Lotus Racing, in the ninth race since the return of the Lotus name to Formula 1, will be celebrating race number 500 this weekend at the European Grand Prix in Valencia.
Colin Chapman’s son Clive will join the Anglo-Asian reincarnation of the team in Valencia to pay tribute to the legacy his father created in 1956. The Type 12, which was launched in that year, will appear alongside the T127, the 2010 model, in the Valencia pit lane during the race weekend.
Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen will both carry a specially created ‘500’ logo on their engine covers, and a special range of memorabilia will be available.
Both drivers recognise the history behind their current employers, but are also focused on delivering in Sunday’s race.
“I'm really looking forward to Valencia,” said Trulli. “It's a circuit I like, and I enjoy the race there – It's always warm, and it's a beautiful city.
“I'm in the new chassis (T127-04) from this race, and hopefully that will bring me some better luck over the race weekend – in Canada I was really flying until the retirement, so I hope I can carry that through to this weekend and see the chequered flag.
“That's obviously important, but this weekend is also all about the 500th race for Lotus. It'll be very special to help take that famous name to such a milestone, and I'm very honoured to be part of it.
“I met Hazel Chapman on Sunday at the Classic Team Lotus Festival, and that was very special for me, particularly as I had the chance to drive Elio De Angelis' T91 in front of the crowds, and that felt great.”
Kovalainen reveals that he is now looking ahead to challenging the cars in front, rather than worrying about the Virgin Racing and Hispania drivers who the Finn believes that Lotus are well ahead of.
“The last few races have been very positive for our team, we've been making progress every weekend and the plan is to carry on pushing,” said Kovalainen. “For Valencia, and for the rest of the season, we're not looking back at the other new teams – we lapped them in Canada so we're looking to keep taking the fight to the guys ahead, and I think we can do that.
“This is obviously an historic weekend for Lotus, and for Lotus Racing, and I think we're starting to do justice to what's gone before us – it's fantastic that we can celebrate such a great milestone in Valencia, and it'll be an honour to be part of that.
“On the race itself – the track is a street circuit, but there is quite a lot more room on track than in Monaco or Singapore, so it's more of a semi-street circuit,“ added the Finn. “You can hit the kerbs harder, and find a better balance between the straight-line speed and the grip in the corners, but this makes finding the right downforce level crucial.
“It's always hot there, and getting the best out of the tyres will be important – we have the super-soft tyres there so we'll work on getting the best out of them on Friday and Saturday.
“I think we'll put on a good show, and give Clive Chapman and his family, and all the Lotus fans something to cheer for!”
Lotus Technical Director Mike Gascoyne reveals that they will be bringing further updates to Spain, and reiterated the team’s long-term aim of adding to the huge achievements of the their previous incarnation.
“I'm really looking forward to this weekend, and am excited about both celebrating the 500th race Lotus has competed in, and helping add another chapter to one of motorsport's greatest stories. We've already come a long way this season, and have much further to go until we can add more glory to the Lotus legend, but I and the whole team are very proud to be in a position to help the Lotus name reach this landmark moment, and it'll be great to celebrate that with Clive, Tony and the whole team.
“For the race, we have a few more updates to the car to help us keep pushing forward, so we're not letting up on the challenge to take the race to the cars in front. I'm confident we'll put on a good performance in Valencia – we've got the right drivers to cope with the demands of the circuit itself, and the car keeps improving with every new step we take, so I think this will be another chance to pressure the midfield, and make good on the promise we showed in Canada.”
Tony Fernandes, the Lotus Team Principal, says that this is a very important milestone for the Lotus name. “Celebrating the 500th race will be an absolute honour, and will obviously be very special, but we're only nine races of the whole Lotus story.” he said. “Really, this weekend is all about celebrating Colin Chapman's history, and thanking Clive, his Mother Hazel, and all the people that have helped shape the Lotus legend.
“I'm thrilled that some of the people that were part of the original story are with us today, and I'm proud we've been able to take the total number of races Lotus has taken part in to 500 and beyond – hopefully we'll be celebrating 1,000 races one day, and can look back on a legacy that pays true homage to that we're celebrating this weekend – the legacy of Colin Chapman, his family, his cars and his team.”
Clive Chapman acknowledges that the 500th Grand Prix for Lotus is a ‘significant landmark’ but is also keen to see a good performance from the team in Valencia.
“Much as it is nice that Lotus Racing is celebrating 500th Grand Prix, I am sure the most important thing about the weekend for the team is that it is another race and the next opportunity to continue to make progress towards the established teams,” he said.
“It was exciting to watch Montreal qualifying, when Heikki almost pipped the Sauber, and I for one would swap the 500th landmark for the landmark of outqualifying an established team in normal circumstances. Fingers crossed!”