battery Tender® charging systems, Yokohama tires, Schecter guitars and William Rast clothing, the Evora has to be considered an underdog in the ALMS. The single car effort by Lotus/AJR must compete against two car teams from Corvette, Porsche, BMW, Ferrari and Viper, as well as two experienced single car Porsche teams. All of the Evoras competitors have had extensive chassis and engine development, and the teams have amassed vast amounts of set-up data for every track.

Lotus/AJR has had neither the time nor the budget to undertake the extensive chassis and engine development necessary to run at the front of the pack with the big dogs. The team championship is now out of reach, and drivers Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler are out of the driver’s championship points race.

However, with a little more magic from the AJR crew and continuing tire development from Yokohama, Lotus/AJR may very well play the spoiler role and have a big say in who wins the ALMS team and drivers championships. The big dogs up front had better pay attention to the Lotus/AJR Evora – sometimes underdogs can bite.

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©August 2012 by Bruce Troxell

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