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Lotus T128 (Le Mans Prototype)

The Lotus T128 is a Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) sports car built by Advanced Design and Engineering Systems Solutions (ADESS) and Kodewa and designed by former Sauber technical director James Key. It was used by Kodewa which went under the name of Lotus in the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship. Initial plans to construct a Le Mans Prototype car were made in March 2011 by Stéphane Chosse, founder of ADESS. Construction of the vehicle began in February 2013 following the acquisition of two chassis by Kodewa eleven months prior. The aerodynamic study of the T128 was undertaken by using a computer-aided software mesh tool from Altair Engineering and aerodynamics was the main priority in its design and Chosse took an approach similar to that when he was involved in Formula One. It features a variant of the naturally aspirated V8 engine from the BMW S65 used in the company's M3 model and produces approximately 450 hp (340 kW).

Lotus T128
2013 Lotus T128 Praga.JPG
CategoryLe Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2)
ConstructorLotus (Adess AG and Kodewa)
Designer(s)James Key
Technical specifications[1]
ChassisCarbon fibre honeycomb monocoque
Suspension (front)Independent double wishbone pushrod system
Suspension (rear)Independent double wishbone pushrod system
Width1,997 mm (78.6 in)
EnginePraga 3.6 L (3,600 cc) 90-degree V8 Normally aspirated mid, longitudinally mounted
TransmissionHewland TLSN 200 6-speed sequential manual Viscous mechanical locking differential
Fuelpetrol
TiresDunlop radial
Competition history
Notable entrantsLotus
Notable driversKevin Weeda
James Rossiter
Vitantonio Liuzzi
Thomas Holzer
Debut2013 FIA WEC
RacesWinsPolesF.Laps
8000
Constructors' Championships0
Drivers' Championships0

The programme was officially announced at the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans race weekend and its planned first test in December was delayed by seven weeks to allow for the installation of additional parts. Both cars failed to finish in its debut at the season-opening 6 Hours of Silverstone but finished within the top six at the Spa-Franorchamps race. A legal issue over unpaid invoices arose at the 24 Hours of Le Mans which resulted in the temporarily seizure of the cars by bailiffs until a Le Mans court ordered their return upon Lotus showing them that the invoices were fictitious. Both cars failed to finish the race and the following round in São Paulo. Lotus took their sole podium of the season at the 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas but failed to finish any higher than sixth in the season's closing three races. The two T128s finished seventh and eighth in the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Teams. After the season ended Lotus moved into the LMP1 category and replaced the T128s with a new car, the CLM P1/01.

DevelopmentEdit

ConceptEdit

Stéphane Chosse, founder of the German-based Advanced Design and Engineering Systems Solutions (ADESS), made initial plans to build a Le Mans Prototype car in March 2011. Two chassis were ordered by German racing team Kodewa for the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship exactly a year later.[2] It was developed in the high-technology park of the Bavarian capital of Munich by ADESS and Kodewa.[3] The T128 was also designed to meet the 2014 Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) regulations which significantly improved driver safety and visibility.[4] The project was overseen by Kodewa co-founder Romulus Kolles, Patrick Louis, manager of the Lotus F1 Team, Antonin Charouz, manager of Gravity Charouz Racing and Petr Ptacek, owner of the Czech car manufacturer Praga.[5] They were assisted by former Sauber technical director James Key.[6] With Lotus coming aboard as title sponsor, the Kodewa team took the name of Lotus.[2] Kodewa planned to sell the T128 to client teams for use in other championships.[7]

DesignEdit

 
The T128's black and gold livery was designed by automotive futurist Daniel Simon.

The study of the car was provided by computer-aided design software from Altair Engineering. ADESS engineers used the HyperMesh tool that was used for obtaining numerical simulations by finite elements. Finally, the use of the Radioss software made it possible for crash tests to be simulated and influence the design of the front nose of the monohull.[8] Aerodynamic development on the design was carried out in the scale wind tunnel at the headquarters of the Mercedes-Benz Formula One team in Brackley.[9] Choose explained that the aerodynamics of the car was the main priority in its design and took an approach similar to that used in his years in Formula One.[6] The chassis was constructed from carbon fibre reinforced polymer and integrates a roll-over protection structure.[10] The T128's black and gold livery was designed by automotive futurist Daniel Simon.[11] The suspension setup at the front and the rear of the vehicle consisted of a double wishbone pushrod actuated torsion bar with the dampers housed inside the monocoque of the car. It had bodywork elements that are designed to direct airflow into the chassis.[9][10]

Its engine, a naturally aspirated V8 variant of the BMW S65 used in the company's M3 model,[10] was angled at 90 degrees,[1] and underwent a re-badging by Praga.[11] Engineers used the production block of the S65, reducing its capacity to 3.6 litres (0.79 imp gal; 0.95 US gal) for the best possible efficiency rate,[10] The engine produces approximately 450 hp (340 kW) for a maximum speed of 9,500 revolutions per minute (rpm). Its maximum torque of 405 NM is achieved when the driver has reached 7,000 rpm.[1] A six-speed sequential gearbox was specially designed for the car by Hewland Transmissions and was installed onto the engine.[10] A single intake was mounted on the car's roof to allow for the feeding of airflow into it.[9] The Brembo brake discs were made of carbon ceramic materials and also features power steering.[10] Production of the T128 monocoque began in February 2013,[4] and it passed homologation a month later.[12] After the car's launch, Igor Zamorano of Motorpasión wrote of his feeling that its front end resembled the Audi R18.[13]

Preparation and driversEdit

 
Jan Charouz, Dominik Kraihamer and Thomas Holzer were selected to drive the No. 32 car by Lotus.

Lotus publicly announced its T128 programme on the weekend of the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans.[14] The first picture of the car was released to the public on 1 August.[7] Lotus sought to test the T128 in the first week of December 2012 but the late fitting of parts resulted in those plans being delayed until the third week of January 2013.[6] That month, the team announced their commitment for the upcoming World Endurance Championship season. At the same time, Lotus confirmed that Thomas Holzer and Kevin Weeda would be retained from the previous season.[15] Less than a month later, the team re-signed James Rossiter and Vitantonio Liuzzi to drive one of the two T128s alongside Weeda.[16] On March 28, Lotus entered the pre-season test session at the Circuit Paul Ricard but fielded just one T128. Two more drivers were confirmed to drive for Lotus at Paul Ricard: Christophe Bouchut was paired with Liuzzi and Rossiter in the No. 31 car, and Dominik Kraihamer shared the No. 32 vehicle with Weeda and 2009 Le Mans Series LMP1 champion Jan Charouz.[17] During the various sessions, a ruptured oil tank limited the sole car's running for several hours before a replacement arrived and Rossiter drove some installation laps.[18]

Racing historyEdit

Season-opening European legEdit

 
The No. 31 Lotus T128 being driven at the 6 Hours of Silverstone.

For the season-opening 6 Hours of Silverstone, Lotus were expected to bring two T128s to the event and the driver lineups of both cars were changed. Weeda, Bouchut (in for Rossiter who was racing in the Japanese Super Formula Championship) and Liuzzi drove the No. 31 T128 and Holzer, Kraihamer and Charouz were the trio who raced the No. 32 vehicle.[19] Variable weather conditions affected qualifying and had Kraihamer and Charouz put the No. 32 car fifth on the grid in class and Liuzzi and Bouchut managed sixth.[20] In the first hour, the No. 31 car was affected by electrical issues and was forced into the pit lane while Charouz and the No. 49 Pecom Racing Nissan Oreca 03 of Nicolas Minassian made contact.[21]

Later, the No. 31 vehicle was unable to finish because of problems with its steering and the electrical issues that affected the No. 32 meant it failed to complete enough laps for it to be classified in the final results.[22] Heading into the second race of the season, the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, Rossiter returned to Lotus and replaced Bouchut as one of the three drivers of the No. 32 car.[23] Both cars started from the fourth row of the grid with the No. 31 T128 of Liuzzi and Rossiter in seventh and the sister No. 32 vehicle driven by Holzer and Kraihamer in eighth.[24] In the race, both cars were delayed by alternator problems which dropped them down the order but were able to finish in the same class positions they started in (albeit switched with the No. 32 in seventh and the No. 31 in eighth).[25]

 
The No. 31 Lotus T128 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans showing the damage on its left-hand side and with the open left door.

In the trio of qualifying sessions held to determine the grid for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Bouchut set the No. 31 car's fastest time in the first session that put him fifteenth in class while Holzer secured sixteenth for the No. 32 car in the third (and final) qualifying session. Shortly after, the No. 32 was moved to the back of the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) grid due to not having all three of their drivers setting qualifying lap times within 110% of the class leader's pole time.[26] Weeda was caught out by the changing weather conditions in the second hour and spun entering the second Mulstanne Chicane and beached the No. 31 car across the kerbing.[27] The car pulled over at the side of the track after seventeen laps and was announced as retired four hours later with electrical problems.[28][29] The trio of drivers in the No. 32 were impeded by the left door becoming loose twice and it later lost its rear body cover. Furthermore, the trio's lack of experience due to their young combined age and reoccurring engine overheating issues dropped the car down the order.[29] In the seventeenth hour,[29] a bell housing failure in the No. 32 car damaged its fitted auxiliaries, curtailing Lotus's race prematurely.[30]

Legal issuesEdit

On 17 June, Lotus began legal action against Chosse, ADESS and SCE Solutions after the three organisations learned that the team owners Romulus and Colin Kolles are in debt. Choose claimed that the owners of Kolles owed them "a seven-figure amount" in unpaid invoices and filed a complaint with the French court.[31] At 17:00 local time on 18 June the two Lotus T128s were seized by a bailiff after Chosse responded.[31][32] On the afternoon of 19 June, the court of the city of Le Mans ruled in favour of Lotus after the team presented fictitious invoices from ADESS. The court then ordered that both cars be returned to Lotus.[33] As of 2018, the legal battle is ongoing,[9]

Podium in the AmericasEdit

For the 6 Hours of São Paulo, Rossiter was absent because of a Super GT commitment in Japan and Liuzzi was committed to racing in the Superstars Series, leaving Weeda and Bouchut to operate the No. 31 car as a two-person entry.[34] Kraihamer and Holzer were among the top five places in their class while the second Lotus of Weeda and Bouchut were delayed by slower traffic and were two places further back on the grid.[35] The No. 32 car's race ended early when Kraihamer lost control of the rear of his vehicle and went into the left-hand side of Stéphane Sarrazin's faster No. 8 Toyota TS030 Hybrid. Both cars ploughed into the turn three outside tyre barrier at high speed as a consequence. Both drivers were unhurt.[36][37] Bouchut's No. 31 vehicle was affected by gearbox problems from the start of the race and was forced into the pit lane. Bouchut was able to return to the track but the car was not classified in the final results.[35]

After practice for the inaugural 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas, Lotus mechanics changed the No. 31 car's engine, the fourth since the beginning of the season, entailing a three-minute stop-and-go penalty for the team.[38] The drivers of the No. 31 car recorded the sixth-fastest average LMP2 lap time in qualifying and Charouz went into the rear of Sarrazin's No. 8 Toyota TS030 Hybrid heading towards the first corner, sending the latter car into a spin.[39] At the start of the race, Rossiter made contact with Pierre Kaffer's No. 49 Pecom Racing Nissan Oreca 03 at the first turn. Because of the extensive damage to the suspension of the T128, Rossiter was forced to prematurely end the car's participation in the race.[40] However, the No. 32 car of Kraihamer, Charouz and Holzer took the team's sole podium of the 2013 season with a third-place finish.[41]

Season-ending races in AsiaEdit

Qualifying for the 6 Hours of Fuji took place under dry and sunny weather conditions and both Lotus T128s clinched the eighth and ninth spots on the grid (the No. 31 car ahead of the No. 32 vehicle) as the team focused on the ideal setup for the event.[42] The passing of Typhoon Wipha brought heavy rain to the area,[43][44] preventing any competitive action and only allowed the overall race winner to complete sixteen laps behind the safety car.[44] Hence, both Lotus cars finished the race in the respective positions of eighth and tenth.[44] Bouchut returned to drive for Lotus at the 6 Hours of Shanghai, in place of Rossiter who was absent because of a Super Formula commitment at the Suzuka Circuit.[45] The No. 31 car qualified seventh and the sister No. 32 vehicle placed eighth.[46] In the first hour, Holzer impacted the No. 57 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia of Niclas Jönsson, damaging the No. 32 car's left-rear corner and forcing it into the garage.[47] The other T128 retired due to an engine failure while the No. 31 recovered to seventh in class.[48]

While Rossiter was announced as returning to co-drive the No. 31 for the season-ending 6 Hours of Bahrain,[49] he was unable to attend, and thus Lucas Auer, the Formula Three European Championship fourth-place finisher and nephew of former Formula One driver Gerhard Berger, filled his place for his debut sports car endurance racing event.[50] The two Lotus T128s qualified in seventh and eighth on the LMP2 grid.[51] Liuzzi was involved in a collision with the No. 35 OAK Racing Nissan Morgan LMP2 in the first hour which sent the No. 31 car into the gravel trap. A few minutes later, Kraihamer made an error and went into the left-rear corner of Richard Lietz's No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR. The Lotus stopped at turn ten for twenty laps before it was confirmed as a non-finisher due to the heavy damage it sustained.[52][53] Competing with the T128, the Lotus team accumulated 37 and 11 points for both cars, placing them seventh and eighth respectively in the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Teams.[54] After the season, Lotus moved into the LMP1 category, and replaced the T128s with a new car, the CLM P1/01.[9]

Results summaryEdit

Races in bold indicate pole position and races in italics indicate fastest lap

(For more information about legend click here)

Year Team Chassis Engine Class Drivers No. Rounds FIA LMP2
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts. Pos.
2013 Lotus Lotus T128 Praga Judd 3.6 L V8 LMP2 Kevin Weeda
Vitantonio Liuzzi
Christophe Bouchut
James Rossiter
Lucas Auer
31 SIL
Ret
SPA
6
LMS
Ret
SÃO
Ret
COA
Ret
FUJ
7
SHA
Ret
BHR
Ret
11 8th
Thomas Holzer
Dominik Kraihamer
Jan Charouz
32 SIL
NC
SPA
5
LMS
Ret
SÃO
Ret
COA
3
FUJ
6
SHA
6
BHR
Ret
37 7th

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit